The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) joins 20 other local governments, councils of governments and nonprofit associations in support of HB 3126. The bill, authored by Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-District 27) and Senator Jason Smalley (R-District 28), involves 9-1-1 reforms and funding.
Please ask your state representatives and state senators to support HB 3126. If you don’t know who your state legislators are visit the Find My Legislator page on the Oklahoma Legislature’s website or visit the Find Your Elected Officials page on Common Cause’s website.
The following Frequently Asked Questions were prepared to educate the public about the legislation, which addresses vulnerabilities in 9-1-1 services statewide.
How does HB 3126 improve transparency and accountability for 9-1-1 fees?
- It eliminates the 11 points of remission in favor of one, which would be the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It distributes those fees based on population, not subscriber count. The collections into and payments out of the OTC account will be open to public inspection. The distribution will be based on the latest available US Census population estimates.
- 9-1-1 jurisdictions are required to hold the fees in a separate account, not co-mingled with other funds.
- Local funds used to supplement 9-1-1 functions stay at the local level, just as they do under the current law.
What are the current problems with handling 9-1-1 wireless fees?
- The current law is difficult to comply with, difficult to enforce and almost impossible to audit. Currently, cell companies remit customer fees to 11 different councils of government (COGs). Annually, the cell companies report to the COGs where their subscribers are located. The COGs calculate percentages for each jurisdiction for each cell company based on the annual census. They then divide up the monthly fee check among the jurisdictions. The subscriber censuses are confidential. They are updated only annually. Many smaller companies do not comply with the law.
- HB 3126 also reforms the way fees are sent to 9-1-1 jurisdictions so that the calculations are public, based upon population, not confidential wireless subscriber location. The reforms provide greater transparency and accountability.
Why set the fee at 75 cents?
- Oklahomans, like the rest of the nation, are dropping their landline telephone service and using their cell phones as their only phones. This has caused a dramatic drop in 9-1-1 revenues generated from landline fees. As a result, some jurisdictions have seen landline revenues decrease by over 50% since 2008. Landline fees range from 80 cents to over $2 in some places. The current revenue from the fee on cell phones (50 cents) does not make up for the landline revenue loss.
- HB 3126 sets the statewide fee at 75 cents per month for wireless and VOIP phones, and 75 cents per transaction on prepaid phones and minute purchases. Five cents will remain at the state level to fund grants and the E911 Coordinator’s office. The remainder (minus administration fees for the vendors and OTC) will be distributed to the 9-1-1 jurisdictions based on population. The net revenue to the 9-1-1 jurisdictions would be 68.5 cents for wireless and VOIP, and 67 cents for prepaid.
- Nationwide, the average wireless fee is 78 cents. That figure includes many states that also fund 9-1-1 from general appropriations each year.
How many counties have assessed a wireless fee?
- 76 out of 77 counties’ voters have passed the wireless fee. (Nowata has not). Voters in many counties passed the fee with margins of 60-70% approval. Who is represented on the Statewide 9-1-1 Management Authority?
- HB 3126 changes the state 9-1-1 advisory board into the State 9-1-1 Management Authority. There are seats on the board for large and small counties, large and small cities, the professional associations representing Oklahoma counties and cities, the professional associations dedicated to 9-1-1 call takers (OklaNENA and APCO), tribes, regional councils of government, small, medium and large cell companies, small and large landline companies, and other state government agencies involved in information technology and emergency response.
Will the Management Authority operate transparently?
- Yes. The authority will be subject to the Open Records and Open Meetings Acts. What power will the Management Authority have?
- The Authority will have the power to approve the appointment of an E-911 Coordinator and approve the budget for the E911 Coordinator’s office. Funds for the Coordinator and the office will come from the 9-1-1 fees.
- Annually, the authority will require 9-1-1 jurisdictions to submit a report on their operations and funding, together with an audit, which can be a part of the city or county general audit.
- The Management Authority can award grants to 9-1-1 jurisdictions that need funds to upgrade, share equipment or consolidate. It is also charged with developing a plan for a statewide 9-1-1 network called Next Generation 9-1-1.
- The Management Authority can require 9-1-1 jurisdictions that have not deployed call locating technology to submit a plan to deploy it.
- If a 9-1-1 center is not meeting national minimum standards on call taking or call locating, the Management Authority can require the 9-1-1 jurisdictions to submit a plan to improve call taking and locating.
- If a 9-1-1 jurisdiction fails to submit an annual report or an improvement plan if required, or fails to comply with a plan it submitted, the Management Authority can direct the Oklahoma Tax Commission to escrow all or part of the jurisdiction’s funds at the state level until they come into compliance.
Why create a state E9-1-1 Coordinator’s Office?
- State leadership is needed to provide uniform 9-1-1 service across the state. Some jurisdictions need technical assistance to deploy 9-1-1 services. Every state is required to have a state E9-1-1 Coordinator to be eligible for federal grant funds.
Does the State 9-1-1 Management Authority have the authority to force consolidation of 9-1-1 centers?
- No. It has the power to recommend consolidation upon the request of 9-1-1 jurisdictions, but cannot force it.
What consolidation measures are contained in the bill?
- The Management Authority has the power to award grants to assist public agencies that want to consolidate, share equipment or services.
- Section 11 of HB 3126 amends the Regional Emergency 9-1-1 Act, which is current law. For 9-1-1 jurisdictions that have not deployed caller locating service, HB 3126 extends the deadline of the Act from 2009 to 2017. That act (Section 11 of the bill) only applies to non-deployed jurisdictions. If, by 2017, the jurisdiction has not deployed locating service, they will be required to form a regional communication district for the purpose of deploying the technology. The territory of that district will be the territorial lines of their COG unless the Management Authority approves a different territory. They will have 1 year to organize the governance of the district and lay a plan to deploy the service. The plan must be approved by the Management Authority. If the district fails to submit a plan, or fails to comply with its plan, the Management Authority can escrow its funds.
Will HB 3126 provide any new funds for 9-1-1 centers to deploy locating technology?
- Yes. In addition to the 9-1-1 fee revenue sent directly to the 9-1-1 jurisdiction, part of the fees collected will be used to fund grants to 9-1-1 centers which have not been able to afford to upgrade.
What new requirements are placed on 9-1-1 jurisdictions that have already deployed locating technology?
- All jurisdictions must file an annual report and audit.
- Under the provisions of the bill, what can 9-1-1 fees be spent on?
- There are no changes from current law. Currently the fees can be used to finance the installation and operation of 9-1-1 service and equipment.
Are landline telephones included in HB 3126?
What is VOIP? Why is it included in the bill?
- Voice over Internet Protocol is telephone service that the customer receives over the internet. Currently, the 9-1-1 fee for that service is assessed locally at each city or county level. Bringing VOIP into HB 3126 makes the collection and payment of the fee easier for the company, while maintaining a fee on all devices that can be used to call 9-1-1.
How does this bill compare to the manner in which 9-1-1 is managed nationwide?
- State management of 9-1-1 services is varied. In many states, 9-1-1 state agencies are funded from general revenue funds, supplemented by fees. The degree of control by state versus local governments differs from state to state. HB 3126 will fund state leadership from the 9-1-1 fees, not general revenue.
Who supports HB 3126?
- Oklahoma Ambulance Association
- Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association
- Statewide 9-1-1 Advisory Board
- Oklahoma Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association (OklaNENA)
- Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of Public Communications Officials (APCO)
- Oklahoma Municipal League
- Coalition of Tulsa Area Governments
- City of Tulsa
- Midwest City
- City of Sand Springs
- City of Oklahoma City
- Sapulpa Police Department 9-1-1
- Southwest Oklahoma Regional 9-1-1 Association
- ASCOG – The Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments
- ACOG – The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments
- 9-1-1 ACOG
- SWODA – South Western Oklahoma Development Authority
- OEDA – Oklahoma Economic Development Authority
- Rogers County Sheriff, Rogers County Combined 9-1-1 Center
- Woodward County 9-1-1
- Ellis County 9-1-1
- Enid/Garfield County/Major County 9-1-1
For more information contact: Darita Huckabee, (918) 579-9438 or dhuckabee[at]incog[dot]org.