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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: April 1, 2015 04:17 PM
From: Representative Stephen Barrar
To: All House members
Subject: 911 Emergency Communications
I will be introducing legislation to update and enhance our Commonwealth’s 911 emergency communications law. My proposal amends Chapter 53 of Title 35 (Health and Safety), commonly referred to as our emergency management code, which sunsets on June 30, 2015.
This proposal is a product of 6 public hearings held across the state and several stakeholder meetings and mark up sessions over a 2 ½ year period.
The legislation I propose addresses the following areas:
Uniform 911 surcharge
Under current law, the surcharge is as follows:
  • $1/per device or service for wireless, prepaid wireless and Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP). For prepaid the surcharge is assessed per transaction.
  • For wireline, the rates are established by each county pursuant to statute and the maximum rates are as follows:

  • $1.00 = First – 2nd Class A.
  • $1.25 = 3rd – 5th Class.
  • $1.50 = 6th – 8th Class.
The current surcharge structure will be revamped to be a uniform fee applied across all types of communication devices capable of contacting a 911 center as required by federal law. Furthermore, is increased to $1.65, which is up 15¢ from the current maximum allowed for 6th through 8th class counties.
This proposed increase is expected to generate approximately $326 million annually for the Commonwealth’s 911 systems and these funds will be distributed to the counties on a quarterly basis; thereby, affording counties the ability to more efficiently budget for 911 purposes.
Distribution Formula
The distribution of the surcharge funding will be formula driven. A new formula is established in statute to more adequately and efficiently disburse the funding back to the 911 systems in the Commonwealth.
  1. A portion of the formula will be distributed as a direct pro-rata share back to each county or 911 system.
  2. A percentage will be disbursed back to the counties in a formula distribution established by PEMA in consultation with newly formed 911 board comprised of experts in the field, such as 911 operators and government representatives. This portion will be based on criteria required by law, such as, but not limited to, call volume and population.
  3. A percentage will be used to incentivize consolidations and shared services for system efficiencies.
  4. A percentage will be used for joint state-county development of a common system backbone for all 911 systems to utilize.
PEMA is allowed to retain 2% for administrative costs.
In addition, the exemption provided for under the current statute to political subdivisions, which had 911 centers established prior to the effective date of the original 1990 law is removed under this proposal, leaving 911 planning countywide to be conducted solely by the counties.
911 Board
This proposal also establishes a new 911 board, which replaces the existing advisory committees and is composed of a cross section of professionally-competent state, local and provider interests along with members of the General Assembly. This board will provide PEMA with advice and support for planning, funding allocations and accountability as well as uniform standards for equipment and personnel.
In addition, this proposal contains provisions to address Next Generation 911 (NG911), which provide flexibility in planning for and anticipating system needs to provide for new technology such as texting, video or any successor type technology.
Finally, this proposal is a complete rewrite of our 911 law, which includes comprehensive revisions of governance mechanisms, accountability, technological terminology references, and an enhanced fee structure and distribution equity. It further provides for the ability for both the Commonwealth and individual 911 systems to maintain the current system and flexibility to meet future response capabilities based on NG911 advances.
Please consider sponsoring this very important and timely legislation to move our 911 systems and their functionality into the 21st Century.

Introduced as HB911