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Rauner says he won’t support 911 authorization bill as deadline nears

Belleville News Democrat

Thursday, June 29, 2017  |  Article  |  By Kara Berg

911 (94) , Governor (44) , Metro East (65)
The expiration date for a law that authorizes and helps provide money for 911 services in Illinois is quickly approaching.

On July 1, the existing Emergency Telephone Act will expire, cutting off authorization for 911 services and dispose of the surcharge that helps 911 call centers continue running.

Senate Bill 1839 amends the Emergency Telephone Act and extends the expiration date until the end of 2020. It also would raise the monthly surcharge that each phone-owner pays from .87 cents to $1.50 everywhere except Chicago. The Chicago surcharge would increase from $3.90 to $5.

However, Rauner’s administration has said it won’t support the bill because the surcharge increases are too high, the Associated Press reported.

Jason Heffley, Rauner’s policy adviser for energy and environment, issued a memo to a statewide 911 administrator, saying the increases were “unacceptable.” He asked lawmakers to send a clean bill before July 1.

“The General Assembly should not put the 911 system at risk by sending the governor legislation with poison pills knowing full well he will not sign them into law,” read the memo. “There is time left to send the governor a clean 911 bill.”

The bill passed May 31 in both the House and Senate.

The memo didn’t suggest specific changes, but did note a 911 advisory board recommended a $1.05 statewide fee, according to AP.

Representatives from various St. Clair County agencies visited Springfield on Wednesday to urge Rauner to sign the bill.

“If he really supports 911, it’s the simple thing of signing it or vetoing it and seeing where it goes,” said Herb Simmons, executive director of St. Clair County Emergency Management Association. “If he truly supports 911 across the state of Illinois, like he says he does, then he needs to do the right thing.”

Brett Reynolds, the president of the Illinois Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, also asked that Rauner demonstrate his support of 911 services and public safety by passing the bill, which passed through the general assembly with widespread bipartisan support. The House voted 81-27 and the Senate voted 53-3.

IAPCO is urging county 911 authorities to contact their state’s attorney and muncipal authorities to contact their corporate counsel to get guidance on how call centers will handle answering 911 calls after the authority expires.