Thursday News: First in Evictions?


AFTER JUDGE'S RULING, LANDLORDS LOBBY NC LEGISLATURE FOR MORE POWER TO PUNISH RENTERS: North Carolina communities and much of the southeastern United States are home to some of the nation's highest eviction rates, a recent study by a Princeton professor found. State court records show North Carolina had nearly 164,000 eviction proceedings in the 2016-2017 fiscal year. In late March, a state Superior Court judge in Wake County sided with one of those tenants — a decision that shocked landlords across North Carolina. Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley said $191 in court-related fees charged to a tenant in a Raleigh apartment complex weren't allowed under state rental statutes. That decision now has lobbyists for apartment owners asking state lawmakers to "clarify" the state rental laws so landlords can legally charge the fees. The legislative session begins Wednesday. "We have already had meetings with various legislators and allies so that we can act quickly once session begins to try to resolve this issue," Colleen Kochanek, legislative counsel for the Apartment Association of North Carolina, wrote to members.

NC TEACHERS FACED GAUNTLET OF NEW SECURITY CHECKPOINTS ON 1ST DAY OF SESSION: The North Carolina General Assembly convened its annual work session Wednesday amid thousands of teachers descending on the Legislative Building to lobby for more school funding and higher salaries. The gavels fell on House and Senate floor meetings around midday during a day dominated by a morning march by teachers and their allies through downtown Raleigh, followed by an afternoon rally in front of the building that featured a speech by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Teachers clad in red filled the House and Senate galleries during the floor gatherings, with little disruption. The day also was marked by long but steady lines at the front and rear entrances of the Legislative Building, where session crowds met an array of permanent metal detectors and bag scanners for the first time. The new machines and staff operating them are part of $1.3 million in security upgrades to the 55-year-old building.

TEACHERS CONFRONT REP MARK BRODY OVER "THUGS" COMMENT: Rep. Mark Brody spent a lot of time Wednesday explaining that when he wrote "union thugs" were behind the rally that brought thousands of educators to Raleigh, he wasn't talking about individual teachers. "It was not intended that way," he told one group. Brody, a Monroe Republican, said he was referring to the National Education Association in his Facebook post. Teachers made it a point to find Brody on Wednesday to tell him that they were hurt, shocked or offended when they heard about his comments. "I'm a grandmother, not a thug," said Ira Reed. She works for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg arm of the N.C. Association of Educators, retiring from work in local school districts after 39 years. Reed defended unions after Brody said his strong opposition to public employee unions were at the root of his "thugs" Facebook post.

MCCRORY ADMINISTRATION MISPLACED 1,900 LAW ENFORCEMENT COMPUTERS: A report from the state auditor says more than 1,900 computers bought by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety over two years ago are unaccounted for. The Charlotte Observer reports State Auditor Beth Wood said it’s unclear where the computers are and whether any were stolen. Wood said while DPS was able to track down most of the 8,600 desktop and laptop computers purchased in 2014 and 2015, many are still missing. According to the audit, the department distributed the computers to users but didn’t track and account for them. The audit also said the department didn’t conduct an inventory of computer equipment for more than five years. DPS Secretary Erik Hooks said his agency would follow the auditor’s recommendations for preventing loss and theft.

CHINA FALLS BACK ON "RE-EDUCATION" CAMPS TO CONTROL MUSLIM UIGHURS: Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is "the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today." Chinese officials have largely avoided comment on the camps, but some are quoted in state media as saying that ideological changes are needed to fight separatism and Islamic extremism. Radical Muslim Uighurs have killed hundreds in recent years, and China considers the region a threat to peace in a country where the majority is Han Chinese. The internment program aims to rewire the political thinking of detainees, erase their Islamic beliefs and reshape their very identities. The camps have expanded rapidly over the past year, with almost no judicial process or legal paperwork.