Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 7, 2013

W.Va. Senate OK’s more local government power-shifting

CHARLESTON — Six more West Virginia cites or towns would experiment with increased government powers through a measure unanimously endorsed by the state Senate.

The bill passed to the House Thursday would continue the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program for another five years. It would also set further limits on it.

West Virginia has a highly centralized government. Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport took part in the initial five-year program. They used it to reduce fees, streamline regulations and target blight.

Thursday’s measure would open the pilot to towns with 2,000 or fewer people. It would keep all changes enacted through the initial program except Huntington’s occupation tax.

The renewed pilot would tightly limit tax measures. The power-shifting also would not extend to annexation, environmental laws or pensions, or apply to non-residents.

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