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Judges' Association announces intent to file The Arkansas Public Safety Act of 2019

View the one-page summary of the bill.

Watch the news conference on Facebook.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Feb. 4, 2019) – Members of the County Judges' Association of Arkansas (CJAA), The Hon. Sen. Jason Rapert, and The Hon. Rep. Michelle Gray announced today the intent to file The Arkansas Public Safety Act of 2019. The bill is multi-pronged to effectively promote the welfare and safety of the residents of Arkansas.

"The 2019 Arkansas Public Safety Act is a comprehensive bill to transform the state’s 911 system, expand broadband, and provide necessary updates to the Arkansas Wireless Information Network for the safety of Arkansans," said Madison County Judge Frank Weaver, who is president of the CJAA.

Both State Sen. Jason Rapert and State Rep. Michelle Gray reiterated the importance of ensuring the welfare and safety of all Arkansans.

“This legislation takes a comprehensive approach to promoting the welfare and safety of all Arkansans,” said Rep. Gray. “By creating efficiencies and improving technology in 911 service, our state will be better prepared to respond to a citizen in need of help.”

“Public safety and infrastructure are the two most important roles of government. This bill will improve both,” said Sen. Rapert.

Transformation of the state's 911 network is at the heart of the proposal. It will shift the network from the current analog system to an internet protocol (IP)-based network that will allow for interoperability among all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). New technology will better serve the needs of a 21st-century population. A new protocol will allow callers to use wireless and IP-based devices to call 911 and transmit text, images, video, and data. These changes will make the network faster and more accurate.

The proposal also reorganizes the Emergency Telephone Services Board (ETSB) into the Arkansas 911 Board. This board will work with Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), and will be responsible for implementing and governing Next Generation 911 (NG911) on a statewide basis. The board will ensure a smooth shift to the new technology and set standards for PSAPs.

The bill will reduce the number of PSAPs in Arkansas. Consolidation of PSAPs will reduce the number of times a caller is transferred and create cost savings and efficiencies.

In 2016, counties and cities subsidized 911 by $25 million. This amount grows each year and is unsustainable. The Arkansas Public Safety Act will repeal three fees: local 911 tariffs, the Arkansas universal service charge, and the emergency telephone service charge. It will establish a uniform public safety connectivity charge of $2.25. Instituting a single, uniform charge of $2.25 will create an average decrease of 32 cents on landline phone bills and an average increase of 47 cents on mobile phone bills.

In addition, the public safety connectivity charge will generate $38 million in new funding to support the transformation of the 911 network ($18 million); to expand and maintain the state’s broadband infrastructure, assisting in the shift of 911 to Next Generation 911 ($8 million); and to fund upgrades and maintenance for the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN), which is the statewide public safety communication system for Arkansas' first responders ($12 million).

Sen Rapert said eliminating the "outdated fees" is an important step in the transformation of the 911 system.

“Tax payers will have one uniform and transparent Public Safety Connectivity charge on their phone bill and trust with full confidence the money goes toward the tools needed for emergency response," he said.

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