The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

January 8, 2013

Lawmakers propose ‘home rule’ renewal

CHARLESTON — West Virginia would allow four more cities or towns to pursue increased governing powers through a successful “home rule” pilot program, under a draft bill discussed by lawmakers Monday.

The measure would also scrap all tax changes enacted so far under the pilot. That appears directed at Huntington, which was sued after it sought to replace a $3-a-week user fee with a 1 percent occupation tax under the program. While the draft bill would allow future attempts to hike, change or redistribute local taxes, at least 55 percent in a resulting municipal vote would have to approve. It would also limit any new fees to within the city or town’s boundaries.

Presented to a House-Senate subcommittee, the draft would extend the pilot until 2018 while inviting municipalities with at least 2,000 people to apply to join. Huntington took part in the initial five-year phase along with Wheeling, Bridgeport and Charleston, the state’s most populous city. Their mayors and other officials have declared the pilot a success, telling lawmakers it has allowed them to tackle blight, improve services and reduce costs for residents and businesses.

West Virginia operates under a particularly centralized government structure. A recent audit of the pilot program, citing the positive reviews, recommended extending the power-shifting to all cities with at least 2,000 people. The state’s Municipal League prefers the small-scale approach reflected in the bill, but wants the draft’s tax-voiding language amended, Executive Director Lisa Dooley told the subcommittee.

Dooley cited how home rule allowed Huntington to restructure its business and occupation tax into a 1 percent sales tax, without any blowback. The city’s new mayor, Steve Williams, also told lawmakers last month that he plans to work with the city council to rescind the tax that prompted the lawsuit.

The sales tax should be kept along with well-received changes by Wheeling and Bridgeport to their business licensing fees, Dooley said.

“All taxes aren’t bad,” Dooley said, adding that “Those seem to me like they’re easy to fix.”

Delegate Gary Howell suggested that the program admit at least one municipality with a population below 2,000. The Mineral County Republican said one such community in his district, Carpendale, wishes to take part.

GOP lawmakers, particularly in the House, have been the most vocal foes of the home rule pilot. A group led by Delegate Kelli Sobonya, a Cabell County Republican whose district included Huntington, sought without success to repeal the program last year.  These GOP delegates also have opposed most of the measures that have embraced proposals emerging from the pilot by adopting them statewide. Howell voted against one such bill, addressing business licensing, in 2011.

Republicans approach this year’s session with 46 of the House’s 100 seats, after picking up 11 in the election. The House-Senate subcommittee lacked enough members present Monday to vote on whether to endorse the draft. It meets one more time before the regular session begins Feb. 13.

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. 

    Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.

     

    July 29, 2014

  • Tunnel.jpg Tunnel traffic to be restricted to one lane for repairs

    Highway crews are planning to do additional repairs Tuesday night and Wednesday night inside of the East River Mountain. As a result, traffic inside of the tunnel will be limited to one lane in both directions, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth lab bust nets two Raleigh residents

    An anonymous phone call about two children in danger led authorities to a meth lab bust and the arrests of two Raleigh County residents Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress closes in on benefits for veterans

    On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.

    July 29, 2014