CLARKSBURG — Bridgeport Mayor Jim Christie and Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe are keeping track of the home rule bill moving through the Legislature for different reasons.
Bridgeport would be grandfathered into the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, under the bill that passed the Senate last week.
“The bill has changed from its original version,” Christie said. “I anticipate it’s going to have changes on the House side. I’m not sure how it’s going to look in the end.”
Clarksburg, on the other hand, would have a better shot at joining the program, with Senate Bill 435 casting a wider net to include more municipalities.
“We’re optimistic, knowing that the bill still has to pass the House,” Howe said.
The bill would continue the pilot program until July 1, 2019.
The measure also would authorize the Home Rule Board to accept up to 10 additional municipalities into the program, including towns with 2,000 or fewer residents.
It also would limit participating municipalities’ taxing powers and prohibit them from using home rule for annexation, tax increment financing or extending their authority beyond their boundaries.
Christie and Howe said they support expanding the program to include 10 more municipalities.
“I think it’s fine opening it up to everybody,” Christie said. “I think the second time around a lot of the cities that elected to not even try are going to do it.”
Clarksburg will be among them.
“We definitely are still interested,” Howe said. “Overall, this really puts governing back down to the local level.”
A challenging deadline was the reason Clarksburg didn’t apply the first time around, Howe said.
The city will be prepared if the program is continued, Howe said.
“We’re still reviewing issues that we’ve come across that we would propose within our home rule application,” the city manager said.
Under the bill, municipalities must hold a public hearing and adopt an authorizing ordinance before submitting an application to join the program.
Municipalities accepted into the program also must obtain approval from the Home Rule Board for every regulation they propose.
“That will still have to come down to what the timelines are going to be and the application processes,” Howe said.
Christie said he’s not concerned about some of the restrictions in the bill.
For instance, the one prohibiting municipalities from extending their authority beyond their boundaries includes a provision that the ban cannot impede their powers.
Christie said that’s because the courts recently upheld Bridgeport’s decision to assess a fire service fee to residents living outside the city but within its first-due area.
Staff writer Jim Davis can be reached at (304) 626-1446 or by email at email@example.com.