Feb. 13, 2015

HARRISBURG – Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, this week held a public hearing on his plan to overhaul Pennsylvania’s 911 Emergency Telephone Act to adapt it to changing technology and adjust the surcharge fee to allow for maintenance of the emergency system.
Prior to this public hearing, four hearings—in addition to countless other stakeholder and informational meetings—were held across the state on this vital issue. Held in Harrisburg, this week’s hearing gave local government officials, 911 administrators and telecommunications executives the chance to share their views on how to make the system more effective. The following individuals comprised a panel that presented to the committee:
Doug Hill, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.
Richard Flinn Jr., director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association.
Brian Melcer, director of the Lawrence County Department of Public Safety and President of Keystone Chapter of the National Emergency Number Association.
Frank Buzydlowski, director of State Government Relations for Verizon Communications.
Mike McGrady, legislative chairman of the APCO-NENA 911 Rewrite Committee.
Gary Thomas, secretary of the Pennsylvania National Emergency Number Association.
The bill Barrar is drafting will address the dire financial need county 911 centers are in as a result of the ever-increasing expenses of pricey communications equipment and rising personnel costs. It will also address the advent of next-generation 911 technology, which while it exacerbates the financial issue, will allow citizens to contact 911 using a host of new communication methods.
The next generation of services includes texting, calls from video, non-human (e.g. OnStar) calls and calls from non-specific devices, such as an iPad.
Despite the development of next-generation technology and inflation, the 911 surcharge fee has not been increased since the creation of the law in 1990. Wireless phones, VOIP phones and prepaid communication devices were later captured under the surcharge provisions of this law, but the $1 fee for these devices was calculated from the current 1990 surcharges that were in place for landline phones under the original law.
“While I do not agree that the 911 surcharge should be increased to $2 monthly or per each pre-paid purchase as is written in the currently drafted bill, I do support a lower surcharge fee increase that will adequately address the financial needs of our county 911 centers, thereby enhancing the public safety of our communities,” Barrar said. “Of course, this 911 surcharge fee increase must be developed with the taxpayer in mind.”
This legislation will modernize the state 911 law in many different ways, particularly in the need for 911 call centers to interface with next-generation 911 technologies.
“I am also pleased that the bill will allow the county 911 centers to receive reimbursement monies from the state 911 funds on a quarterly basis, rather than at the end of each year,” Barrar noted. “This will empower our county-elected officials to better plan for the fiscal needs of their 911 centers.”
Barrar scheduled another public hearing on this draft legislation for March 18 in Harrisburg. This will provide interested stakeholders another opportunity to offer their comments and opinions on the draft bill language, which will greatly assist him with preparing his bill for introduction and committee action this April.
To view the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee hearing, click here.

Representative Stephen E. Barrar
160th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans