ICYMI: Houston Gaines Backs Paid Family Leave
Georgia Recorder: Ga. House leaders back paid parental leave for 250,000 state workers
A freshman lawmaker has proposed expanding paid parental leave to the state’s public employees as Republicans broaden their recent embrace of a policy change they had previously long resisted.
The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines, an Athens Republican, was announced at a Tuesday press conference featuring House leadership, including the chamber’s top two officials.
The bill, which was filed Tuesday, would provide three weeks of paid leave for any eligible state employee – regardless of gender or sexual orientation – after the birth of a child, have a child in foster care placed in their home or adopt.
If passed, the new policy would affect nearly 250,000 state workers, including K-12 teachers, university staffers and others who currently have no paid paternal leave and who sometimes return to work before they are ready.
“This legislation is going to directly impact the lives of so many constituents who are starting families in my district,” said Gaines, who represents the University of Georgia and who won back the Athens-based House seat from a Democrat in 2018.
House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, announced last summer that the employees of his chamber would have access to three weeks of paid paternal leave. The Senate now also offers the benefit.
Ralston, who stood next to Gaines Tuesday, also evoked President Donald Trump’s push to extend 12 weeks of paid leave to more than 2 million federal workers, which is largely seen as his daughter Ivanka Trump’s influence. Paid parental leave has long been a Democratic priority.
The proposal comes as the chamber’s Republicans brace for a contentious election year where Democrats are trying to wrest away control of the House. Democrats would have to flip 16 seats to pull that off.
As proposed, the bill would extend paid parental leave to state employees who have worked a combined 700 hours in a six-month period. When asked about the cost, Gaines said it was not expected to be significant. The change would take effect this July.
The House speaker told reporters that three weeks of paid leave mimics what some large corporate employers in Georgia offer their employees.
Today there is no state law that requires private business to offer paid paternal leave to their employees, and Ralston said he hopes the move might prompt small business owners to follow the state’s lead. He called it “a good pro-family policy” that “enhances the culture of life.”
“Obviously, our goal is not to dictate to the private sector what they should be doing,” Ralston said. “Because that’s not consistent, I think, with what any of us up here agree with, but hopefully they will draw inspiration from this.”
The announcement was quickly celebrated by some as a positive step.
Mindy Binderman, Executive Director of GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, said “family-friendly workplace policies” like parental leave help reduce infant mortality, improve newborn health and well-being and lower turnover costs for businesses.
“We believe Rep. Houston Gaines’ proposal would open a positive path forward for additional public-private solutions that ensure paid leave for all Georgians,” Binderman said in a statement.
Click here to view the article on the Georgia Recorder.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia House GOP leaders back paid parental leave for state workers
Georgia House GOP leaders unveiled a bill Tuesday that would grant three weeks of paid parental leave to nearly 250,000 state employees, extending the popular benefit to k-12 teachers, University System of Georgia staffers and other new parents for the first time in the state’s history.
Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, announced House Bill 1094 during a press conference with Speaker David Ralston and roughly a dozen Republican House committee chairmen.
“We must remain competitive with the private sector and keep our best and brightest employees,” Gaines said.
The legislation comes two months after the House gave three weeks of paid parental leave to its roughly 95 full-time employees. A similar initiative for state Senate staffers followed shortly after that. HB 1094 would extend that policy to 246,000 state staffers, including 132,000 k-12 educators and 46,000 University System of Georgia employees.
Currently, state employees qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as required under federal law.
“This legislation is going to directly impact the lives of so many constituents who are starting families in my district,” said Gaines, who represents a competitive district near the University of Georgia that’s flipped twice since 2017.
Gaines’ bill would not affect private companies.
The median length of paid parental leave offered to full-time employees in the U.S. is three weeks, according to a study by the nonprofit human resources group World at Work and funded by the human resources company Mercer.
Georgia has long ranked among the bottom of states requiring paid leave benefits, but top officials have showed a new willingness to consider perks for new parents over the past year as national politics have shifted on the issue.
President Donald Trump campaigned on paid family leave in 2016 and, at the urging of his daughter and adviser Ivanka, became the first president to propose funding for it in his budget request to Congress. In December, lawmakers on Capitol Hill struck a landmark agreement to extend the benefit to more than 2 million civilian federal employees for 12 weeks after a child is born or adopted.
Polls show the vast majority of Americans support paid leave for new parents but differ on how to such programs should be designed. It’s created a rift among conservatives who want to support strong families but worry about the price tag and government mandates.
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.
Ralston said he hopes businesses will follow the state’s lead if the bill passes.
“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. “But hopefully they will take inspiration from us.”
Click here to view the article on AJC.com.