The state House has given its approval to a fee on cell phones to pay for 911 service.
Elected officials have for years looked for new ways to pay for 911 service to replace or supplement the current tax on landline phones, which is less and less sufficient as fewer people have landlines.
The House has passed a bill to let counties ask voters to approve a fee of up to $1.50 on any device that can call 911. The bill would also would create a 3-percent sales tax on prepaid cell phone service of more than 5-dollars or longer than 10 minutes, that would not be charged on top of the $1.50 fee.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs) says Missourians who think they can get 911 anywhere are wrong.
“The reality is that there are areas along I-35, I-70, I-55, 54 Highway, 65 Highway, 71 Highway, 63 … pick a highway,” said Lauer during floor debate, indicating that there are zones along those and many other highways in the state in which 911 service is unavailable.
Local 911 providers in many parts of the state also can’t afford updated systems that would allow them to find a 911 caller’s cell phone or allow texting to 911.
The funding issue is a problem for many counties, who have had to supplement 911 from general revenue.
The bill would also create a board to oversee and enhance 911 operations statewide.
The legislation is HB 1573.