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Bill to give Colo. firefighters right to unionization wins preliminary approval

The bill would allow firefighters to unionize if a majority of the department approves it, but it faces a tough fight from union opponents

DENVER — A bill allowing Colo. firefighters to unionize won preliminary approval Monday in the state's Senate and will be considered one more time before moving to the House.

Senate Bill 25 saw its victory with a 20-13 vote. The bill would allow firefighters to unionize if a majority of the department supports the move. As the law currently stands, only voters in an area are allowed to approve collective bargaining for firefighters.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Cadman told the Gazette that the bill is insulting to the voters who oppose firefighter unionization.

"We didn't need it then. We don't need it now," Cadman said. "We are literally going door to door and saying 'excuse me, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"

Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, said that he supports the bill and that he was open to similar governance for other government employees like teachers and police officers.

"We are supporting our firefighters, which we claimed to do all last summer as our city was on fire, now we're actually just putting our money where our mouth is," Morse said.

While Cadman agrees firefighters should be supported, he said that a previously approved $28 million tax increase to support public safety is enough and that voters shouldn't have to be told by a union what firefighters need.

A similar bill was vetoed in 2009.

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