House passes home-rule bill with gun-ordinance wording intact
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to provide more self-governance and autonomy to cities (SB435) passed the House of Delegates Thursday on a 95-3 vote -- with an amendment that could force the city of Charleston to repeal its ordinance restricting handgun purchases.
Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, said the amendment to force Charleston to repeal its gun ordinance in order to continue municipal home rule through 2019 completely contradicts the intent of the legislation.
"The amendment added to this bill goes against the essence of the clear intent of what this bill is meant to do," said Poore, whose district covers the downtown, East End and West Side of Charleston. "Either we trust municipalities or we don't. We should not be placing any additional unnecessary rules or regulations on them."
"We've infected a good piece of legislation with an extraneous poison pill," added Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha. "This is not a law enforcement amendment. It's an NRA amendment, and the NRA is in the business to sell guns."
The author of the amendment, Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, spoke in favor of the bill, but did not address the gun ordinance nullification provision.
"It's about giving municipalities the ability to structure their finances in a way that attracts jobs to the area," he said of home rule.
The Senate is expected to refuse to concur with the House amendments, which ultimately will send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.
Senate leadership declined to act on a House bill nullifying municipal gun regulations (HB2760), after members received threatening phone calls and emails demanding passage of that legislation.
The municipal home-rule pilot project, in which Charleston and three other cities are participants, is set to expire July 1. The bill would extend home rule for those cities through 2019, and allow all other cities in the state to apply to participate in the expanded home rule pilot project.
Also at the Legislature Thursday:
• The Senate Finance Committee unanimously advanced the magistrate pay-raise bill (HB2434) -- but with raises for 12 magistrates and staff in six counties, not 48 magistrates and staff, as the House bill originally intended.
However, Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said the Senate also is pushing for a year-long interim study of magistrate workloads and pay.
"There certainly are a lot of inequities with the system," Prezioso said. "It is broken, and it needs to be fixed."
He said workloads vary considerably among magistrate circuits.
"I'm sympathetic to counties with two magistrates, who are on call all the time," he said. "We need equal pay for equal work, and we think we can do that in a legislative study."
The magistrate pay bill is a trade-off for the House taking up legislation to approve a sales tax increment financing district outside Morgantown, providing more than $96 million of new development, including a privately financed exit off Interstate 79 between Westover and Star City, and a $16.2 million ballpark.
That bill (SB125) is on amendment stage in the House Friday.
• The House advanced the state budget bill (HB2014) to passage stage Friday, after rejecting amendments by Lane to prohibit state funding for some Medicaid-funded abortions and to prohibit the state from participating in health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act.
House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, noted that it is unconstitutional to use the state budget to affect general law or public policy.
"This is the wrong place to address this," he said of the abortion funding amendment. "The place to address abortion is in the Medicaid state plan."
Passage of the budget bill is a formality setting up an extended session to complete work on the 2013-14 state spending plan next week.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.