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2 Dems join in vote to kill pro-union bill

Published February 19, 2009 at 12:05 a.m.

A Democratic-led committee shot down a key pro-union bill Wednesday, leading some in organized labor to question whether some Democrats are turning their backs on workers.

Meanwhile, another pro- union measure could meet the same fate today.

Two Democrats joined with five Republicans on the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee to kill a bill that would require state contractors to pay prevailing wages on any public works project.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton, said as Colorado launches road and energy projects, it must ensure that workers are paid enough to stimulate the economy.

Several witnesses, including Colorado State University-Pueblo business professor Kevin Duncan, said surveys show that states with such laws do not see a marked increase in project costs, mainly because higher-priced workers are more efficient.

But Mark Latimer, president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, distributed charts showing that labor costs could rise 55 to 60 percent in some areas under the law.

"This bill will cost jobs among workers who wear blue jeans and muddy boots," said Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial.

The key votes in the 7-4 defeat, however, were those of Democratic Reps. Joe Rice, of Littleton, and Christine Scanlan, of Dillon.

Scanlan said she thought House Bill 1208 would cost the state too much, and Rice said he does not like laws that require the state to spend certain amounts of money.

Meanwhile, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee delayed action on a bill to give police and firefighters the ability to form a union and bargain collectively.

A vote on Senate Bill 180 by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Northglenn, could be taken today.

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