Monday News: Partly cloudy


AS SUNSHINE WEEK BEGINS, SOME LOCAL BOARDS FAIL THE GRADE: To test how government boards handle these accounts of closed meetings, 10 news organizations simultaneously submitted requests in early January for a year’s worth of minutes from closed sessions at nearly 50 public bodies on the local, state and county level. The requests went to 10 local and state school boards, including one school board that refused outright to release any records. After more than two months, about a dozen boards had yet to turn over any minutes from closed sessions. Others provided accounts of only some of their 2017 meetings, or versions that were heavily redacted. In many cases, Jones said, what ends up being redacted is ultimately a judgment call. But he said the shorter the account of the meeting, the more doubt there is about whether public boards are keeping with the spirit of the law.

CMS BOARD OF EDUCATION TURNS OVER COMPLETELY REDACTED MINUTES: In January, a reporter requested all closed session minutes from the board’s meetings in 2017. For more than two months, the school system refused to release anything, saying the closed meeting minutes are “protected from disclosure by law” and arguing that revealing them to the public would “frustrate the purpose of the closed session.” The reporter pushed back, asking board leaders and their attorney to reconsider. Last week, more than two months after the initial request, the school system released 74 pages of heavily redacted minutes covering Jan. 10 to July 27, 2017. Most of the records contained only the date, location and purpose of the closed session, the list of attendees and the vote to adjourn, with everything in between blacked out.

DURHAM REPUBLICANS GRILL JUDGE OVER DISMISSING CONFEDERATE STATUE CHARGES: Local Republicans upset with a Durham County judge's decisions in recent Confederate statue trials left a meeting Thursday night upset with, or at least critical of, the District Attorney's Office. About 45 people, mostly Republicans from Durham and surrounding counties, came to the GOP headquarters on North Mangum Street to hear District Court Judge Fred Battaglia discuss his decisions. Battaglia dismissed three misdemeanor charges against two people in the case after the prosecutor presented her evidence and found another person not guilty. Members of the local Republican party were “exasperated,” said Immanuel Jarvis, chairman of the Durham County GOP.

BOWING TO NRA PRESSURE, TRUMP BACKS OFF RAISING AGE FOR GUN PURCHASES: President Donald Trump's plan to prevent school shootings doesn't increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21 — an idea Trump publicly favored just last month — and leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities. Instead, a new federal commission on school safety will examine the age issue as part of a package the White House announced Sunday in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 dead. he White House announcement came a day after Trump, speaking about the opioid problem, criticized policy commissions during a rally in Pennsylvania, saying "we can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees."

CHINESE PARLIAMENT AMENDS CONSTITUTION TO GIVE XI LIFETIME RULE: President Xi Jinping can now rule China for as long as he’d like. On Sunday afternoon, nearly 3,000 delegates at China’s ceremonial parliament cast ballots in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People to amend the nation’s constitution, allowing Xi to remain president well past 2023, when he was due to step down. The amendment was widely expected — the parliament, called the National People’s Congress, hasn’t voted down a Communist party decision in its 64-year history. Yet it is a striking break from precedent. China added term limits to the constitution in 1982, after decades of Mao Zedong’s disastrous political campaigns showed the dangers of one-man rule. Two delegates voted against the change, and three abstained, giving Xi 99.8 percent approval.