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Public Comments - Published Writings

Sharing the cost of 9-1-1 services
Blue Oregon
March 31, 2011

By Paul Evans of Monmouth, Oregon.Paul is a former senior policy advisor to Governor Ted Kulongoski for emergency management, military, and veterans' affairs. Paul is the former mayor of Monmouth, Oregon, and an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran.

If I didn't know better I would believe it was a poorly written plot in a straight to DVD movie.

Sadly, it is our reality. House Bill 2075 - a thoughtful, well-crafted bill seeking to remedy a loophole in how we pay for emergency services has been put on ice -potentially permanently - by the powerful telecommunications lobby.

Under ordinary circumstances this would be bad policy; in the wake of the recent earthquakes and tsunamis - it is far worse.

In over twenty-two years of public involvement at the local, state, and regional level, I have rarely seen anything as blatantly self-serving as the drama playing out (or not) in the Oregon Legislature on HB 2075.

Public safety responders, 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatchers, all of us directly paying for 9-1-1 services via mandatory fees on our home and cellular phones believe all people should be treated fairly. Oregonians across the spectrum believe shared services should be paid for by all benefiting from those services.

Evidently, this traditional view of shared responsibility is foundering on the shoals in Salem. Standing against the public good are four of the largest national telecommunications companies, freeloaders, drug-dealers, and people with a need for expendable, hard-to-trace phones. These interests seek to sustain the loophole - and unless we do something soon - they will.

These interests are content with the status quo: we pay, and they don't - even though they receive our same services. With respect to Orwell, all phones are not equal, at least not yet.

Regardless of the propagandist skullduggery of the telecommunications leviathan this is a simple, straightforward piece of legislation.

Nearly a quarter of all telecommunications devices in use are not taxed the 9-1-1 service fees required of all other home and cellular phones to provide emergency 9-1-1 call service.

HB 2075 will provide a mechanism for all phones (including prepaid/tracphones) to be subject to the same tax for the same reasons. The missing $8 Million - $20 Million (figures vary on the lost revenues) will make the difference between sustaining what we have or reductions in 9-1-1 services that will delay emergency assistance and as a result deny critical care.

While new taxes - revenues taken from something, for something - are rightly scrutinized in this budget climate; HB 2075 is not about imposing a new tax. It closes a loophole that should never have existed.

Technology changed, and it was only the political power of the telecommunications lobby and the relatively "good" economic times that prevented rational, system-wide 9-1-1 fee assessment and implementation policies from being enacted.

Call your Legislators; email your elected leadership. Tell them enough is enough: 9-1-1 is important and deserves to be funded by ALL who benefit from its life-saving services.

Original Article: http://www.blueoregon.com/2011/03/sharing-cost-911-services/

 

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