Missouri Governor Mike Parson signs law impacting 911 service
Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed several bills into law in Springfield, including one impacting 911 across the state.
The governor signed House bill 1456 into law at the Greene County Public Safety Center Friday morning.
The new law will allow each county a choice of implementing a tax on any device that can contact 911, including cell phones. Missouri House Representative Jeanie Lauer has been trying to get the bill passed for several years. She attended the ceremony.
Missouri is currently the only state not collecting a tax or fee on wireless devices for 911 services, although more than 80 percent of 911 calls come from a wireless device.
Zim Schwartze, Springfield-Greene County 911 Emergency Communications director, says, "Those 80% of 911 callers pay nothing to support 911. This bill will help improve our technology to better serve our citizens and brings equity to those paying to support 911 in Missouri."
Governor Parson says this new law will modernize the 911 system statewide. "House Bill 1456 brings Missouri into the 21st century, preparing the way for all Missourians to have quick access to our emergency response professionals." said Gov. Parson.
While your cell phone bill may include a 911 charge, it goes to the carriers. Schwartze says, "The wireless carriers across the country charge fees to assist with this process; it's just the state of Missouri had never captured it or reached out to get that directed to the 911 centers; we were the last state."
While Greene county citizens passed an eighth cent sales tax in 2007 to pay for 911 operations and personnel, Schwartze says 17 counties across the state have no 911 system at all.
The legislation allows a county to collect a sales tax, fees on landlines, or a wireless tax. "So there's another option in place now that, and the county can decide what they want to do," says Schwartze.
"The people you'll never see that's answering those phones behind those desks back there and those computers are just as vital as those sirens going down the street," Parson says.
Schwartze says now counties across Missouri can now begin deciding how they want to collect that 911 funding, each on a local level
The governor also signed Senate Bill 870, which expands the definition of a public safety officer to provide line of duty death benefits for families, establishes a state medical director, and allows paramedics to place behavioral health patients on a hold without consent.