Kessler ‘confident’ Home Rule extension will pass

WHEELING – West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler said he is “confident” a measure to extend the state’s Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program will be passed before the Legislature adjourns at midnight Saturday.

The House on Thursday passed Senate Bill 435, the home rule extension bill, by a vote of 95-3. The measure goes back to the Senate, but now contains a provision banning city gun ordinances.

The House previously passed a separate bill to repeal gun control ordinances in Charleston and Martinsburg, but Kessler, D-Glen Dale, pulled the bill from consideration in the Senate after members began receiving phone threats from pro-gun rights advocates wanting to have the measure passed.

Kessler said late Thursday the Senate has yet to receive SB 435 back from the House, though he expects it to arrive early today.

“I haven’t seen it yet,” Kessler said of the amended bill. “We only know about the reports we’ve heard. I’ll be in a better position to comment after I’ve seen the bill. But I am extremely confident and optimistic a home rule bill will be passed.”

SB 435 extends the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program through July 1, 2019.

Wheeling is one of four municipalities participating in the pilot program, along with Charleston, Bridgeport and Huntington.

Under the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, Wheeling reduced the number of business licenses required in the city from 77 to three. City leaders established a vacant structures registration program, and began issuing conditional use zoning permits.

Passing the Legislature on Thursday were three bills introduced by Kessler:

SB 208 – Making supplementary appropriation from State Fund, General Revenue, to Department of Commerce, Division of Labor, and DHHR, Division of Human Services

SB 524 – Supplementing, amending, and adjusting appropriations from State Road Fund to Department of Transportation

SB 526 – Making supplementary appropriation of federal funds to DHHR, Division of Human Services-Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Also approved by the House was SB 557, introduced by Sen. Jack Yost, D-Wellsburg, which would continue the Preventive Care Pilot Program. The measure is awaiting concurrence from the Senate before completing legislative action.

The following bills introduced by local lawmakers are set for action today in the West Virginia Legislature, which concludes its regular 60-day session at midnight Saturday.

Third Reading in Senate

House Bill 2548 – (Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall) Increasing the criminal penalties for assaults and batteries against athletic officials

Third Reading in House

SB 202 – (Kessler) Creating WV Spay Neuter Assistance Program and Fund

SB 331 – (Kessler) Permitting Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority to issue bonds

SB 355 – (Kessler) Relating to final wage payment to discharged employees

SB 371 – (Kessler) Relating to prison overcrowding

SB 523 – (Kessler) Making supplementary appropriation of unappropriated moneys to various accounts

SB 525 – (Kessler) Making supplementary appropriation of federal funds to various accounts

SB 596 – (Kessler) Determining grant awards for Chesapeake Bay and Greenbrier River watershed compliance projects

SB 604 – (Kessler) Expanding definition of “electioneering communication”

Second Reading in Senate

HB 2716 – (Delegate Phil Diserio, D-Brooke) Relating to the West Virginia Fairness in Competitive Bidding Act

Second Reading in House

SB 185 – (Kessler) Relating to alternative-fuel motor vehicles and qualified refueling infrastructure tax credits

SB 190 – (Kessler) Relating to public-private transportation projects funding

SB 335 – (Yost) Permitting certain hospitals exemption from certificate of need

SB 394 – (Kessler) Relating to scholarships for dependent children of state troopers who die in performance of duty

Second Reading in House

SB 172 – (Kessler) Relating to non-intoxicating beer distributor licensees.