Five hours after a House and Senate conference committee first met to hammer out differences in the chambers’ home rule bills, lawmakers decided on a compromise that limits the size of the home rule pilot program while preserving much of the additional language House members added to the legislation.
The home rule pilot program allowed certain cities to make decisions and rules, such as those related to taxes, that might otherwise conflict with state laws. The pilot project is set to expire June 30, but the bill currently before the Legislature would extend it to July 1, 2019.
Sens. Herb Snyder, Ron Miller and Donna Boley, plus Delegates Jim Morgan, Randy Swartzmiller and Tom Azinger met in a conference committee Saturday afternoon to hammer out differences in their respective versions of the bills.
Around 7 p.m., Sen. Herb Snyder called the conference committee back into order and announced both sides had reached a deal. The committee agreed to leave language in the bill forbidding cities from making ordinances about marriages or divorce, along with a provision requiring cities to give up municipal gun ordinances before participating in the home rule program.
The Senate got two of its wishes. Delegates agreed to limit the size of the home rule program — the House’s version of the bill opened the program up to all 232 state cities, while the Senate only wanted 14 — to 20 cities. House members also allowed a Senate tweak of their gun provision, allowing cities to regulate firearm carry on all city properties, except for people with concealed carry permits.
The House version of the bill had allowed cities to enforce carry restrictions in municipal buildings being used for official city business. The Senate’s broadening of the language now allows cities to regulate carry in parks and at pools, along with other city properties.
Snyder said the Senate had little choice but to accept the House’s gun provisions. He said the bill wouldn’t have passed otherwise.
So, assuming the House and Senate OK the conference committee’s report, it looks like Charleston will have a big choice to make: either stay in the home rule program or get rid of its 20-year-old gun ordinance.