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WV House passes amended version of bill to extend home rule project

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The amended version of a bill that could extend the state's home rule pilot project and home rule pilot project board has passed the House of Delegates, but now without changes.

Delegates Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha,  and Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, offered a total of four amendments to Senate Bill 435 while it was on second reading April 10. All amendments were adopted, including one by Lane that would incorporate some language from now-defunct House Bill 2760, which would nullify all city gun ordinances in favor of more consistent, statewide firearms laws.

Because of that amendment, three of the four delegates who opposed HB 2760 voted against SB 435.

"The amendment that has been added to this piece of legislation takes away from the very essence of what this bill is meant to do and is counter-productive," said Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, noting the Legislature needs to trust municipalities participating in the program to do what's best for their residents. "We should not be placing any additional and unnecessary rules and regulations on them than what was previously allowed during the pilot project."

Both Poore and Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said they support the idea of home rule and would have voted for the bill had Lane's amendment been rejected.

"I also am going to have to vote against his bill even though I have been a champion of home rule ever since we talked about it, ever since we enacted it," Guthrie said. "It's probably one of the best things we've ever done."

Guthrie called Lane's amendment an "extraneous poison pill."

"The gun provision has absolutely no room in home rule," Guthrie said. "I don't think you can extend rights to a municipality and then bite their hand off whenever you decide that its not going the way you want it to. This bill never ever had law enforcement come to any of us and say the city of Charleston is abusing the privilege on their gun ordinances. No one ever said that from law enforcement and if they had, I would have been right there with all of you, voting for this bill. But that's not the case. This isn't a law enforcement provision; it's an NRA provision. The NRA is in the business to sell guns. Let's not pretend this is something that it is not. Our cities know what they need to do to protect citizens. Home rule gave them some opportunity to do that, and now we're going to unanimously, pretty much, take that away from them."

Poore also noted that home rule allows municipalities to restructure their tax systems to attract business and economic development. Lane agreed with that assessment.

"This is about giving municipalities the ability to structure their finances in a way to attract jobs to their local areas," Lane said.

He did not address criticism levied against his amendment.

The legislation would allow all municipalities across the state to apply to and participate in the program, which was created in 2007. Sobonya's amendments made technical changes to the legislation.

The bill passed 95-3 with Poore, Guthrie and Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, voting against. The bill must now go back to the Senate, where members will either concur with the amendments and pass the bill or reject the changes and effectively kill the bill.