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Thumbs up: Compromise on home rule aids Huntington

Apr. 16, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

West Virginia cities have big challenges, and the home rule program established in 2008 has allowed Huntington and three other cities to find solutions to some pressing problems and make important progress.

So, it was encouraging over the weekend to see the state legislature reach a compromise to keep the program going until 2019. The bill also allows 16 more cities to join the original participants -- Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport.

Over the past few decades, most West Virginia cities have faced population declines, increasing blight and mounting infrastructure issues. But the power to address many of those problems rested with the state, and the home rule program has allowed the participating cities to try some fresh ideas.

Huntington's ill-fated push to implement a wage tax aside, most all of the new initiatives have proved successful, particularly legislation that helps cities with abandoned and dilapidated housing. Huntington also implemented a local sales tax that allowed the city to reduce business taxes and make the city more attractive for economic development.

Had the home rule project not been extended, those gains would have been in jeopardy.

Late in the session, House lawmakers amended the home rule bill to bar participating cities from having local gun ordinances. The compromise bill targets only the gun requirements in Charleston, which has a one-handgun-per-month, 72-hour waiting period ordinance. Charleston officials are not happy about the change, but there is no indication the controversy will prevent the home rule program from going forward.

More than ever, West Virginia cities need the flexibility this program gives them.

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