A bill proposed by Governor Jim Justice that would carve out a portion of the wireless E-911 fee for other emergency communications projects is on hold after county officials and lawmakers objected. The bill was introduced after the FCC criticized the state in December 2018 for diverting portions of the $3-per-month wireless E-911 fee for state agencies.
Justice requested Senate Bill 289 be pulled from consideration by the Senate Government Organization Committee.
“After extensive meetings and listening it became very clear that my intent for Senate Bill 289 was not being properly communicated,” Justice said in a press release. “I have never wanted a dime taken away from our 911 centers or our counties.”
The bill would create a new 34-cent “public safety wireless fee” on the monthly bill of cell phone subscribers, while reducing the $3-per-month wireless (enhanced) 911 fee to $2.66 per month, reported the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
Out of the 34 cents, Homeland Security would have received 15 cents for maintenance of radio systems for emergency dispatch. The PSC tower fund, which used to give out grants for cell phone tower construction, would receive nine cents per wireless customer each month. The state police would receive 10 cents per subscriber each month for radio equipment upgrades.
Justice is now putting together an exploratory committee to review alternative solutions. “Considering all this input I have decided to pull the bill. This will shield the counties from any possible harm until all parties have a better understanding,” said Justice.
Several 911 county directors raised concerns; one asked Justice not to make any changes via a letter and another wrote regarding the state “raiding” E-911 fees when landline 911 fees are drying up, reported the News and Sentinel.
Wood County 911 Director Rick Woodyard noted, “I applaud Governor Justice in taking a step back and pulling the bill, and for seeking an exploratory committee to search for the best possible solutions to these issues. I feel that, in working together, a reasonable and equitable solution is very much possible.” Comments? Email Us.
January 23, 2019