House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan Submits Legislation to Isolate 911 and Other Money from Telecommunications Providers
STATE HOUSE -- House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-District 26 Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) has proposed the “911 Emergency Telephone Number Act”, which would place surcharge fees collected by telecommunications providers into a restricted account, which could only be used for the state’s 911 system.
Annually, Rhode Island rakes in more than $17 million in E-911 fees from consumers who pay $1 each month on each landline and $1.26 on each cell phone. Approximately $5.4 million is budged for the state’s E-911 center, but the remaining $12 million-plus goes into the state’s General Fund, and is not restricted to public safety.
In Representative Morgan’s legislation, (H-5891) all the 911 fees collected for various billed services, by each telecommunications provider will be deposited in a restricted receipt account, not the general fund. This money will be earmarked to pay for all of the E-911 uniform emergency telephone system’s operating expenses. Excess funds would be distributed cities and towns to upgrade their equipment and facilitate the consolidation of fire and police emergency dispatch services.
Earlier this session, Representative Robert B. Lancia (R-District 16 Cranston) introduced legislation (H-5075), aimed at stopping the practice of collecting unnecessary fees. For 3 years Representative Lancia has pushed lawmakers to either restrict all of the money Rhode Islanders pay to public safety, or reduce the fees charged on phone bills.
"I think we need to give people that money back, if it’s not being used the way they believe it is,” Lancia said.
Representative Morgan said, “The 911 fee on our telephone bills raises millions more than the program needs for emergency services. This newly proposed legislation would take the extra money that goes to the 'general fund' and give it to cities and towns for upgrading their dispatch equipment with the latest technology. This will save money and heighten safety for all of our residents.”
"Because the new communication equipment provides a seamless contact with emergency personnel, acquiring it can help municipalities shave precious minutes of the current response time. Because it will also standardize the towns' equipment, both fire and police can consolidate their dispatch operations, a task that has been thwarted by outdated equipment. It is also possible that upgrading the equipment will lower insurance rates." she explained.
“It is not OK that the state of Rhode Island currently deposits the $12 million from the 911 surcharge fee into the general fund. This bait and switch is not fair to Rhode Island ratepayers. When we say we are taking money for a specific purpose, we should honor our word. ” Representative Morgan, added.
The legislation has been referred to House Committee on Finance.
For more information, contact:
Raina C. Smith, House Minority Office
State House Room 106
Providence, RI 02903