Legislation that would reauthorize $1.25 billion over five years pay for public-safety answering point (PSAP) upgrades — including upgrades to next-generation 911 architectures — has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate.

“In this day and age, it’s pretty remarkable, but it’s bicameral and bipartisan,” said Patrick Halley, government affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

Sponsored by chairs of the E-911 Caucus, identical legislation recently was introduced in both the House and the Senate. Key components of the bills include reauthorization of the national 911 office, reauthorization of the $1.25 billion grant program and updated language that calls for the money to be used for upgrades beyond wireless E-911, including next-gen 911 initiatives.

In 2004, Congress passed a bill establishing a similar grant program, but only $43.5 million was appropriated before the law expired last years.

The new bill also would alter the financial matching aspects associated with the grant program. Under previous law, federal funds in the program had to be matched by the local government entity. Under the new legislation, the federal government would provide 80% of the money and the local entity would provide 20%.

Halley expressed optimism about the legislation, which enjoys from both parties in the House and Senate,

“I think, in general, it has support, and I expect it to move,” Halley said.

A session describing the legislation was part of the annual “911 Goes to Washington” event conducted last week that attracted more than 200 attendees, Halley said. Other sessions during the event explored development of next-generation 911, state legislative issues, an update on the national 911 office and a presentation from Jamie Barnett — chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau — on the day the FCC’s national broadband plan was released.

In addition, NENA last week formally released its next-generation 911 transition policy handbook, a 26-page document providing an overview of the key policy, regulatory, and legislative issues that need to be considered to facilitate the transition to next-generation 911.

“This handbook could not have come at a more critical juncture,” NENA CEO Brian Fontes said in a prepared statement. “With significant NG-911baseline standards work nearing completion and NG-911 system demonstrations and trials under way, creating the legislative and regulatory framework necessary for NG-911 implementation must be a priority at all levels of government. The handbook serves policy-makers and public safety advocates as a valuable tool in their efforts to understand and enact the regulatory and legislative changes necessary for the successful transition to NG-911.”