ATLANTA — State employees would receive three weeks of paid time off when they become new parents under a proposal backed by Republican leaders in the Georgia House.
Speaker David Ralston is among the influential GOP lawmakers supporting a bill that would grant paid parental leave to nearly 250,000 state workers, including public school teachers and employees of state-run universities. Private employers would not be affected if the measure becomes law.
"Our goal is not to dictate to the private sector what they should and shouldn't be doing, because that's not consistent with what any of us up here believe," Ralston said at a news conference Tuesday. "But hopefully they will take inspiration from us."
Roughly a dozen GOP committee chairmen joined Ralston and Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, to announce the measure, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Currently, state employees in Georgia are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they have a new child, as required by federal law.
"This legislation is going to directly impact the lives of so many constituents who are starting families in my district," said Gaines, whose district is near the University of Georgia. He said it would also help Georgia agencies retain workers who might otherwise leave for the private sector.
Gaines said no significant financial impact is expected if the policy were to take effect.
State Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, said Wednesday he supported the proposal.
“We have to remember that the state of Georgia is an employer, and with record low unemployment, everybody, the government included, is fighting for workers,” Dubnik said. “Wages, benefits, etcetera I believe all play into people choosing between which job offer to take and not to take. I certainly think this keeps us, us being the state of Georgia as an employer, competitive in the marketplace.”
State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said he also believes it could make the state more competitive as an employer.
“We have some very, very bright and hard-working employees in the state that we’d sure like to keep,” Hawkins said. “It would put us on equal footing with what (private) companies are doing, and I think it’s very reasonable.”
State Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, said he supports the bill as it is currently written and views it as being “pro-family.” The bill will still go through committee hearings and could be adapted.
State Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, said he liked that the bill is also inclusive of adoptive and foster parents. He said he planned to follow any potential changes the bill goes through while in committee.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he hopes the legislature does what it can to “promote family unity and family harmony and just the happiness of the family,” although with the bill still in the House, he had not yet reviewed it firsthand.
House lawmakers rolled out the proposal two months after giving three weeks of paid parental leave to about 95 employees who work full-time for the legislative chamber. The state Senate followed with a similar benefit for its staff.
Georgia does not require private companies to offer paid parental leave to their employees. Many workers in the state have to take unpaid time off — or use vacation days or other leave time — when they have a new child.
The House Health and Human Services Committee, of which Barr and Hawkins are members, approved the bill Wednesday.
Times reporter Megan Reed contributed.