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Lawmakers Suit Up for First Responder Practice

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  State lawmakers traded in their dress shoes for work boots on Sunday.

"There are just so many things you don’t think about that are so important. Making sure the hose doesn’t catch on a stairway going in, you just can’t walk into a fire,” said Senator Nate Bolton. “Those things are instinctual to these guys, but we have to stop and think about it every step of the way.”

Twenty lawmakers from across the city, state, and region took part in the Fire Ops 101 activity as part of the Midwest Legislative Conference. Its purpose is to help lawmakers better understand legislative decisions involving first responders by putting them in real-life scenarios. Last legislative session, lawmakers voted for sweeping changes to the state's collective bargaining laws, which impacted first responders.

Firefighters hope this experience will provide better perspective for those in power.

“Hopefully they can look back on this say, 'hey, we need to cut those guys some slack.' Their pensions are important, their collective bargaining rights are important, anything that we can do to influence them to say, ‘hey, take a look at what we really do and what it takes,’” said Joe Van Haalen, president of the Local 4 Union.

Some lawmakers are already talking about making changes to Iowa’s public employee retirement system, which would also have an impact on fire officials.

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