Government, WVPA Sharing

W.Va. House Government Organization Committee votes to amend HB 2728

By Erica Young

West Virginia Press Association Capitol Reporter


CHARLESTON, W.VA — HB 2728 was amended Wednesday, but it was not an easy process.

HB 2728, if passed, will establish the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program (set to end in June of 2019) as a permanent program. Charleston, Huntington, Bridgeport, and Wheeling were the original cities involved in the pilot program, which was then expanded.

Chief Counsel Arlie Hubbard gave an overview of the bill before opening the floor for questions from the delegates.

Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, asked Hubbard to verify cities could not override state codes. Hubbard elaborated on this, referring to the Coliseum in Charleston and explaining a design build process was used for bidding. He said this was “to prevent municipalities from always going to the lowest cost” to focus more on quality.

Lisa Dooley, executive director of the West Virginia Municipal League, spoke, along with Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington .

Dooley addressing a question from Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, about a section of the bill stating “in the event 30 percent of the qualified voters of the municipality who voted in the previous municipal election, by petition duly signed by them in their own handwriting and filed with the recorder of the municipality within 45 days after the enactment or amendment of an ordinance, act, resolution, rule, or regulation, protest against the ordinance, act, resolution, rule, or regulation, as amended, the ordinance, act, resolution, rule, or regulation shall not be issued or become effective until it is ratified by a majority of the legal votes cast by the qualified voters of the municipality at a regular municipal election or special municipal election.”

Dooley said this is to allow the citizens to have more control and more opportunity to give their input, but it is still “an unknown.”

Swartzmiller then turned his attention to Williams, asking if the language in this section of the bill would affect a city already established within the program, such as Huntington.

Williams did not believe what had already been passed would be subject to referendum, but felt as if any new proposals would.

After the discussion period, Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, proposed an amendment to the bill that would remove “right-to-work language,” saying he did not feel it was necessary.

He said, “We fought the right-to-work issue … I don’t know why we want that issue to surface again … I just believe it’s a poke in the eye. I believe it’s to surface once again a very divisive issue that should be behind us.”

Caputo spoke for several minutes about his amendment, referring back to a statement made by counsel that Senator Michael Woelfel, D-Cabell, was in support of the bill.

He said, “I’ve never seen that happen before to try to drive a committee in a direction of one senator who happens to be a Democrat. I hear a different story to that. I hear that Senator Woelfel actually voted to strip the language out of the bill. Either counsel was not informed of that. . .or he just was mistaken.”

The committee voted 13-12 in favor of Caputo’s amendment and the bill will be addressed again in the future.

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