RINCON – Senator Billy Hickman believes that the reluctance of some communities to stand up and be counted may prove costly for Southern Georgians.
âI think most of the communities in southern Georgia have probably done a pretty lousy job on the (2020 census),â the Statesboro District 4 senator said during the Eggs & Issues breakfast on Dec. 8 in Effingham College & Career Academy. âEvery time I spoke to people they were like, ‘Oh, I know we have more people in our community than what the census is going to show you.’ Well, it was our fault.
âAs a community, we didn’t go out and insist. “
Census data is used to determine how many representatives each state gets in Congress and how federal tax funding is shared. It is also used for redistribution purposes at the Georgia General Assembly.
According to the 2020 census, Georgia’s population was 10,711,908. This is a 10.6% increase from 2010
Most of the growth was centered around Atlanta, which means more seats in the state legislature will move to that region. South Georgia lost 200,000 people.
âWe actually lost a Senate district in Irwin County,â Hickman said. “… This Senate district has moved to Gwinnett County, so technically we’ve lost a voice for South Georgia.”
Hickman currently represents all of Bulloch, Candler, Effingham and Evans, and much of Emanuel and Tattnall. Bulloch, Effingham and Evans have grown up over the past decade, but not the other counties in District 4.
âOverall, our district has grown,â Hickman said. “but, what happened was the Max Burns District (23) – which is north of us (Burke, Columbia, Emanuel, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Jefferson, Johnson, McDuffie, Richmond Counties and Warren) – he actually lost just over 19,000 people over a 10-year period. “
In order to help District 23 meet the goal of 191,284 residents, the portion of Tattnall County in District 4 will be absorbed into the new legislative map awaiting the signature of Governor Brian Kemp. The same will happen in District 19, which includes all or part of Appling, Emanuel, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, Montgomery, Tattnall, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne and Wheeler counties.
“(Senator Blake Tillery) lost 19,704 people, so we had to help him as well,” Hickman said.
Emanuel County was cut from District 4 and moved to District 19. In return, District 4 reclaimed the area from Godley Station to Pooler.
District 161 Representative Bill Hitchens and District 159 Representative Jon Burns also discussed the redistribution.
âMy district is very different from most of South Georgia,â Hitchens said. âMine is the third fastest growing district in the state. I represent South Effingham, Pooler, Port Wentworth, part of Garden City and part of Savannah.
The district of Hitchens has grown by 23,500 in the past decade. He had to lose 18,500 people to hit the target number of 59,510 for a seat at Georgia House.
Still, Hitchens is well aware of the big picture.
âWe have 10.7 million people in the state and six million of them live in the metro Atlanta area,â he said. “Atlanta pretty much controls our destiny … If you look at the maps of Atlanta, you can’t even make out the districts because they’re so small because the population is so concentrated.”
The district of Burns, which includes all of Screven County, is expected to gain 5,000 people in Effingham County. He lost part of Bulloch County.
âYou know, when you move a domino, another domino falls,â Burns said, âso you have to be aware of all of these facts. When you move a domino in South Georgia where we’ve lost population – we lost four seats in South Georgia – those seats could end up in Metro Atlanta, so how do we balance that?
While answering a question from the public on agriculture, Burns, the leader of the Republican majority in the House, answered the question he had asked earlier. He said senators and rural representatives are committed to helping everyone gain key positions in their chambers.
“This is the problem with South Georgia,” he said. âWe lost four legislators (during the redistribution process). Some of them were (committee) chairs who have influence in (the House). They are losing South Georgia Senators who were Senate Speakers.
âWe’re less and less of rural Georgia here, so our ability to influence policyâ¦ is due to being in leadership. It is essential.
The Eggs & Issue Breakfast, an event hosted by the Effingham County Chamber, was sponsored by the Georgia Farm Bureau and the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority.