O’Rielly Presses Rhode Island on 911 Fee Diversion

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly asked Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D.) today for details about how she plans to change the state’s practice of diverting 911 fees for other purposes. In a letter to the governor, Mr. O’Rielly noted that “Rhode Island has been a self-admitted diverter of the 9-1-1 fee it collects to fund its public safety call center since the Federal Communications Commission began requesting information from states in 2009. Ending such practices is more than necessary.”

He said that staff to the governor reached out to him during a recent visit to the state’s public safety answering point (PSAP).

“During this discussion, I was heartened to learn that you were supportive of changing Rhode Island state law to prevent fee diversion going forward. With your support, coupled with endorsements I have seen from the Democrat House Speaker [Nicholas A. Mattiello], as well as Republican State Representative Bob Lancia, there appears to be a unique opportunity to end the diversion of 9-1-1 fees in Rhode Island,” Mr. O’Rielly said.

“Accordingly, I seek to understand the next steps that you plan to take to change the 9-1-1 fee diversion practices in Rhode Island,” he added. “Specifically, I am interested to know if you plan to make a formal legislative recommendation on this matter to the State General Assembly and if the creation of a new dedicated 9-1-1 fund will be contained within a supplemental budget submission or await next year’s budget preparation. Further, it is important to know whether any excess 9-1-1 fees that currently go to the State’s General Fund will be reduced to the appropriate level or reserved to modernize the state’s 9-1-1 system. Respectfully, I would appreciate responses to these areas of inquiry and any other information you deem helpful at your earliest convenience.”

In an annual report to Congress on 911 fee diversions released in February (TR Daily, Feb. 7), the FCC said that Rhode Island reported diverting at least some funds for non-911 purposes in 2016. Overall, it said it collated $14.0 million in 911 charges that year and diverted nearly $8.4 million, or 60%, to the state’s General Fund.

Six states diverted 911 funds for other purposes in 2016, according to the report. The total amount diverted by reporting jurisdictions was $128.9 million, or about 5% of the total collected in 911/enhanced 911 (E911) fees, the report said.- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily