Senate passes home rule expansion bill - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Senate passes home rule expansion bill

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Lawmakers are loosening the reigns on a few more cities throughout West Virginia.

Senate Bill 435, which would expand the state's home rule pilot project, passed the Senate unanimously March 7.

Senators first voted to suspend the Constitutional rules that require bills be read on three separate days before a vote, so the bill was advanced from its place on the calendar after it was read a second time.

The bill would allow a total of 14 municipalities to participate and extend the pilot until 2019.

Two amendments to the bill were passed on the floor of the Senate before the bill passed to clarify the number of municipalities that would be allowed and that the four cities that have been participating since the program's inception in 2005 would be locked in if they still want to participate.

A recent legislative audit presented to an interim legislative committee recommended continuing the program. Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport have operated pilot projects under home rule, and many of their projects have dealt with liens on properties that are delinquent or service fees. Click here to read our previous coverage of home rule.

Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said municipalities had to submit every detail of the ordinances they wanted to enact, saying it was "as thick as a New York phone directory," but with the expansions, cities can be a little more general when submitting their plans.

The bill would change the current membership of the Municipal Home Rule Board, and it also would require a public hearing on the written plan for a municipality that wants to participate in the project.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for its consideration.