Cellphones in Missouri could soon be charged to contribute to 911 operations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For 30 years, only landlines have been charged to contribute to 911 operations. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson just signed a bill that would charge cellphones as well.

“I called like three or four times and I did not get a response,” said John Cox, a witness in a 2017 crime who called 911.

In Kansas City, when you call 911, chances are you’ve heard a recording saying, “You have reached Kansas City, Missouri 911. All call takers are currently busy.”

In 2017, witnesses heard that recording for more than seven minutes when Clint’s Comics owner Jim Cavanaugh died while confronting a shoplifter.

In Kansas City, call wait times have gone down. 

Blue Springs Rep. Jeanie Lauer sponsored the bill that Parson just signed into law. The bill could help underfunded 911 operations. 

“What is happening now in most areas of the state, the burden of the funding is on those who have landlines,” said Lauer. 

If you didn’t know, landlines are charged for 911 services. 

In 2018, many of us don’t use them, but we do use cellphones. The new law would charge cellphones as well. 

“Everyone has cellphones, and people have abandoned landlines everywhere. This directly impacts that and helps first responders, it helps with funding for dispatching and 911 as well,” said Chief Jeffrey Grote with the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. 

Lauer said there should be an even playing field instead of people with landlines being the only ones who contribute to 911 services. 

She said currently landlines are charged about $4.50 a month. 

The law would allow counties to set the price and it cannot exceed one dollar. 

Lauer said the extra funds could improve technology, staffing and response time. 

“Response time is so critical to get to people, and it is totally inadequate for anyone in this state, citizens, tourists, or even first responders to be put in harm's way because we don't have an adequate 911 service,” said Lauer. 

While Parson signed the bill into law, voters in individual counties must approve the change as well. 

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