The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us) STATE OF MICHIGAN
FRANK J. KELLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS:
County authority to assess surcharge for 9-1-1 emergency telephone services
The Emergency Telephone Service Enabling Act authorizes county boards of commissioners to assess on telephone users a 9-1-1 telephone service operational surcharge of up to 4% without voter approval, plus an additional assessment of up to 16% with voter approval.
Opinion No. 7004
December 29, 1998
Dale A. Crowley
Barry County Prosecuting Attorney
220 West Court St.
Hastings, Michigan 49058
You have asked whether the Emergency Telephone Service Enabling Act, 1986 PA 32, MCL 484.1101 et seq; MSA 22.1467(101) et seq (Act), authorizes county boards of commissioners to assess on telephone users an operational surcharge of up to 20% for 9-1-1 telephone services.
The Act authorizes a county board of commissioners to establish an emergency telephone district. The telephone district provides services accessible to the public by dialing 9-1-1 to request emergency law enforcement, fire fighting, medical or other services and to direct the requests for such services to appropriate public or private entities for responsive action. Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 303, March 20, 1986.
As originally enacted, the costs of the 9-1-1 service would be borne by telephone users through a charge imposed by the county board of commissioners not to exceed 2% of the highest monthly rate charged for a one-party calling line within the district. 9-1-1 service costs exceeding 2% would be paid by the county or the other governmental units located within the district. Section 401(2) of the Act.
The Legislature has made appropriations in support of 9-1-1 telephone services, including grants to counties for such services. See, sections 1 and 23 of 1987 PA 129; sections 101 and 1101 of 1988 PA 303; sections 101 and 1002 of 1989 PA 179; and sections 101 and 1101 of 1990 PA 196. In 1991, however, the Governor vetoed the appropriations for 9-1-1 services contained in sections 101, 301 and 302 of 1991 PA 164 for the 1991-1992 fiscal year.
Because of the uncertainty of future state appropriations and in order to ensure continuing sources of funding for 9-1-1 services,1 the Legislature enacted 1991 PA 196 which amended section 401 of the Act, in part, to provide that:
(3) . . . Until January 1, 1996, a county with less than 500,000 population may assess an amount for recurring emergency telephone operational costs and charges that shall not exceed 4% of the highest monthly flat rate charged by the service supplier for a 1-party access line within the 9-1-1 service district. . . .
(6) Until January 1, 1996, a county with less than 500,000 population may, with the approval of the voters in the county, assess up to 16% of the highest monthly flat rate charged by the service supplier for a 1-party access line within the 9-1-1 service district or assess a millage or combination of the 2 to cover emergency telephone, operational costs . . . and an assessment approved under this subsection shall be for a period not greater than 5 years.
The January 1, 1996, date limitation and county population restriction in sections 401(3) and (6) were removed by amendatory 1994 PA 29.
A plain reading of section 401(3) of the Act demonstrates authority in the board of county commissioners to assess a user charge of up to 4% without voter approval. With voter approval, the county board of commissioners may impose a user assessment of up to 16% under section 401(6), but only for a period of five years. Your question asks whether these two provisions are cumulative, thus permitting a county to impose an assessment of up to 20%.
The intent of the Legislature should be ascertained and given effect. Dussia v Monroe County Employees Retirement System, 386 Mich 244, 248; 191 NW2d 307 (1971). Meaning must be given, if possible, to every word and part of the statute. If the language of the statute is clear, a plain reading suffices. When the meaning of a statute is in doubt, courts may examine and rely upon the legislative history, including legislative bill analyses, to aid in ascertaining legislative intent. Luttrell v Department of Corrections, 421 Mich 93, 103-105; 365 NW2d 74 (1984).
Originally introduced as 1991 SB 617, 1991 PA 196 purported to impose a limit of 4% on the authority of counties to assess 9-1-1 charges against 9-1-1 telephone service users. The Senate, however, approved Senate Substitute (S-1) which placed a limit of up to 4% on the authority of counties to assess 9-1-1 charges against telephone service users (section 401(3)) and added a new provision [subsection (6)] which authorizes counties, with voter approval, to assess up to 10% of the monthly base rate for one-party unlimited calling service. No expiration date for authority to impose these charges was stated in section 401(6). 1991 Journal of Senate 2704. In this form, the Senate approved SB 617 by vote of Yeas - 24, Nays - 10. Senator Ehlers explaining his nay vote on final passage, stated in part as follows:
However, when you're talking about up to 10% in addition to that, plus perhaps [in] addition 4%, we're getting up to a very substantial charge on telephone bills, perhaps 20% total in some areas. I think that is a danger.
1991 Journal of Senate 2742-2743.
Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 617 (Substitute S-1 as passed by Senate), November 25, 1991, confirms Senator Ehlers' understanding:
Operational ChargesA county board of commissioners could establish a percentage of the monthly rate described above, which could not exceed 4%, for recurring emergency telephone operational costs and charges. . . .
In addition, with approval of the voters in the county, a county board of commissioners could assess up to 10% of service supplier's highest monthly base rate for unlimited one-party calling in the district, to cover emergency telephone operational costs.
The House passed Substitute H-1 to SB 617, adopting the pertinent changes to sections 401(3) and (6) quoted above. 1991 Journal of the House 3071. An amendment to limit assessments so they "SHALL NOT BE GREATER THAN 10%" in a proposed subsection (7) was defeated by vote of Yeas - 48, Nays - 53. 1991 Journal of the House, pp 3068-3069.
Significantly, when the Legislature last amended sections 401(3) and (6) of the Act, by adopting 1994 PA 29, it made minor changes in each section but made no change in the authority of a county to assess up to 4% without voter approval, and to assess up to 16% with voter approval. Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 849, August 3, 1994, acknowledged that sections 401(3) and (6) of the Act permitted assessment of 9-1-1 "operating charges up to 20% (4% with county board approval, plus 16% with voter approval)." Similarly, House Legislative Analysis, SB 849 (Substitute H-1), February 1, 1994) read section 401 of the Act, as amended by 1991 PA 196, as "authoriz[ing] county boards in counties with a population under 500,000 to levy a surcharge up to 4% on local telephone bills to support the operation of 9-1-1 emergency telephone systems. Further, it allowed a county to seek voter approval of an additional surcharge of up to 16 percent, or for a millage, or for a combination of the two, for 9-1-1 operations." (Emphasis added.)
It must, therefore, be concluded that the Legislature intended to empower counties, when imposing a surcharge for 9-1-1 services, to assess a maximum of 20% of the highest monthly flat rate charged by the telephone company for a one-party access line within the 9-1-1 district, provided that county electors approve an additional assessment up to 16%.
It is my opinion, therefore, that the Emergency Telephone Service Enabling Act authorizes county boards of commissioners to assess on telephone users a 9-1-1 telephone service operational surcharge of up to 4% without voter approval, plus an additional assessment of up to 16% with voter approval.
FRANK J. KELLEY
STATE OF MICHIGAN
1 Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 617, November 25, 1991.