Legislature abandons paid family leave proposal

“We're trying to do all we can,” sponsor says

A first-of-its-kind proposal to extend three weeks of paid family leave benefits to state employees failed in the General Assembly on Friday.

GOP leaders in the House and Senate ended the legislative session at odds over the language Friday evening, despite last-ditch efforts to salvage the measure.

“We're trying to do all we can to get this through and hope the Senate will join us in helping families across our state,” said state Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, who authored the language. “This is an important measure, and it's a good bill.”

House Bill 1094 would have provided paid parental leave to nearly a quarter-million state employees, including 132,000 k-12 teachers, for the first time. It would allow new moms and dads to take three weeks off following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

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The plan was unveiled by House Republican leadership this spring and cruised through the lower chamber 164 to 1 in March. But GOP senators stripped the parental leave language earlier this week and replaced it with a provision slashing lawmaker pay by 11%.

Georgia has long ranked among the bottom of states requiring paid leave benefits. The issue was once considered a Democratic one, but Republican officials have embraced it as national politics have shifted. President Donald Trump has campaigned on the issue, and his daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump has praised Gaines' effort.

Currently, state employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which employers must offer under federal law.

Many of Atlanta’s largest corporations, including Coca-Cola and Home Depot, offer at least some parental benefits, as do the city of Atlanta and many tech startups. But there is no Georgia law requiring private employers to offer paid parental leave to their employees, and companies have broad leeway to set their own policies.

Most Georgia workers must take unpaid time off — or cobble together vacation days, short-term disability and other leave — when they welcome a new child into their family.

Earlier this year, leaders of the General Assembly began offering three weeks of paid time off to full-time employees when they welcome a new child.

More background: Parental paid leave makes inroads in Georgia after years of resistance