A bill that would continue a home rule pilot project for West Virginia municipalities, allowing them greater authority to govern themselves, is on its way toward passage in the Legislature.
The bill (SB 435) cleared the final committee hurdle Tuesday when the House Government Organization Committee approved it on a unanimous voice vote. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, now goes to the full house where approval is expected.
The legislation extends a pilot project adopted five years ago, and set to expire this year, until 2019. The program permits municipalities to have greater control over their operations.
Charleston, Wheeling, Bridgeport and Huntington are the only cities now participating in the pilot project, but West Virginia Municipal League Executive Director Lisa Dooley expects at least 15 more to adopt home rule in the near future.
Dooley says home rule authorizes local communities to control their own destiny and makes government more responsive to voters.
“Home rule is not an empowerment of government, it empowers the citizen,” Dooley said. “It lets the citizen decide what’s best for them. It allows them to use the ballot box to answer yes or no whether the city is going in the right direction.”
Bill supporters say home rule allows municipalities to streamline local government, operating more efficiently, rather than relying on state government. One important provision allows cities to add up to a one percent sales tax, but only if the business and occupation tax is cut. No other taxes can be changed under home rule.