A bill that would do away with the CMRS board is one step closer to being a reality, following a recent vote by the state Senate.
Last week, the Senate passed SB 2746. The measure would replace the Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) board with a new wireless communication board and give it the authority to levy additional fees on residents’ phone bills.
The measure passed on a 49-1 vote. Northside Sens. David Blount and Walter Michel both voted in favor of the measure.
Sen. Melanie Sojourner voted against it, while two senators voted present.
The bill was authored by Sen. Scott DeLano.
“Everyone wants more transparency to see how (E911) money is collected and spent and this bill accomplishes that, and it provides a sustainable funding source for local communities to provide better emergency communication,” he said.
CMRS has come under fire in recent years for its lack of transparency.
The agency oversees millions of dollars in E911 funds. E911 fees are collected from residents as part of their monthly phone bills.
Roughly 70 percent of those fees go to counties to help them sustain and implement emergency communications systems. The remainder goes to CMRS and is used to reimburse telecommunications providers for upgrading communications infrastructure, like cell phone towers.
The bill will now be transferred to the House of Representatives, where it will likely be referred to a committee.
If passed, the measure would create a new authority to lead the implementation of a new “next-generation” 911 (NG911) system across the state.
It would also authorize the authority to raise E911 fees on cell phones, prepaid cell phones, data connections and voice over internet protocol accounts from $1 to $2, which would be used to help counties implement the new systems.
NG911 would allow individuals to connect to dispatch centers via data accounts, as well as traditional cell phones or land lines, and would allow them to send text messages or photos to dispatchers, rather than simply making phone calls.