Bill to make Home Rule program permanent clears Senate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After several days of delay for pending amendments, the Senate passed the home rule bill, SB 4. It makes the Home Rule Pilot Program permanent.

Sen. Corey Palumbo (D-Kanawha, 17)

Two amendments were adopted. One, by Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, strikes a provision that would have allowed voters to call for a referendum within 45 days of any home rule law passed by a city council.

The other, with bipartisan sponsors, strikes a provision requiring voters to approve any bond sales that would use the local sales tax for revenue.

A third amendment, by Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, failed along party lines, 15-18. It would have stricken a line specifying that home rule cities can pass no laws contrary to state right to work law. This had been a point of contention, with Democrats saying it’s unnecessary and Republicans saying it will help avoid litigation by making the prohibition clear.

A similar amendment in the House version, HB 2728, led to the tabling of that one in House Government Organization.

The bill – changed from the introduced version in a committee substitute – continues all existing plans and ordinances home rule cities have in place but requires updates to any sections affected by this bill.

Beginning July 1, the Home Rule Board will accept up to four applications per year from Class IV municipalities – population under 2,000 – that wish to join.

Starting July 1, all participants must pay a $2,000 annual assessment into a Home Rule Board Operations Fund to operation and administration of the board. Once the fund reaches $200,000, assessments will stop until such time as the board considers the fund too low.

The Home Rule Pilot Project began in 2007 and is scheduled to sunset later this year without legislative action.

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