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December 24, 1997


Petition for Review from the Illinois Commerce Commission.

As Corrected January 9, 1998.

Presiding Justice Cerda delivered the opinion of the court. Wolfson and Burke, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cerda

PRESIDING JUSTICE CERDA delivered the opinion of the court:

The City of Chicago and Chicago Emergency Telephone System Board, appellants, appeal from the assertion of regulatory authority by the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission) appellee, over the use of 9-1-1 surcharges by local governments to fund their 9-1-1 emergency systems. The Commission promulgated regulations exempting users of a class of telephone service, called Centrex, from paying the full 9-1-1 surcharge rate.

The issue in this case is whether the Emergency Telephone System Act (the Act) (50 ILCS 750/0.01 et seq. (West 1996)) grants the Commission the authority to regulate the assessment of 9-1-1 surcharges which local governments impose on subscribers to finance their 9-1-1 emergency telephone systems.

We reverse and determine that the Commission did not have the authority to issue a regulation concerning how subscribers are assessed a surcharge that is used to finance the 9-1-1 emergency telephone system of a local government.

The Act was enacted to officially establish 9-1-1 as the uniform statewide emergency telephone number for use in Illinois and to encourage local governments to develop and improve emergency communications procedures and facilities. 50 ILCS 750/1 (West 1996). The legislature declared that by the end of 1985 every firefighting, police, ambulance, medical or other emergency service agency in a county having a population of 100,000 or more should have in operation a 9-1-1 emergency telephone system. 50 ILCS 750/3 (West 1996). The legislature specified the services to be included in the 9-1-1 systems. 50 ILCS 750/4 through 6.1 (West 1996).

The legislature authorized the Commission to establish a general overview or plan to carry out the implementation of 9-1-1 systems. 50 ILCS 750/7 (West 1996). The "technical and operational standards" for the development of local 9-1-1 systems were to be established and reviewed by the Commission on or before December 31, 1979. 50 ILCS 750/10 (West 1996). In regard to the financing of 9-1-1 systems, the Act states:

"The Commission, with the advice and assistance of the Attorney General, shall assist local public agencies and local public safety agencies in obtaining financial help to establish emergency telephone service, and shall aid such agencies in the formulation of concepts, methods, and procedures which will improve the operation of systems required by this Act and which will increase cooperation between public safety agencies." 50 ILCS 750/8 (West 1996).

The Commission was also authorized to approve or disapprove plans for local 9-1-1 emergency systems. 50 ILCS 750/11 (West 1996).

Pursuant to the Act, in 1979, the Commission adopted regulations regarding the requirements for the establishment of 9-1-1 systems and operating standards for them. 83 Ill. Adm. Code ยง 725.100 et seq. (1996).

Local governments are empowered to levy a gross-receipts tax on the telecommunication companies' receipts for the business originating within the corporate limits of the municipality. 65 ILCS 5/8--11--2 (West 1996). In 1987, the legislature amended the Act to permit local governments to impose the 9-1-1 surcharge in addition to the gross-receipts tax levied under section 8--11--2 of the Illinois Municipal Code. 50 ILCS 750/15.3 (West 1996); Pub. Act 85--978, eff. December 16, 1987.

The Act under new section 15.3 grants local governments the authority to impose a monthly 9-1-1 surcharge on billed subscribers of network connection provided by telecommunication carriers at a rate established by local referendum. 50 ILCS 750/15.3(a) (West 1996). The Act also provides that any municipality that had been imposing a 9-1-1 surcharge prior to the effective date of the 1990 amendments could continue to do so. 50 ILCS 750/15.3(i) (West 1996).

The monthly surcharge "shall be collected from the subscriber by the telecommunications carrier *** as a separately stated item on the subscriber's bill." 50 ILCS 750/15.3(f) (West 1996). The section further provides that the surcharge then "shall be paid to the particular municipality or county or Joint Emergency Telephone System Board not later than 30 days after the surcharge is collected. ...

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