One bill moving in the final four weeks of the session would allow ways to pay for expanding 911 service statewide.
As more and more people drop landline phone service, it has become more difficult for local governments to pay for 911 service. Some counties in Missouri don’t have it at all. Others can’t afford technology that would enable zeroing in on a phone or sending texts to 911 operators.
Representative Jeanie Lauer (R-Blue Springs) is the latest lawmaker to try to solve the issue. Her bill is close to passing out of the House.
“It’s not acceptable to have a wait of 45-minutes for 911 services to come to you when you are in a life-threatening situation. It’s not acceptable not to be able to call in and have someone help you over the phone if there’s a health crisis,” Lauer said during debate Monday.
Her bill would allow funding by a charge on land lines, a sales tax, or a voter-approved charge on any line … including cell phones … that can call 911.
“Of those three options, though, you cannot stack. You can only do one of the three,” said Lauer.
Representative Paul Fitzwater (R-Potosi) urged the chamber to vote for the bill, after telling the story of a father and two sons who froze to death in a part of his district without 911 service.
“When they found the father and they found his phone he had been dialing 911 and he had been texting asking for help, and I assure you that if those services would have been provided in that area they would be here today,” said Fitzwater.
The bill has broad bipartisan support, including from Representative Michael Butler (D-St. Louis).
“If you can imagine living in a very urban area where we’re on the top charts for homicide and you call the police department, you dial 911, you get put on hold, and that’s because it’s just not enough funding to go around,” said Butler.
More than 30 groups testified in favor of the legislation in a House committee while no one spoke in opposition.
Missouri is the only state in the nation that does not have some form of state funding mechanism to support 911.