Proposed bill to add 911 use tax to cellphones now back on the table in Missouri

Currently tax is only placed on disappearing landlines

POSTED: 10:21 PM CDT Jul 09, 2013    UPDATED: 08:05 AM CDT Jul 10, 2013 
COLUMBIA, Mo. -

Locating a 911 caller can be the difference between life or death in some situations.

But some counties in rural areas can't afford the technology allowing emergency crews to locate callers on cellphones.

"The new 911 systems will allow a cellphone to be picked up, and the location," Randolph County Sheriff Mark Nichols told ABC 17 News.

Nichols said the growing number of cell phone users and the diminishing number of landlines is another issue that has brought this bill back up; the 911 centers are losing money because of it.

Right now, the 911 centers are funded by a surcharge on landline phones only.

"The tax base is not there, so the general revenue is from the city of Moberly and Randolph County," Nichols said. "They have to supplement the 911 fund for its operation."

Missouri has 114 counties.

Counties with smaller populations often share a regional 911 dispatch center, which Nichols said is all the more reason the call centers need the latest technology.

"We've made the upgrades. We've been fortunate enough to do that," Nichols said. "However, smaller counties that are less fortunate than us I'm sure have not."

This bill would make 911 funding a single state initiative instead of counties establishing their own variety of sources to come up with the funding.

"It is a tax, but it is a service hopefully no one needs, but it is there if they do need it," Nichols said.

Republican State Rep. Jeanie Lauer from Blue Springs is now the sponsor of House Bill 653.

But Lauer can't prefile until Dec. 1.

Previous bills would have allowed counties to ask voters for approval to apply a fee to all wireless devices to fund the 911 services.

Previous bills also proposed a maximum fee of $1.50 per device.