Home rule is where your community is: Making pilot program permanent will help keep state’s cities’ laws relevant to residents

Unlike the slang expression “home cooking,” home rule is much more along the line of food cooked at home.
Whereas the slang term indicates a prejudice, the real definition alludes to the idea of a family recipe or in this case, community.
It still seems like an obscure concept in West Virginia since its first pilot program more than a dozen years ago. Yet, granting home rule has done more to align our cities with the 21st century than any other change.
Up until Monday, 34 state cities that operate under home rule were hanging by a thread despite overwhelming majorities passing SB 4 during this year’s legislative session.
That bill makes the state’s home rule programs permanent that formerly were expanded several times but always with a temporary tag.
Those temporary tags on the state’s 2007 home rule were set to expire June 30 without legislative action. The new home rule law takes effect June 7.
Operating under home rule allows participating cities to enact changes in many matters of local governance, especially those pertinent to individual cities.
Through the home rule program, Morgantown has implemented a number of things in city limits.
Some in recent years  germane to Morgantown include:
Eliminating the need for park board (BOPARC)  members to own property.
Allowing city to sell real estate directly without auction in some cases.
Providing for more digital ways of informing citizens of proposed zoning changes, while maintaining newspaper notification.
Giving fire marshals arrest authority for arson and explosive offenses.
Allowing city to enforce zoning code, including “nonconforming provisions, equally as to all uses.”
Our state’s home rule program gives cities the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit. That is, as long as they obey the state and federal constitutions. There are also restrictions regarding federal highway funding and gun laws among others.
This authority is even further limited in West Virginia to oversight by and the need for permission from the state’s Home Rule Board.
Yet, in our estimation home rule is a successful program that probably every city and its citizens in West Virginia could  use in its tool kit.
Morgantown looks a lot different than it did even five years ago, let alone 12 years ago.
No, home rule in large part is not responsible for this dynamic development and growth.
But it has allowed for a lot more flexibility to respond to issues — germane to us — we previously did not have.
Indeed, making decisions locally sets the table for the best of every community’s cooking.