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Mayor vetoes plastic bag ban, body camera bill

Mayor vetoes plastic bag ban, body camera bill

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake carried out her promise and vetoed bills Monday that would have barred most merchants from distributing plastic bags and required Baltimore police to wear body cameras.

The City Council is expected to formally receive the vetoes during a meeting Thursday. Supporters of the legislation have acknowledged they don't have enough votes to override them. The votes of 12 of the council's 15 members are needed to override a veto.

In a letter to the council, Rawlings-Blake said she supports having police wear body cameras but opposes the legislation, in part, she argues, because the council does not have the authority to impose the requirement.

"The council's power does not and should not extend to legislating the operations of the police department," she wrote. "I would be equally as concerned with an ordinance that mandated the use of a specific type of bullet."

The mayor said she will ask the council to authorize funding for a body camera program early next year. She recently convened a task force to study the issue and said she wants to wait for the group to release its findings.

Even so, Rawlings-Blake lauded President Obama's Monday proposal for a three-year, $263-million federal spending package for increased training and body cameras. She said the president "is right to act swiftly and boldly," in a statement Monday night.

In her letter to the council, she stressed that her veto was an indictment of the process, not the body cameras themselves.

"My opposition to this bill should not be confused with opposition to body cameras," she wrote. "It is not the end that I object to but rather the means. ... There will be body cameras in Baltimore City."

The mayor also issued a letter explaining her rationale for vetoing the council's legislation that sought to ban most plastic bags distributed in city grocery stores and big-box retailers. Rawlings-Blake said she has reservations about the policy and disagreed with the way council passed the bill.

The legislation originally called for 5-cent fee on the bags, but the bill's supporters changed the proposal to a ban in the moments before a key vote. Rawlings-Blake said the last-minute action didn't give the public the opportunity to weigh in on the change.

The city charter gives the council such a narrow window to override vetoes that a special meeting would be necessary to hold such a vote. The charter requires the council to wait five days after formally accepting the mayor's vetoes and then cast a vote to override within the next 15 days. The council currently is not scheduled to meet during that period.

The actions mark the second and third time Rawlings-Blake has issued a veto since taking office in 2010. She vetoed her first bill in August to block legislation intended to reduce or eliminate some of the city's minor privilege fees.

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