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28¢ tax boost for E-911 faces review

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A bill that would expand the state's enhanced 911 capabilities — but increase the amount consumers pay in monthly taxes and surcharges from 53 cents to about 81 cents — will get a preview before legislators today.

Monies collected would bolster existing enhanced 911 service and expand the network to include calls from cellular phones, said bill sponsor Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace.

"Enhanced 911" describes the technology that allows dispatchers to automatically track the physical location from which a 911 call originates. Land or "hard" telephone lines already have that capability, but cell phones do not.

Federal law requires cellular service and equipment providers to have E-911 technology in place by 2005 "I believe 911 to be the initial link for all of the emergency services we provide," Dee said Tuesday. "It doesn't matter how good your fire department is. . . it doesn't matter how good your police department is or how good your paramedics are if you can't call them," such as how the money will be accounted for and distributed, and how costs will be controlled. Nor does Dee's bill address competitive issues between telephone service providers or their relationships with the local governments who provide emergency services.

"The situation is not going to be well clarified, at least for my purposes," Oldroyd said. "This seems to be ideally suited for a task force."

E-mail: jdobner@desnews.com