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 (Section 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:

  • Chapters 60-a ("Uniform Controlled Substance Act"), 61 ("Crimes and Their Punishment"), and 62 ("Criminal Procedure") of the West Virginia Code
  • Federal law
  • The U.S. Constitution
  • The West Virginia Constitution

Special Report

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.

Phase II

In March of 2014, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 317 amending and reenacting WV Code Section 8-1-5a, establishing Phase II of the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program and providing for 16 new municipalities of any size to join the 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:

  • Annexation
  • Bidding on government construction and other contracts
  • Chapters 60a, 61, and 62 of the Code of West Virginia or states crimes and punishment
  • Environmental laws
  • Extraction of natural resources
  • Federal law, crimes, and punishment
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • Marriage and divorce laws
  • An occupation tax, fee, or assessment payable by a non-resident
  • Open meetings
  • Pensions or retirement plans
  • Persons or property outside the municipal boundaries, subject to a municipality's powers under other sections of this chapter, other chapters, or court decisions
  • The provisions of WV Code Section 8-1-5a
  • Tax Increment Financing
  • Taxation: except up to a one percent sales tax, if it eliminates or reduces its Business and Occupation Tax (B&O) Tax
  • Wages for construction of public improvements (prevailing wage, etc.)
  • The written plan of the municipality