Introduced Version Senate Bill 160 History

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Senate Bill No. 160

(By Senators Tomblin, Mr. President, McCabe, Bowman, Plymale, Barnes, Minard, Foster and Jenkins)


[Introduced February 11, 2005; referred to the Committee

on Government Organization.]


A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §8-8B-1, §8-8B-2, §8-8B-3, §8-8B-4, §8-8B-5, §8-8B-6, §8-8B-7, §8-8B-8 and §8-8B-9, all relating to county consolidation; purpose; providing for the creation of a county consolidation committee; creating a government consolidation fund; county consolidation committee meetings; consolidation proposal requirements; proposal content and voting; requiring special election; and providing a process for consolidation.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §8-8B-1, §8-8B-2, §8-8B-3, §8-8B-4, §8-8B-5, §8-8B-6, §8-8B-7, §8-8B-8 and §8-8B-9, all to read as follows:
§8-8B-1. Purpose.
It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage county governments to perform at the highest levels of efficiency and economy while providing the highest standards of governmental services possible to their citizens. It is also the belief of the Legislature that, in order to attain these high standards of efficiency, economy, and service and to assure the ongoing improvement in the quality of life of all citizens of the state, all county governments must be permitted to consider consolidation with adjoining counties for these purposes. The Legislature, in support of those counties that take action to consolidate, may designate funds to provide financial assistance for those counties to ease any transitions brought by consolidation.
§8-8B-2. Creation of county consolidation committee.
(a) Any two or more adjoining counties may consolidate.

(b) The county commissions of two or more counties may enter into a joint powers agreement pursuant to separate county majority votes of the participating county commissions to elect a county consolidation committee who may create a proposal to be submitted by the county commissions for special election.
(c) The county commissions shall oversee the creation of a county consolidation committee. The members of the committee shall be appointed as follows:
(1) Each county commission shall appoint five members, with no more than three being elected officials, all of whom must be residents of that county and at least one of whom must be a municipal elected representative.
(2) Committee members are elected, in each county, by an affirmative vote of a simple majority of that county's county commission.
(3) Collectively the county commissions creating the committee shall elect one or two committee members to ensure that the number of committee members is an odd number. Any collectively elected committee member may be an elected official and shall be a resident of one of the counties considering consolidation.
(4) Any vacancy may be filled by the county commission that was represented by the person vacating the position.
§8-8B-3. Consolidation fund.
(a) There is hereby created a General Revenue Fund in the State Treasury which is designated and known as the "Government Consolidation Fund." This Fund shall be used to provide incentive moneys to counties who consolidate and provide for the costs associated with consolidation special elections. Rules to ensure fairness shall be promulgated for Fund disbursement.
(b) Nothing in this article may be construed to require any specific level of funding by the Legislature.
§8-8B-4. County consolidation committee meetings.
(a) As soon as possible and in any event no later than ten days after the appointment of all its members, the committee shall organize and hold its first meeting. The committee shall elect from its membership a chair and a vice-chair. The committee shall fix its time and places of meeting, adopt such rules for the conduct of its business as it may deem necessary and advisable, and appoint a secretary, who is not required to be a member of the committee. A majority of the total membership of the committee shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, but no recommendation of said committee shall have any legal effect unless adopted by a majority of the committee members in existence.
(b) The committee is authorized to employ such staff and contract with such consultants as it considers necessary to conduct special studies, assemble information and advise the committee. The committee may contract and cooperate with public or private agencies considered necessary for assistance, including institutions of higher education.
(c) Members of the committee shall not receive per diem or other compensation for their services, but shall be reimbursed for actual expenses incurred by them in carrying out their duties as members of the committee.
§8-8B-5. Proposal requirements.
(a) The committee has up to one year from its initial committee meeting in which to create a proposal. (1) The committee shall automatically dissolve after the proposed counties are consolidated: Provided, That the committee shall automatically dissolve if there is not a proposal for consolidation at one year from the formation of the committee.
(b) The committee shall hold public hearings and community forums and use other suitable means to disseminate information, receive suggestions and comments, and encourage public discussion of its purpose, progress, conclusions and recommendations.
§8-8B-6. Proposal content.
(a) The committee, in studying and preparing a proposal to consolidate counties, shall consider and include in the proposal as appropriate:
(1) The fiscal impact of the proposed county consolidation and the economic viability of the proposed county;
(2) The comparative costs of providing services in the affected counties and the proposed county;
(3) The final boundaries of the proposed county;
(4) A procedure for the orderly and timely transfer of service functions from the affected counties to the proposed county;
(5) The procedure and plan for equalization of the assets and liabilities of the affected counties, and procedures for negotiation and resolution of any subsequent disagreement regarding the equalization of assets and liabilities;
(6) The structure or form of county government and the selection, powers, duties, functions, qualifications and training, terms and compensation of officers, provided that the salaries are maintained at a level in consideration of section seven, article seven, chapter seven of the code.
(7) The application of the proposal, if any, to each school district and any other special taxing district within the affected counties;
(8) The application of the proposal, if any, upon the magistrate courts, circuit courts and family courts established for or functioning in the counties affected;
(9) The proposed county's name and county seat;
(10) The transition in implementing the proposal; and
(11) Other considerations and provisions that the committee decides to include and which are consistent with West Virginia law.
(b) Eliminated elected county official positions shall end upon the expiration of the current terms of office. The officers of the newly consolidated county commission shall be elected and take office in the same manner and at the same time as other elected county officials.
§8-8B-7. Proposal.
(a) The proposal shall be voted on and receive favorable votes by a majority of the committee members in existence.
(b) If the proposal receives a majority of favorable votes of the committee members, the committee shall submit the proposal to the county commissions considering consolidation.
(c) To be final, the proposal shall receive a majority of favorable votes by each county commission.
(1) If the proposal does not receive a majority of favorable votes by each county commission of the counties considering consolidation, the county commission members may make suggestions for amendments to the proposal to the committee. The committee then has three months from the date of the county commissions' members vote on the proposal to create an amended or new proposal.
(2) The amended or new second proposal shall be voted on and receive favorable votes by a majority of the committee members as an alternative proposal (hereinafter the "second proposal.")
(3) If the second proposal receives a majority of favorable votes of the committee members, the committee shall submit the original proposal and the second proposal to the county commissions considering consolidation.
(4) The members of the county commissions considering consolidation shall then vote for either the original proposal or the second proposal.
(5) The proposal receiving the majority of favorable votes by each separate county commission is that county commission's selected proposal. The selected proposals elected by each separate county commission must all be in agreement for either the original proposal or all in agreement for the second proposal. The final proposal must be the same proposal receiving the majority of favorable votes in each separate county commission considering consolidation. If the original proposal and the second proposal are elected the selected proposal in separate counties considering consolidation, there is no final proposal, the committee is dissolved, and sections eight and nine of this article are not applicable.
(d) If a final proposal is selected in agreement by all county commissions considering consolidation, that proposal shall be filed as an order by the county commissions with the clerks of the county commissions for ballot. The copies are public records and available for inspection or examination by any interested person. The county commissions and the committee shall also furnish or make available to every daily or weekly newspaper published in the county a complete copy of the proposal. The committee shall take such steps as it considers reasonable and appropriate to inform the public throughout the county of the contents of the proposal.
§8-8B-9. Consolidation process.
(a) The proposal shall take effect sixty days following the election at which it is approved unless the proposal provides a later effective date.
(b) On the effective date, the affected counties are for all purposes a single county as prescribed in the consolidation plan.
(c) The consolidation of counties does not automatically abolish any school district within the affected counties. County boards of education shall continue to perform their statutory functions in matters related to them as prescribed in the West Virginia Constitution and the general laws of the state.
(d) Each rule, ordinance or resolution in force within a county at the time of consolidation, including zoning ordinances, shall remain in force until superseded by action of the newly consolidated county, unless the rule, ordinance or resolution is in conflict with a provision of the proposal, in which case, the proposal provision shall supersede the conflicting rule, ordinance or resolution.
(e) The remaining county government buildings in the county seats of the previously existing counties shall be maintained as branch offices of the newly formed county for a period of no less than five years after which the county commission may make a decision as to their necessity and use.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to provide a mechanism to allow county governments to consolidate.

This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.
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