Legislator’s Log – Week of Nov. 9, 2014 – SurfKy.com


November 9, 2014

Source: http://surfky.com/index.php/component/content/article/123-general-news-for-all-sites/54525-legislators-log-week-of-nov-9-2014

KENTUCKY (11/9/14) — Local government officials across the state are asking the 2015 General Assembly to increase the wireless fee for enhanced 911 service as more and more Kentuckians move from wireline to wireless phones.

Local governments want lawmakers to pass legislation during the upcoming regular legislative session that either raises the statewide Commercial Mobile Radio Service Board wireless fee to a “reasonable level” or allows cities and counties to assess their own wireless 911 fee to fund 911 services, Bardstown Mayor and Kentucky League of Cities President Bill Sheckles told the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government last month.

“If the General Assembly is going to refuse to raise the statewide CMRS fee, which is set in statute, then it should no longer preempt local governments from assessing local fees on wireless subscribers,” said Sheckles.

Most of the cost for 911 today, 40 percent, is assumed by local government through their General Funds, Sheckles said, quoting a 2013 CMRS report. That has forced “both cities and counties to use more and more General Fund resources to maintain this most essential governmental service,” he added. Wireless fees only cover 23 percent of local 911 funding while 30 percent is covered by fees on landlines, Sheckles said.

The current fee paid by many cell phone carriers for 911 service in Kentucky is 70 cents per month, according to state law, while the CMRS reports that monthly landline fees in Kentucky range from 32 cents to $4.

Speaking for the Kentucky Association of Counties, LaRue County Judge-Executive Tommy Turner said local governments have been able to consolidate some of their Public Safety Answering Points, or 911 call centers, with the number of PSAPs statewide currently at 116. Kentucky has 120 counties, indicating that consolidation has taken place. Even so, Turner echoed Sheckles’ sentiment that increased wireless 911 funding is a priority for his agency’s members.

“E911 is the first link for help in an emergency situation and is one that citizens assume and demand to always be fully functional and accessible,” said Turner, adding that counties are not asking the state for direct funding for E911. What is requested, he explained, is the ability to “correct the imbalance” in E911 funding streams.

“It’s become an unsustainable amount (we counties have to pay) given the limits of local governments to raise revenues combined with the unfunded or underfunded mandates that fiscal courts continually have to address,” Turner told the panel.

For his part, Committee Co-Chair Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said this may be a time to look more broadly at the 911 issue and scope out possible inefficiencies.

“I’m not trying to be negative…but when we do these types of things I think we’re shortsighted many times because we don’t identify inefficiencies—we just want to throw more money at issues a lot of times. I would encourage the League to take a broad comprehensive look” at 911 call centers and possibly consolidation of those centers, said Bowen. Those sentiments were echoed by Co-Chair Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, who chaired the meeting.

“So we’ve got all this cost and administration and management and boards all for 116 different little PSAPs and we wonder if that’s the most efficient way, but there’s been no talk about (it),” said Riggs, adding there must not be a “big desire” to consolidate some services.

Turner said there has been consolidation among 911 call centers in the state, with one third the number of PSAPs in Kentucky today than there were a decade ago. “We have seen tremendous consolidation in these organizations and these operations the last few years,” said Turner. He said most of 911 call centers in the state have already consolidated.

Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, commented that there are some locations in Kentucky including a city in his district that are without wireless service. That is an issue that still needs to be addressed, he said. “We do need to get coverage to get some of these areas, however we do it,” he told colleagues.

Options to a wireless fee for E911 were offered before the committee, including as Kenton County’s method of placing a 911 levy on property tax bills as a flat fee.

Also discussed before the committee were KLC’s and KACo’s other legislative priorities for 2015 including but not limited to revenue diversification, local option sales tax proposals, and local road aid funding.

I’ll have more news from Frankfort next week. Talk to you then.
Please share your ideas with me by e-mailing Brent.Yonts@lrc.ky.gov. You can also send me a letter addressed to: Rep. Brent Yonts, Capitol Annex, Rm. 366 A, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort Ky. 40601.

SurfKY News
Information provided by Brent Yonts


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What People Are Saying

  • “Putting the local-tax amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot is a no-brainer. If local people want to levy local taxes on themselves, they should be able to.”

    Al Cross, Courier-Journal columnist
  • Jeff-Bringardner-headshot-only“This is a way to keep dollars in the area, to come up with a diverse slate of projects that sync up with the long-term plans of the community and get voted on by the people”

    Jeff Bringardner, President, Humana Kentucky
  • BillLamb“If Louisville could adopt a 1% Local Option Tax, it would impose a minimal burden, but would raise over 90 million dollars a year.”

    Bill Lamb, President and General Manager for WDRB and WNYO
  • Bill Samuels Bellarmine Portrait“Local option makes all the sense in the world. Offering citizens the opportunity to vote on investing in their community is how our country ought to operate.”

    Bill Samuels, Chairman, Emeritus Makers Mark
  • …a new way for communities to see the projects they want and need go from the drawing board to reality — and to do it for themselves.

    Jim Host, founder of Host Communications and former State Commerce Secretary
  • LIFT is a tried-and-true tool that allows for more voter involvement in the process.  Voters, not politicians, would help determine big picture, visionary projects that could improve quality of life.

    Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • …an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need.

    Hal Goode, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development
  • In our opinion, Kentucky voters should be allowed to vote on the local option sales tax because it could fund public facilities without increasing property taxes.

    Morehead News
  • It will allow communities to plan and pay for improvements to enhance civic and economic life without going hat in hand each budget session to Frankfort.

    Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The beauty of it is that local voters have the say-so as to its enactment, and they have a sense that they are getting what they pay for.

    Princeton Times-Leader