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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Rep. French Hill and state Sen. Joyce Elliott are shown in these file photos.

U.S. Rep. French Hill's new campaign commercial criticizes his opponent for co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that raised 911-related phone fees.

In a written statement, the campaign of state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said the ad was "misleading," criticizing Hill's campaign for omitting key words from an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headline it quotes.

Elliott backed the Public Safety Act of 2019, which eliminated the 65-cent-per-month "emergency telephone service charge," replacing it with a $1.30 per-month "public safety charge" that applies to each phone, tablet or other device.

It also added a 10% tax on prepaid phone cards or services.

Sponsored by state Rep. Michelle Gray, R-Melbourne, the stated goal of the legislation was to "develop a next generation 911 system."

It became law last year after passing in the majority-Republican Legislature -- in the House, 85-0, and in the Senate, 29-3.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, presented the proposal in the upper chamber.

[RELATED » Full coverage of elections in Arkansas »]

In a written statement, Hill's campaign chairwoman, Judith Goodson, called the tax "regressive and discriminatory" and said it had "made life harder on those who are already struggling -- single moms, the elderly, and low-income Arkansans all across the state."

In a written statement, Elliott campaign spokesman Neil Goodman defended the vote.

"It's disappointing that Congressman Hill doesn't support funding our 911 system, especially at a time when so many Arkansans rely on emergency services," Goodman said.

He also criticized Hill's ad for omitting key words from a March 21, 2019, headline on the vote.

The original version of the headline stated: "Cell phone-fees bill to fund 911 changes clears Senate." The version in the ad states: "Cell phone-fees bill ... clears Senate."

Gray did not respond to requests for comment. In a telephone interview, Rapert defended the legislation.

"The 911 reform bill had overwhelming support from basically every county judge and sheriff and person involved in law enforcement and emergency services in the state of Arkansas," Rapert said.

Asked about the attack ad's claims, Rapert said, "I'm not here to be brought into a race between [Elliott and] Congressman French Hill, who has my overwhelming support to remain our 2nd District congressman."

But the legislation was "a great 911 bill," he said.

"[It] was widely supported across the entire state of Arkansas because we badly needed reform and upgrades to the 911 system in our state," he said.


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