House approves bill to provide more funding to 911 call centers
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House of Representatives gave final approval to legislation designed to provide adequate funding for the state’s 911 call centers.
State Rep. Jeanie Lauer, D-Blue Springs, sponsored a bill that would update the current funding model for 911 services that was put in place more than three decades ago.
The old funding model depended on a surcharge on traditional landline phone lines, but because many people have switched to cellphones, funding for 911 services has dropped.
“Right now we see 80 percent of 911 calls coming in from cell phones, but there is no funding whatsoever being generated from these devices that are now the primary form of communication for the majority of Missourians,” Lauer said.
She said the change is needed to ensure the safety of Missouri citizens.
“With a new funding source, and by consolidating existing call centers, we can create an effective, streamlined system that will meet the needs of people in all parts of the state,” Lauer said.
There are currently 17 counties in Missouri that do not have adequate 911 services, which makes it difficult for officials to locate a caller, she said. She also pointed out there is no way to effectively text 911 in Missouri.
The state is currently the only one in the country that does not have a surcharge on cell phones, according to Lauer.
Her legislation would allow and encourage municipalities to work together to consolidate 911 services. It also would implement a 3 percent surcharge on each retail purchase of a prepaid cell phone to provide additional funding for 911 services. In addition, it would create a Silver Alert System to help in locating missing elderly persons.
Lauer’s bill was approved by the House by a vote of 106-45. The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration.