O’Rielly Presses Rhode Island to Stop 911 Fee Diversions

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly today renewed his call for Rhode Island to stop diverting 911 funds for other purposes. In a letter to Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D.) and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (D., 15th District), Mr. O’Rielly asked the officials to “restore the sanctity of 9-1-1 fees within the state.

“In April, I read comments by both of you, and received a personal commitment from Governor Raimondo indicating support for ending the state’s longstanding diversionary practice. I was heartened by this response, believing that with the support of both of you, as well as Republican State Representative Bob Lancia, there appeared to be a unique opportunity to explore the proper and necessary range of options to get this accomplished. Unfortunately, it seems my hope for a quick correction was misplaced,” Mr. O’Rielly said.

“Specifically, I have just reviewed the pertinent section of the latest version of the Rhode Island budget made available, and, it seems to vastly miss the mark,” Mr. O’Rielly complained. “Instead of ending the practice of 9-1-1 fee diversion, it appears that the state plans to paper over its practices by changing the name of the consumer E911 charge. While this may alleviate the deception imposed on your citizens, it does nothing to address the funding needs of you 9-1-1 call system. To put it bluntly, your state is diverting 60 percent of the funds intended and necessary for public safety purposes to your general fund, and no amount of relabeling will resolve this reality.”

He asked the officials “to end Rhode Island’s fee diversion practices. The citizens of your state deserve more than just a name change.”

In April, Mr. O’Rielly asked Gov. Raimondo for details about how she plans to change the state’s practice of diverting 911 fees for other purposes (TR Daily, April 3). In that letter, 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.”

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 collected $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