2020 Key Enacted 911 Legislation

2/9/2021

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The legislation listed below includes key 2020 enactments related to the 911 system such as administration, fees and funding, privacy and confidentiality, and E911 and NG911. It does not include appropriations or laws regarding certain issues specific to 911 telecommunicators such as occupational classifications, retirement and health. See NCSL's 911 Bill Tracking Database for a more complete list of 2020 introduced and enacted 911 legislation.

Introduction

Twenty-seven states enacted 59 bills in 2020, excluding appropriation bills, to support and improve the operation of public emergency communications services. New laws mainly concern 911 funding, false 911 calls, cooperation between public safety answering points (PSAPs) and real-time cellphone location information sharing. 

Similar to 2019, several legislatures extended or diversified 911 funding models and raised 911 fees and surcharges. Five states—Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia—established new 911 fees or increased existing fees. Indiana, for example, authorized the increase of its prepaid wireless communications 911 charges by a maximum of 10 cents before July 1, 2023. Tennessee ratified an increase of the monthly statewide 911 surcharge from $1.16 to $1.50. West Virginia created a public safety fee and a wireless tower fee of 29 cents and 8 cents per month, respectively. They also raised the monthly wireless enhanced 911 fee from $3 to $3.47. 

The Federal Communications Commission submits an annual report to Congress on the collection and distribution of 911 fees in states. The report outlines, among others, whether 911 fees are being used for any purpose other than to support 911 services. 

National news stories in 2020 drew legislatures’ attention towards false 911 calls, in particular, when the underlying intent is to harass a person or a group of persons because of their inherent characteristics, including their race, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Four states—California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington—enacted legislation to establish new crimes for such offenses or enhance existing penalties. In California, new penalties include up to one-year imprisonment and/or a fine between $500 and $2,000. 

Other interesting developments include legislation in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia that authorizes and fosters cooperation between PSAPs to ensure their resilience and ability to offer reliable services. Maryland, for example, authorized the creation of telecommunicators emergency response teams that would assist PSAPs affected by natural or human-made disasters. Two states—South Dakota and Wyoming—also enacted legislation to facilitate real-time cellphone location information sharing that would help to locate mobile device callers during emergent situations. 

Finally, while many governors signed executive orders regarding the sharing of some information of confirmed COVID-19 cases with first responders, Kansas and Pennsylvania enacted laws detailing the extent of those requirements and making them more permanent. Kansas required local health officers to work with first responder agencies to create information-sharing methods indicating where persons testing positive or under quarantine for COVID-19 reside or can be expected to be present. Pennsylvania required the local health authority to release the address of confirmed cases of a communicable disease to 911 centers, law enforcement officers, fire department and emergency medical services within 24 hours of receiving that information. The National 911 Program offers helpful COVID-19 resources for 911 personnel. 

U.S. States with Key 911 Enactments in 2020

The legislation listed here includes key 911 enactments made in 2020, excluding appropriations and laws regarding certain issues specific to 911 telecommunicators such as occupational classifications, retirement, and health. See NCSL's 911 Legislation Database for a more complete list of introduced and enacted 911 legislation from 2020.

 

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Alabama

Alabama (SB 193) established a new fire district in St. Clair County and provided for fees to be collected for its operation. The annual fees must be determined and approved by qualified electors who reside within the district but cannot exceed $150 for each residence or commercial building. Property owners who receive fire protection services from another district may withdraw from the new district’s fire protection and will not need to pay any fees.

California

California (SB 1441) extended the operation of its Local Prepaid Mobile Telephony Services Collection Act from Jan. 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2026. Under the act, prepaid communications services must be taxed at specified rates, and local authorities may not determine and impose a utility user tax on such services. The local charges are collected by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration and then transmitted to local jurisdictions.

California (AB 1775) created the specific crime of “knowingly allowing the use of or using the 911 emergency system for the purpose of harassing another.” A first violation can constitute an infraction punishable by a $250 fine or a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. A second and subsequent violation is automatically a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months. A violation of the new law that can be characterized as a hate crime against another person because of that person’s race, religion, gender or sexual orientation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine between $500 and $2,000. These new penalties are enhanced in comparison to the existing fines for false 911 calls.

California (AB 2655) criminalized the act by first responders of capturing images of a deceased person for purposes not related to law enforcement or a genuine public interest. A violation of this provision is a misdemeanor offense.

Colorado

Colorado (HB 1293) authorized the public utilities commission to establish a threshold amount for the annual emergency telephone charge that can be imposed by localities. Local jurisdictions that want to impose higher fees must seek approval from the commission. The commission will also determine the amount of the prepaid wireless 911 charge. Previously, threshold amounts and charges were set in statute. Additionally, the law established a new 911 surcharge for local governing bodies. The amount of the surcharge will be established annually by the commission depending on the needs of the localities. Funds collected from the three charges can be used for a variety of purposes, including equipment, facilities and software used to receive and dispatch 911 calls.

Connecticut

Connecticut (HB 6004) increased penalties for false 911 calls when the underlying intent was to report a person based on one or more of their characteristics, including race, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Offenders of the new provisions will be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Florida

Florida (SB 1060) made certain plans and geographical maps relating to 911, E911 or public safety radio communication structures or facilities confidential and exempt from public records disclosure requirements. The plans and maps can be disclosed under certain circumstances, including when contractors need them to perform work.

Indiana

Indiana (HB 1235) authorized the statewide 911 board to increase prepaid wireless communications 911 charges by a maximum of 10 cents one time before July 1, 2023. Additionally, it revised the definition of “statewide 911 system” to include emergency calls for assistance by “voice, text message, or other communication method or a functional equivalent or successor.”

Kansas

Kansas (HB 2016) enacted legislation requiring local health officers to work with first responder agencies to create information-sharing methods indicating where persons testing positive or under quarantine for COVID-19 reside or can be expected to be present. 911 call centers are authorized to disseminate that information only to first responders responding to the listed addresses.

Maryland

Maryland (SB 61/ HB 6) required certain telephone companies and mobile radio service providers to keep records of the 911 fees they collected and remitted. It authorized the comptroller’s office to audit 911 fee collection and remittance by these companies.

Maryland (SB 47/HB 44) extended the tenure for its Next Generation 911 (NG 911) Commission for an additional two years. It required the commission to submit a report to the governor and the general assembly on the progress made in implementing NG 911 services across the state. The report must include information regarding the adequacy of collected fees, the accuracy of fee distribution, recommendations to protect against cybersecurity threats and evaluation of operational needs and county satisfaction with the existing regulatory framework.

Maryland (SB 838/ HB 934) authorized public safety answering points (PSAPs) to create telecommunicators emergency response teams that would assist PSAPs affected by natural or human-made disasters. It also clarified that 911 revenues may only be distributed to PSAPs and required a repayment plan if a jurisdiction spends its 911 funds on items that are not related to public safety. Additionally, the law established standards for continuing education of 911 specialists and required access to health and wellness services for PSAP employees to help manage their chronic exposure to stressful and traumatic events. Finally, it funded a statewide public education and communication campaign related to Next Generation 911 implementation, including text-to-911.

New Jersey

New Jersey (AB 1906) added to its false public alarm statute the crime of knowingly placing a 911 call to intimidate or harass a person or a group because of their characteristics, including race, gender, nationality, religion, disability or sexual orientation. Offenders of the new provision will be guilty of a third-degree crime.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania (SB 1110) required the local health authority to release the address of confirmed cases of a communicable disease to 911 centers, law enforcement officers, fire department and emergency medical services within 24 hours of receiving that information. The information must be handled confidentially to respect all applicable federal and state laws, regulations and privacy standards.

South Dakota

South Dakota (HB 1129) authorized public safety answering points to request real-time cellphone location information from a wireless telecommunications company in emergent situations. The highest-ranking person on duty needs to allow the request after determining that it is necessary to provide emergency services.

Tennessee

Tennessee (SJR 836) ratified the increase of the 911 surcharge that is collected from communication services users, including prepaid services users, from $1.16 to $1.50. The surcharge was increased by the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board but needed to be ratified by the General Assembly to take effect. The increase took effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

Tennessee (SB 1958) included emergency cardiovascular care guidelines for telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR) instruction in its training and course requirements for emergency call takers and public safety dispatchers. T-CPR instruction is the assisted delivery of CPR instructions by trained emergency call takers and dispatchers to the caller or a bystander. The bill specifies minimum requirements for the T-CPR training and directs the emergency communications board to establish procedures for monitoring adherence to these requirements. Emergency call takers and dispatchers are immune from civil liability for damages arising from assisting a caller or bystander with T-CPR.

Utah

Utah (SB 130) requires public safety answering points to adopt a statewide computer-based-system to computer-based system (CAD-to-CAD) call handling and 911 call transfer protocols. CADs are systems that help public safety answering points (PSAP) dispatchers by automating selected dispatching and record-keeping activities. A CAD-to-CAD system allows for standardized connectivity between PSAPs to transfer data between CADs. PSAPs should achieve a transfer rate—the percentage of 911 calls that are received and transferred to another location in the state—of no more than two percent.

Virginia

Virginia (SB 720/ HB 727) required each public safety answering point (PSAP) to provide training to each dispatcher in high-quality telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation (T-CPR) instruction. T-CPR instruction is the assisted delivery of CPR instructions by trained emergency call takers and dispatchers to the caller or a bystander. The new law required the State Board of Health to adopt training standards. PSAPs are authorized to enter into agreements with other PSAPs to transfer a call when the PSAP that received the call does not have a T-CPR trained dispatcher on duty. All dispatchers must complete a training program by July 1, 2024. Emergency call takers and dispatchers are immune from civil liability for damages arising from assisting a caller or bystander with T-CPR.

Virginia (SB 5038/ HB 5043) required localities to provide access to their 911 centers to a database containing mental health information and emergency contact information that could help with a response to a behavioral health emergency. Every locality must establish local protocols to divert certain 911 calls to crisis call centers by July 1, 2022.

West Virginia

West Virginia (SB 579) established and increased 911 fees for wireless communication services. The wireless enhanced 911 fee was increased from $3 to $3.47 per month for each in-state subscriber. This fee must be recalculated every two years using the weighted average of the increase o decrease of 911 fees imposed by counties. Additionally, the new law established a public safety fee of 29 cents per month and a wireless tower fee of 8 cents. Part of the public safety fee will fund enhanced 911 integration systems efforts by the West Virginia State Police. The other part will fund upgrades to the West Virginia Interoperable Radio Project. The wireless tower fee will subsidize the construction of enhanced 911 wireless towers.

Washington

Washington (HB 2632) modified the crime of false reporting and made it a third-degree offense. Additionally, it created a first- and second-degree crime of false reporting when there are aggravating circumstances. A person will be guilty of false reporting in the second degree when making a false report with reckless disregard for the safety of others, and substantial injury was caused as a result of the emergency response. When death is caused by the emergency response to the false report, the offender will be guilty of false reporting in the first degree.

Wyoming

Wyoming (HB 126) required wireless telecommunications companies to provide real-time cellphone location information to a public safety answering point in emergent situations if the device was used to place a 911 call. The statewide 911 coordinator must maintain an updated list with the direct contact information of wireless carriers.