A bill prohibiting transfer of future earnings from the E911 Fund to the state’s General Fund passed the state Senate and will now be sent to the House of Representatives.
Senate Bill 293 passed the Senate by a vote of 30-0. House Bill 527, sponsored in the House by State Rep. John Forgety of Athens, is in the State and Local Government Committee.
State Sen. Mike Bell said Thursday the bill mirrors a bill passed a few years ago that prohibits the state from raiding the road fund. He said motorists pay a special tax on gasoline that goes into the state’s road fund that can only be used for that purpose.
By the same token, cell phone users pay a dollar each month that is added to cell phone bills designated for the E911 Fund.
“The state has raided the E911 Fund and transferred the earned interest to the General Fund,” Bell said. “That money should be off limits.”
The fund has a healthy balance and the earnings are approximately $3 million, according to the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Bell said part of the reason the fund was targeted is because it has a healthy reserve. However, the state will have to implement the Next Generation E911 network within the next seven years. The upgrade has an estimated price tag of $118 million.
He said NG911 will allow the 911 system to accept and handle advanced information from citizens, including video, photos and text messages. It will have the capacity of connecting with private services, such as telematics providers used in automotive navigation systems, and handle automatic crash notification.
The bills simply state, “At no time during its existence shall the 911 Emergency Communications Fund or any interest derived from such fund be used to fund the general expenses of the State of Tennessee.”