CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said council members will have to explore whether to apply for home rule after the pilot program expires at the end of June.
Charleston is one of four home rule cities in the state. The four pilot cities can opt out of the program when it expires.
Jones and other council members have expressed concerns about the state Legislature's renewal of home rule.
Under the new program, any city that applies must drop all gun ordinances already in place.
Charleston has an ordinance requiring a three-day waiting period for all handgun purchases. Gun buyers are limited to one handgun in a 30-day period and must go through a background check.
Although a House of Delegates measure nullifying Charleston's ordinances failed to come out of a Senate committee, House members tacked a similar measure onto a Senate bill extending home rule.
Charleston leaders are attempting to pass a half-cent municipal sales tax, which will be done under the current home rule powers.
When asked if he would like to opt out of the home rule program if the half-cent sales tax is approved, Jones said council would have to explore the idea.
But he thinks the Legislature will continue to target Charleston's gun ordinance even if the city opts out of home rule.
"This will not stop," he said.
Jones made the announcement during Monday's regular council meeting, where council members and the audience had to walk through a metal detector as they entered the main chamber.
Jones insisted the addition of the metal detector had nothing to do with the home rule/gun ordinance debate or Monday's attack in Boston.
"I've been thinking about doing this for weeks now," he said. "But you never know who's going to come to council now."
Jones said his comments Monday night would be his last interview on the subject, "until those people (legislators)" leave town.
He lashed out at Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, calling him a liar for accusing Jones of calling lawmakers "idiots." Jones said neither he nor any council member ever called a lawmaker an idiot.
"How do you defend yourself against a liar?" Jones said.
Hunt has since retracted his statement.
"He basically called the entire committee of political subdivisions unwise. If you're unwise, you're an idiot," Hunt said during a speech on the House floor in mid-March.
Jones also addressed Council President Tom Lane's statements about the city fighting the amendment to the home rule bill requiring municipalities to drop any gun ordinances to participate in the program in court.
Lane told a Daily Mail reporter he would like to challenge the constitutionality of the home rule bill amendment in court during an interview on Sunday.
"Maybe he's right," Jones said.
But he added that the city is a political subdivision of the state, and that means Charleston would essentially have to "sue itself" to win. Jones also said the Legislature would likely just target the city's gun ordinance in another fashion during the next session.
"I think we'll have to take what's coming to us," he said.
Jones went on to accuse the lawmakers who pushed the home rule amendment of not acting in the best interest of state residents and instead promoting special interest agendas.
He said House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, ceded his authority to the "fringe elements" in both parties.
Jones also addressed another amendment to the home rule bill prohibiting any participating city from enacting any ordinances dealing with marriage or divorce.
This is state lawmakers' way of prohibiting cities from enacting laws permitting gay marriage, which cities already couldn't do, Jones said.
Jones, who is a minister with the Universal Life Church, noted that he once discussed with House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and Sen. Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, the possibility of performing marriages in the city.
Jones said he only wanted to perform marriages as a way of promoting the city during events like FestivALL. When the topic was broached, Armstead immediately asked if Jones had any intentions of performing gay marriages.
Jones said he had no intentions of doing so and would not be permitted to do so under state law anyway. Nevertheless, he believes word spread through the Republican Party that he wanted to perform gay marriages in the city.
"I thought then that maybe I'm not dealing with rational people," he said.
Jones' statements, which were greeted by a round of applause from council members during the finance committee meeting, came before council unanimously voted to authorize city leaders to apply to the home rule board for permission to change the city's home rule plan.
The board will have to approve Charleston's proposal to implement the new tax.
The board will meet Friday to discuss the matter, City Manager David Molgaard said.
Council will then have to pass another ordinance implementing the half-cent sales tax.
Council also approved a measure implementing a uniform fee and classification system for businesses in the city.
The city previously had 49 classifications for businesses as well as 49 different levels of rates, Molgaard said.
The city will now charge $25 a year for every business license, he said.
The average fee for a business license as of now is about $27, Molgaard said. However, the city will pick up a little more revenue even though the fee will be reduced for many businesses.
That is because the city will begin charging some businesses that previously were not required to have a license. Businesses such as lobbyists, lawyers and doctors will now have to pay a fee for the city business license, Molgaard said.
Council members also approved Mary Beth Hoover's nomination to council. Hoover is replacing East End Councilman Marc Weintraub, 11th Ward Democrat, who resigned last week.