Maryland Enacts Historic Police Reforms, Overriding Governor’s Vetoes

Crime scene police tape

Despite GOP Gov. Larry Hogan’s attempts to block the measures, Maryland has become the first U.S. state to repeal its Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.

Maryland on Saturday became the first state in the nation to repeal its powerful Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights after the state’s Democratic-majority legislature overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes of three historic police accountability bills. 

Hogan announced Friday that he was vetoing the three bills — part of a package of five police reform measures passed by state lawmakers earlier in the week. The governor said he would allow two of the bills to become law without his signature but said the others would “further erode police morale, community relationships and public confidence.”

But Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate, vowed to override Hogan’s vetoes — a promise they promptly fulfilled, with lawmakers gathering Friday night and Saturday to make it happen.

One of Hogan’s vetoes had been for a bill repealing and replacing the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), which governs the disciplinary process for police officers. Critics have labeled LEOBR an “impediment” to police accountability. A new procedure to discipline officers found guilty of wrongdoing — one that will involve the input of the police departments and civilians — will now replace the bill of rights. Currently, at least 20 states have versions of a police officers’ bill of rights.

The bills enacted Saturday include several other police accountability measures, such as a statewide use-of-force policy, an expansion of public access to some police disciplinary records, harsher penalties for cases involving excessive use of force, new limits on no-knock warrants and a statewide body-camera mandate.

Additionally, the two pieces of legislation Hogan chose not to veto include one that gives Baltimore voters the opportunity to decide whether the city should take full control of the Baltimore Police Department, which has been a state agency since 1860.

The other bill allowed by Hogan prohibits police departments from acquiring surplus military equipment and creates an independent unit in the state attorney general’s office to investigate deaths involving police.

Democratic lawmakers in Maryland ― a state that’s faced scrutiny in recent years for its police accountability issues ― hailed the set of police reforms as “transformative” and a step toward “equality.”  

Bill Ferguson, president of the state Senate, called it “one of the most significant and transformative packages of reform of law enforcement in the country, and certainly, what matters more, in the history of Maryland,” The Washington Post reported

On Friday, Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-Howard) pushed back against the assertion made by some Republican lawmakers that the bills are “anti-cop.”

“This is not anti-police legislation. This is equality and fairness legislation,” Atterbeary said, adding: “This was painstakingly put together for Black and brown folks in our state. It’s time for police officers who don’t follow the proper law to pay the consequences.” 

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Top News John Boehner Says Trump ‘Incited That Bloody Insurrection’ At The U.S. Capitol

“I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for what came after the election,” the former House speaker writes in his new memoir.

Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner blasts Donald Trump over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in his forthcoming memoir, saying the former president is directly responsible for the incident, which left five people dead and more than 140 Capitol Police officers injured.

In an excerpt obtained by The New York Times, Boehner says that Trump “incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November.”

The Ohio Republican, who left the House in 2015 after increased fights with the Tea Party wing of the GOP, also suggests that Trump was an actual terrorist.  

“The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism,” Boehner writes in the book, which is entitled “On the House: A Washington Memoir” and is due out later this month.

“I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for what came after the election — Trump refusing to accept the results and stoking the flames of conspiracy that turned into violence in the seat of our democracy, the building over which I once presided,” he adds. 

Elsewhere in the colorful book, Boehner rips Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as “a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else” and Fox News host Sean Hannity as a “nut.”

Boehner mostly laid low in Washington after leaving office, taking up a job as a lobbyist for a cannabis group. He was quiet during the last months of Trump’s presidency, speaking out only after the Capitol insurrection — and without criticizing Trump by name. 

But that seems to be the rule in D.C. for politicians-turned-authors: Save the juiciest bits for your book.

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Atlanta Mayor Signs Order Meant To Fight Georgia’s Voting Restrictions

The order by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms includes actions to mitigate the effect of Georgia’s racist new law that significantly rolls back voting access.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Tuesday meant to expand voting access in response to Georgia’s racist new vote restrictions.

The mayor’s order directs Atlanta’s chief equity officer to develop and implement a plan within the city’s authority to mitigate the effect of the state law, known as SB 202, that’s brought nationwide condemnation for significantly rolling back voting access and information, specifically in Black and brown communities.

“The voting restrictions of SB 202 will disproportionately impact Atlanta residents ― particularly in communities of color and other minority groups,” Bottoms said in a statement. “This Administrative Order is designed to do what those in the majority of the state legislature did not ― expand access to our right to vote.”

Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s GOP-controlled state legislature passed the law just weeks ago, implementing a wave of election rules that appear to target the very voters who contributed to record turnout on Election Day and in January’s special elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, which turned the state blue.

The law attempts to block such a result from happening again by basing the changes on the false guise of voter fraud that didn’t actually occur. The legislation reduces the time when voters can request absentee ballots, implements new photo ID requirements and criminalizes giving food and water to voters waiting in line at precincts.

The city’s proposals include training staff on how to educate residents on voter registration and early, absentee and in-person voting. The city will also work to make sure Atlantans know how to obtain the ID forms now required for absentee voting. 

City departments will also include QR codes or website links in mailings such as water bills to provide links to voter registration and absentee ballot information. The hope, according to Bottoms, is that any city staff member will be able to give important voting information to Atlanta residents.

“We’re also going to have to really continue to educate and encourage people to stand in the gap for voters across this state who may not have the ability to cast a vote, meaning we can’t go and vote for the president and then wait an additional four years,” Bottoms told Axios Re:cap on Tuesday, adding that Georgia’s situation is a “cautionary tale to other cities and states.”

“We’ve got to show up each and every time in record numbers because there will be some people who won’t have access to their absentee ballots, who won’t be able to turn their ballots in on time,” the mayor added. “We’ve got to stand in the gap for those folks and make a difference in this state.”

“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” Bottoms tweeted Friday. “Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”

In her executive order, Bottoms stressed that she wants to work with corporate and community partners to create and implement public service announcements, as well as other forms of communication, to provide clarity to Atlanta residents on new voting deadlines and timelines.

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