The proposed expansion of West Virginia’s Home Rule Pilot Program will now be considered in the state House of Delegates.
On Thursday, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would continue home rule for Wheeling, Charleston, Bridgeport and Huntington, where it is currently being used, and create ten more slots for additional cities.
Jefferson County State Senator Herb Snyder, the Chairman of the Senate Government Organization Committee, says the bill would make home rule an option for municipalities of all sizes.
“It applies to all municipalities, all 134 of them in the State of West Virginia can apply for this,” Senator Snyder said at the State House before Thursday’s 34-0 vote in the Senate.
The Legislature first created the Home Rule Pilot Program five years ago as a way to give local leaders more control over how their cities operate.
At that time, the home rule proposals from the participating cities had to be very specific.
“This time around, those plans can be more general, in some respects,” Sen. Snyder said.
“They don’t have to have the actual ordinances that they might propose in the next five years. So, consequently, it makes it a little easier for these ten additional counties to apply.”
However, Sen. Snyder says the bill does restrict the creation of new taxes, in most cases. “They can enact an up to 1% sales tax if they’re doing that to offset, to eliminate or reduce their B&O tax.”
The bills specifically bans occupational taxes, like the one officials in Huntington are in the process of repealing.
The West Virginia Municipal League supports the extension of the West Virginia Home Rule Pilot Program.
Without legislative action, home rule will end on July 1st.