Home Rule History in West Virginia

On March 10, 2007, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 747, which added a new section of West Virginia Code (§8-1-5a) thereby creating the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program. Essentially, the Home Rule Pilot Program allowed pilot cities to implement changes in all matters of local governance without regard for state laws or rules as long as the changes did not violate the following provisions:
  • the U.S. Constitution
  • the West Virginia Constitution
  • federal law
  • chapters sixty-a (“Uniform Controlled Substance Act”), sixty-
    one (“Crimes and Their Punishment”), and sixty-two (“Criminal Procedure”) of the West Virginia Code
In November of 2012, a Special Report was conducted by the WV Legislative Auditor Performance Evaluation & Research Division on the program which made the following recommendations in regard to Home Rule in WV:
  1. The Legislative Auditor recommends that the Legislature consider providing broad-based home rule authority to all Class I, II, and III municipalities.
  2. If home rule is extended to all Class I, II, and III municipalities, the Legislative Auditor recommends that it be provided with the current restrictions as stipulated in the pilot program.
  3. The Legislative Auditor recommends that the Home Rule Board be discontinued if broad- based home rule is granted statewide.
The report concluded "The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program has been effective in improving local governance, and broad-based Home Rule should be extended statewide."

Read the full report here.

In March of 2014, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 317 amending and reenacting WV Code §8-1-5a, establishing Phase II of the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program and providing for sixteen (16) new municipalities of any size to join the four (4) charter Home Rule Pilot cities of Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington, and Wheeling for Phase II of the Pilot Program until July 1, 2019.

For Phase II of the program, municipalities may not make any changes to ordinances, acts, resolutions, rules and regulations that are contrary to or pertaining to:
  • Environmental laws.
  • Bidding on government construction and other contracts.
  • Freedom of Information Act.
  • Open meetings.
  • Wages for construction of public improvements (prevailing wage, etc.).
  • The provisions of Wv Code §8-1-5a.
  • The written plan of the municipality.
  • Federal law, crimes, and punishment.
  • Chapters 60a, 61, and 62 of the Code of West Virginia or states crimes and punishment.
  • Pensions or retirement plans.
  • Annexation.
  • Taxation: except up to a one percent sales tax, if it eliminates or reduces its Business and Occupation Tax (B&O) Tax.
  • Tax Increment Financing.
  • Extraction of natural resources.
  • Persons or property outside the municipal boundaries, subject to a municipality's powers under other sections of this chapter, other chapters, or court decisions.
  • Marriage and divorce laws.
  • An occupation tax, fee, or assessment payable by a non-resident.