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In the Media: SRB Bans Government Travel Over Transgender Laws; Baltimore's Civilian Review Board

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Roberto Alejandro

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore mayor bans government travel to N.C., Mississippi over transgender laws

"Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has banned government travel to North Carolina and Mississippi over the states' controversial transgender laws.

"With her order Tuesday, Rawlings-Blake has chosen sides in the escalating showdown between the two Southern states and U.S. Department of Justice, which sued North Carolina to block the bathroom law. North Carolina's governor answered with a countersuit, asking a judge to rule that the law is not discriminatory.

"'I am hopeful that our efforts, combined with those of so many other progressive governments and companies, will push North Carolina and Mississippi to make the changes necessary to respect all citizens,' Rawlings-Blake wrote in a letter Tuesday to city officials.

"Mayors of New York, Seattle and San Francisco have also banned their government workers from traveling to North Carolina on business.

"The new law in North Carolina directs government agencies and publicly funded schools to designate bathrooms for people based on their genders at birth. Supporters of such laws have argued that they would protect women and girls from sexual predators.

"Mississippi passed a law, which begins July 1, allowing workers to cite their own religious beliefs — including that marriage be between a man and woman or that gender is established at birth — as reason to deny service.

"'Those actions stand in sharp contrast to our shared values,' wrote Rawlings-Blake, who has championed equal rights for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community."

Full Article

From the Washington Post: Hogan signs bill to make birth control cheaper

"Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed 196 bills into law on Tuesday, including one that advocates say will provide 'the most comprehensive insurance coverage for contraception in the country.'

"Many states have passed laws addressing some aspects of the bill that Maryland lawmakers approved, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Heather Ford said. But no other state has a law that includes all the provisions in Maryland’s 'Contraceptive Equity Act,' which prohibits insurers from charging co-payments for contraceptive drugs, procedures and devices approved by the federal government.

"Among other things, the bill — which takes effect in January 2018 — eliminates the co-payment for vasectomies. It makes Maryland the first state to require insurance coverage for over-the-counter contraceptive medications, such as the morning-after pill.

“'Family planning is essential for women’s rights and cost is a factor in family planning,' said Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), the lead sponsor of the bill in the House. 'This legislation is going to help eliminate barriers and reduce costs for women and for men.'"

Full Article

From City Paper: The Civilian Review Board ups its game

"Baltimore residents who want to file a misconduct or brutality complaint against a police officer typically report to the police themselves—and most people think this is their only option.

"It's not.

"Kisha Brown, who directs Baltimore's Office of Civil Rights & Wage Enforcement, oversees the city's little known Civilian Review Board and she would like to correct this misperception about police complaints. She is new, in the job just over a year, and would like to make something clear: Hey, we exist—and we'll truly investigate your complaints.

"'As we're talking about police reform [in the city], if you're only talking to police, they can't be the only entity that is part of the process. That's the definition of insanity,' she says, talking in a coffee shop near her downtown office. She goes on: 'Where are the checks and balances? Where is the independent view?'

"Created in 1999, the Civilian Review Board has been considered irrelevant by most (if they even know it exists) and marginalized by city officials who allowed it to limp along with a single investigator for years. But Brown says she determined to change all that and is speaking out, guns blazing.

"'We are the only independent agency authorized to investigate police for misconduct, excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, and harassment and abusive language,' she says. 'I'm looking at engaging the community about what civilian oversight is, what it should look like and how it should be a part of the work of police accountability.' And while her agency may have been created as a pro forma response to resident's complaints in the '90s with few actual resources to execute its mission, Brown doesn't intend to play it that way.

"The board, which has languished with large vacancies for years, will have eight out of nine members in place by the end of the month, pending City Council approval and the mayor swearing them in (one civilian representative from each police district). Brown has successfully petitioned Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for more resources and recently hired two new investigators—with a third in the HR pipeline—a deputy director, and a public information officer to get the word out about filing complaints. The board is having regular, open meetings every third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. and Brown says the board is aggressively investigating the complaints it receives."

Full Article