Lawmakers set to hear firefighters’ call for collective bargaining

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DENVER — It’s the kind of bill that would never have survived a legislature where Democrats and Republicans each controlled a legislative chamber.

Now, Republicans, relegated to the sidelines with Democrats back in charge, are licking their chops as a proposal aiming to expand collective bargaining for Colorado firefighters — a bill that could test the Democratic coalition — comes before lawmakers for the first time on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 25, which labor unions have long pushed for, would allow collective bargaining for firefighters without a local government approving it.

“Senate Bill 25 is important in allowing Colorado Firefighters to obtain vital resources for protecting their communities and ensuring they are fairly compensated,” said Mike Rogers, President of the Colorado chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“This bill is about the men and women protecting our communities from wildfires, responding to 911 calls and making certain we all sleep a little safer.”

But it’s strongly opposed by local governments that don’t want the state overstepping local ordinances and potentially affecting their budgetary decisions.

S.B. 25, sponsored by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, is an early test for Democrats; and it’s likely that Gov. John Hickenlooper, a business-friendly moderate who likely doesn’t want the bill to make it to his desk, will employ his staff to work behind the scenes to find enough Democrats to join Republicans in killing it.

It’ll get its first hearing before the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee Wednesday afternoon.