Bill to redirect funds to emergency call centers

60 percent of 911 calls come from cell phones.

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Missouri 911 centers might get funding for cell phone calls if a pending bill passes the Missouri General Assembly.

As cell phone usage continues to grow, funding for 911 call centers has dropped drastically.

As a result, many 911 call centers have closed, Rep. Therese Sander, R-Moberly, said.

Sander has sponsored a bill that would update the statutes to include newer forms of communication, namely cell phones.

According to the Missouri Senate’s Web site, forms of communications that would give the centers funding will include “any service that is capable of communicating to a single three-digit ‘911’ for reporting police, fire, medical or other emergency situations.”

The present statute only gives funding to 911 call centers through calls made on landlines, which is rapidly decreasing.

“Cell phone usage has exploded,” Sander said. “Sixty percent of calls to 911 call centers come from cell phones, and they are not helping with funding.”

The Monroe County 911 District Board has already folded because it did not have enough money to continue its daily operations.

The board was later restarted due to additional funding. The Monroe County commission is now supplementing the board with general county revenue, which means less general revenue for the county, Sander said.

The bill would change the current statute to give funding to 911 call centers for calls made on cell phones and other new forms of communication.

According to the Missouri General Assembly Web site, the proposed bill “requires all counties, excluding St. Louis County, to establish and maintain 911 addressing where enhanced 911 service has been approved.”

The bill was presented to the House of Representatives Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee for a hearing, but a hearing has not been scheduled and will not likely be heard until mid-March.

There are some at the Capitol who have opposed the bill.

“Some legislators would rather see 911 funding be voted on by the people,” Sander said. Cell phone companies have opposed the bill and met with the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee’s chairman, Rep. Mark Bruns, R-Jefferson City.

“It is going to be an uphill battle to get the bill all the way through the process,” Sander said. “It’s likely that the bill will be another ballot issue for people to approve.”

According to the House of Representative’s Web site, no hearing is scheduled.

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