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Louisiana House approves new fee for phone cards

Date: 5/21/2009 3:19:58 AM

People who buy prepaid cell phone cards should pay a 60-cent fee each time they buy a new package of minutes to pay for upgrades to the statewide 911 emergency system, the Louisiana House voted.

Cell phone and landline customers who pay monthly already have an 85-cent fee with each bill. The money goes to local 911 systems, which are undergoing improvements intended to allow emergency workers to locate the cell phone used by someone calling for assistance, as they can locate a landline phone.

Rep. Noble Ellington's bill would impose the new fee on phone card customers to supply more revenue to pay for the upgrades, said Ellington, D-Winnsboro. Money raised would go to the state Department of Revenue, along with state sales tax, then be distributed to 911 districts.

House members rejected an attempt by Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Labadieville, to raise the proposed fee to 85 cents to help pay for the upgrades.

Several lawmakers said any fee is already a new burden that would fall almost entirely on the poor, some of whom might have to make four such transactions a month, buying phone minutes each time they get a paycheck.

Let's face it. The poor people in the state are the ones who buy the phone card ... Those people need every help they can get, said Rep. Mert Smiley, R-Port Vincent.

The bill required a two-thirds vote for passage. It moved to the Senate with a 79-13 vote.

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