Why limit home rule to 20 cities?

An editorial from the Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Twenty-three cities are applying for 16 new vacancies in West Virginia’s Municipal Home Rule program. The municipalities applied for the second round of a five-year program by the June 1 deadline, per law passed by the legislature in 2013.

A separate home-rule program is needed in West Virginia because the state’s highly centralized government limits the taxing authority and other powers of cities, towns and villages.

The second round of home rule comes after a successful pilot where four cities — Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling — enjoyed just a bit of leeway from the state’s overly restrictive laws governing municipalities.

The idea of the pilot program was to allow selected cities to experiment, under supervision of a state board, with their own ways to reduce some taxes and institute others, streamline regulations, collect delinquent fees and target abandoned and blighted buildings.

An audit of the initial five-year home rule program that concluded in 2012 found that the participating cities successfully tackled blight, simplified business licensing and strengthened their finances…

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