Georgia Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens (Photo by Beau Evans)

ATLANTA – State employees and teachers will be able to take up to three weeks of paid parental leave under legislation Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Wednesday.

The bill, which sailed through the Georgia Senate unanimously and cleared the state House of Representatives 153-8, will benefit about 246,000 state workers and teachers. It will apply to parents following the birth of a child of their own, an adopted child or a foster-care placement.

“By ensuring state employees can take paid parental time off … we are sending a strong, clear signal that Georgia values every business, company and job creator,” Kemp said during a signing ceremony at the state Capitol.

The legislation was introduced last year as a top priority of House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. It appeared headed toward passage before the coronavirus pandemic forced the General Assembly into a three-month hiatus.

But when lawmakers returned to the Gold Dome in June of last year to finish the 2020 legislative session, the Senate stripped paid parental leave from the bill and substituted a measure reducing lawmakers’ salaries. The House refused to support the change, and the bill was forced to wait until this year.

Rep. Houston Gaines, R-Athens, the bill’s chief sponsor, noted Wednesday that then-President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who pushed for paid family leave at the national level, got behind the Georgia legislation last year, helping it gain momentum.

Gaines said he received a flood of e-mails and texts from parents supporting the measure.

“House Bill 146 is a pro-jobs, pro-life and pro-family piece of legislation that is going to make a significant difference for Georgia families,” he said.

Under the measure, full-time employees will become eligible for paid parental leave after six months on the job.