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Future of home rule up to cities, mayors told

Exponent Telegram photo by Jim Davis Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws, left, speaks about home rule during a panel discussion Thursday as part of the West Virginia Municipal League's annual conference in Bridgeport. Panelists are, from left, Haws; Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie; House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley; and Patsy Trecost, chairman of the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board.
Exponent Telegram photo by Jim Davis
Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws, left, speaks about home rule during a panel discussion Thursday as part of the West Virginia Municipal League’s annual conference in Bridgeport. Panelists are, from left, Haws; Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie; House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley; and Patsy Trecost, chairman of the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board.

BRIDGEPORT — The future of home rule will rest on the success or failure of the municipalities that participate in an expanded pilot program, Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws told state municipal leaders Thursday.

If successful, the state Legislature may allow all municipalities to join, perhaps without an oversight board to answer to, Haws said during a session on home rule as part of the West Virginia Municipal League’s annual conference.

“The next five years will make or break home rule,” Haws predicted.

Haws was part of a panel discussion on home rule at the Bridgeport Conference Center.

Other panelists were West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley; Patsy Trecost, chairman of the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Board; Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie; and Bridgeport City Attorney Dean Ramsey.

Home rule gives cities more say in how they govern.

Bridgeport, Wheeling, Charleston and Huntington were the first cities accepted into the pilot home rule program.

The state Legislature last year extended the program until 2019 and allowed the Home Rule Board to pick 16 more municipalities to participate.

Twenty-three municipalities have applied to join the program.

Ramsey said a legislative rule adopted about 50 years ago limited municipalities to actions expressly authorized by the Legislature.

“Home rule gives everybody the opportunity to come up with ideas that have not been expressly authorized by the Legislature,” Ramsey said.

Miley, D-Harrison, said he supports home rule, saying local leaders know better what their municipalities need than lawmakers in Charleston, Miley said…

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