'Home rule lite'
The House and Senate overwhelmingly agreed to the conference committee's changes to the legislation, however.
The measure received only two "nay" votes in the Senate - from Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, and Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph - and two "nay" votes in the House, from Delegates Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, and Kelli Sobonya, R-Putnam.
There was little debate on the House floor about the bill Saturday night, but several senators stood to speak against changes to the bill.
McCabe said the Legislature was "manhandled by special interests," referring to gun control groups who want to see Charleston's gun ordinance go away.
"The discussions had very little to do with economic and community development," McCabe said. "The discussion today was not about cities helping themselves. It was about guns and marriage and divorces, i.e. gays."
Delegate Lane's amendment to the home rule bill also forbade cities from making ordinances related to marriages and divorces. While attorneys for the Legislature seemed to agree cities do not have that authority anyway, the language was allowed to remain in the final bill.
Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, stood to speak against the bill, although he admitted he would cast a "yea" vote. Wells said some members of the Legislature were more concerned about the next election than the next generation.
"Here we have an opportunity to do something. What did we do with it? We put in wedge issues," he said. "Who gives special interests their power? We do. We give them the ability to influence us."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said he also would vote for the home rule bill, even though he did not support changes made to the legislation.
Palumbo said home rule was created to give cities more sovereignty, but this year's version of the law does the exact opposite. He dubbed it "home rule lite."
"Home rule lite is better than no home rule at all, but just barely," he said.
Speaking after the vote, Barnes said he was discouraged more lawmakers "did not have the courage to stand up or make a vote like it really should be passed."
Barnes said he voted against home rule because it goes against the original spirit of the program.
"I'm not sure there's a term for a philosophy that becomes an oxymoron," he said.
He said if city residents don't like city gun ordinances, they should appeal to their city leaders and have those rules repealed.
"They have their own representations to deal with these individual changes," he said.
Barnes, an Army veteran and member of the National Rifle Association, said he was not concerned his vote might be perceived as "anti-gun."
"I probably own and know a whole lot more about firearms than most of the people in the Legislature. I simply believe home rule should be home rule," he said.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Saturday night he still had not decided if he would sign the home rule bill, although it appeared he was leaning in that direction.
"I'm waiting to see what the end result is. I've been very much in support of the home rule concept that we tried with the pilot project in four cities. For the most part, it worked out very well," he said.
"Obviously the amendment dealing with gun control or gun rules complicates it somewhat. I'm still in support of the expansion of home rule in West Virginia."
Tomblin said he thought including gun issues in home rule was "a little bit of a contradiction."
"I think that when you think of home rule . . . it's giving them more flexibility, and this does tie their hands somewhat. Especially those cities that already have some gun control rules in effect," he said.