Security bill faces house committee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – At the house committee meeting for Homeland Security, House Bill 1555, Missouri Uniform Communication Act for Homeland Security was examined.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Mike Sager (D-Lee’s Summit) said the creation of a standard for all emergency response communication would be beneficial to the state.

The bill states that if any first response group decides to buy new equipment, it must be at a frequency where it can be heard by all other groups.

Sager said this was not a program that would require state funding.

It would not be necessary who had recently redone their communication system to spend money on another one.

“Hopefully, there will be federal money available soon,” Sager said.

“My small community just spent money upgrading their system,” said Rep. Ray Salva (D-Sugar Creek). “How could we appropriate money for our communication standards?”

“My bill does not address funding,” Sager said.

Rep. Gina Walsh (D-St. Louis) questioned Sager as to whether insurance rates would change for communities unable to immediately upgrade communication.

“This would be a phased-in program,” Sager said. “I am against an unfunded mandate. I just believe if we receive funds there should be standards as to what we bought.”

He said that when 9-11 occurred, one of the problems facing first responders was the inability to communicate with other responders.

Jim Biggerstaff, director of communication for the Missouri Highway Patrol, said that inoperability was a big concern facing his department.

“There is a real need for real communication in real time,” Biggerstaff said.

Tim Daniel, the Missouri director of Homeland Security, was also an advocate of the bill.

“Inoperablility is without question a big problem,” Daniel said. “It puts us in a very destructive position.”

Salva questioned Daniel about whether any funding from the Homeland Security Act had been received.

Daniel said so far no money had been given for this year.

In 2003, $59 million was allocated to Missouri.

There is still $19 million of the allocation left that has not been received by the state.

The $40 million received has already been assigned to different organizations in the state.

Daniel said it was not an issue of misuse of funds, but rather it was a situation where funds are reimbursed after the fact.

If a city does not have the funds initially it makes it incapable of improvements.

Currently, it is unknown if any other city will use the funding.

The committee made no final decision on the bill and placed it on the schedule to visit again.