CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Senate-passed bill expanding the state's Home Rule Pilot Program has been changed by a House of Delegates committee to prohibit participating cities from enacting gun ordinances.
Gun rights bills, especially one concerning city ordinances, have been hot topics this legislative session.
The House Government Organization Committee advanced the bill to House floor on a unanimous vote Tuesday.
Another change stemming from the city of Charleston would allow a city to enact a municipal sales tax of up to 1 percent if the city reduces or eliminates its business and occupation taxes.
But the city must eliminate the municipal sales tax if its leadership later opts to reinstate or raise the B&O tax that was previously reduced or eliminated.
The bill also prohibits cities from enacting laws dealing with marriage or divorce.
None of the amendments would affect municipal laws already enacted by the state's four home rule cities, said committee Chairman Jim Morgan, D-Cabell. Those cities are Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport.
The phrase "home rule" refers to a city's ability to take steps to govern itself that might otherwise be in conflict with state laws. The bill extends the state's Home Rule Pilot Program until July 1, 2019. The program was set to expire June 30.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has proposed a package of tax changes that includes imposition of a half-cent municipal sales tax to raise funds to renovate the Charleston Civic Center.
He also has proposed reducing the city's B&O tax on retail businesses and eliminating the B&O tax on manufacturing.
Jones had no objections to the amendments to the bill.
"We just want a home rule bill passed," he said. "If the amendments make people in the Legislature more comfortable with home rule, then that's fine."
Since 1993, Charleston has had an ordinance prohibiting the sale of more than one handgun to an individual in a period of 30 days. The city also requires all retailers selling handguns to perform background checks and require three-day waiting periods for the purchases.
Jones said he did not know what gun rights and marriage have to do with home rule.
"I don't know what the city can do about marriage anyway," he said.
As for the taxation restriction, Jones said the city has no plans to increase B&O taxes if his proposal passes.
"We're just wanting to build a Civic Center," he said.