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Vetoes, She Wrote

P. Kenneth Burns

As promised, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed Monday bills that would require police officers to wear body cameras and ban plastic bags.

The mayor, who said she supports body cameras, said the proposal from Council President Jack Young and Councilman Warren Branch was not thoroughly thought out. 

For example, it didn’t deal with privacy issues or requirements for storing camera footage, she said. Moreover, it would have required every police officer, including those undercover, to wear a body camera. And worse, she said, citing a city law department opinion, the bill violated state law and the city charter.

A work group the mayor convened in October is finalizing a body camera program through what she called “a well-reasoned, inclusive and thoroughly vetted process.”

In her message vetoing the plastic bag ban, Rawlings Blake said she disagreed “with the process by which the bill passed.”

The bill, originally proposed as a five cent plastic bag fee, was changed to a ban a half-hour before a key vote at the Nov. 10 council meeting.

Rawlings-Blake also said there was no reason to rush the ban through without a public hearing.

“There was no looming deadline in this case or a reason for amending the entire nature of a bill, and passing it within a period of seven calendar days,” she wrote.

The vetoes are the second and third of the Rawlings-Blake administration.  Her first one was issued earlier this year on a bill to reduce or eliminate some of the city’s minor privilege fees.

The council is to formally receive the vetoes at a meeting Thursday and it appears unlikely that supporters have the votes for an override.