Dec 14, 2007

Telephone surcharge passes on last session day before holiday break

For the first time in Michigan, cell phone users will be assessed a surcharge to fund 911 emergency telephone services after the Michigan House and Senate gave approval to Senate Bills 410 and 411 Thursday on the last day of session in 2007.

Many county and other municipalities that operate emergency call centers have complained that as more and more people switch from traditional land line telephone service to wireless cell phones, funding for operating the emergency centers is falling because there are less land lines paying the 911 tax. Currently, land lines are charged 29-cents per month on their bills and cell phones are charged nothing. The version headed to the Governor for her signature adds a 19-cent surcharge to cell phones and internet phones and lowers the surcharge for land lines from 29 to 19-cents.

The revenue neutral bill also allows county governments to establish 911 fees on cell phones in their counties and allows local governments to put the fees to a vote of the public. The bills passed the Senate by a vote 33-3 and passed the House 92-15. The fee was set to expire on Dec. 31, and the new version sets a sunset for just two years on Jan 1, 2009.

The bills were originally passed by the Senate in the spring, but it got caught up in the House after attempts were made to keep the same 29-cent surcharge on land lines and add it to cell phones as well. The extra funds raised would have been used to fund other emergency services.

The Legislature will reconvene on Jan. 9, 2008.

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