Clearing a Path For ‘Home Rule’

“Home rule,” a state pilot program to give some communities more control of matters that should be up to local leaders, seems to have been a success in Wheeling. The program ought to be renewed, but silly politicking in Charleston may threaten it.

Wheeling is one of four municipalities participating in a pilot program authorized by the Legislature. The others are Bridgeport, Charleston and Huntington. In effect, home rule allows local officials to make decisions on issues ranging from taxation to cutting bureaucratic red tape, without worrying about state laws that otherwise might have conflicted with plans by municipal leaders.

A bill already approved by the state Senate would continue the program and allow more municipalities to participate in it.

If home rule is to continue, the House of Delegates must agree with the Senate on a bill. Just a few days are left for that to happen; the Legislature’s current session ends Saturday night.

Some delegates have suggested amendments to the version of the bill already approved by the Senate. For example, the Senate bill would allow 10 more municipalities, for a total of 14, to participate in home rule. Some delegates think the limit should be eliminated.

That is fine. Most amendments suggested in the House are germane to the bill’s purpose. But one is not, and it threatens to derail the measure.

In the background during the entire legislative session have been arguments concerning restrictions on ownership of firearms. Some lawmakers, concerned about municipal ordinances on the subject, want a state law banning firearms restrictions by towns and cities.

Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, has proposed an amendment to the home rule bill to invalidate municipal gun-control ordinances.

Second Amendment rights certainly are important. Most West Virginians are leery of government at any level interfering with them.

But Lane’s proposal is no more than an attempt to use the home rule bill to enact legislation that has failed thus far during the session. It has little or nothing to do with the measure’s other provisions.

Lane should back away from his proposal. If he persists in it, House leaders should derail it. The home rule bill needs to be passed, not consigned to the scrap heap because of disagreement over a gun-control provision.