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House leaders seek paid parental leave for state employees, including public school teachers

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.

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 have to take unpaid time off — or use vacation days or other leave time — when they have a new child.

 See original story from the Gainesville Times here.