Georgia Senate committee strips paid parental leave bill for state employees

Late Thursday, a Georgia Senate committee effectively ended the effort to provide paid parental leave to state employees.

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee voted to approve a substitute to House Bill 1094, which stripped out the original language of the bill and replaced it with a measure to reduce legislator pay.

The House originally passed HB 1094 in March before the session was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would have provided three weeks of paid parental leave to full-time state employees with more than six months of service, regardless of their gender. The policy would have applied in the event of the birth of a child or the placement of a foster child or adopted child.

“As we seek to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees to serve Georgia’s citizens, this is an important step in helping our employees maintain a healthy work-life balance,” said the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, earlier this year.

Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, drafted the Senate substitute, which cuts both lawmakers' and the Lt. Governor's pay by 14 percent for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, though Mullis suggested the committee amend the bill to reduce legislator pay by just 11 percent to reflect new budget numbers.

"Here we are in an unusual world that we never expected to be in and the legislature I believe wants to share with the budget cuts that we're introducing," Sen. Mullis told the committee.

Mullis hinted that Gaines' measure could be added to the bill again at a later date.

"I do hope that as we move through the end of session that we're able to still accomplish the underlying bill, which would ensure paid parental leave for all state employees, ensuring 246,000 state workers in Georgia, including 132,000 teachers and educators," Rep. Gaines said in the committee hearing.

The bill now heads to the Senate Rules Committee, which will decide when it goes to the Senate floor for a vote.