California announced sweeping state-wide water restrictions for the first time in history Wednesday in order to combat the region's devastating drought, the worst since records began. Governor Jerry Brown issued the declaration at a press conference in a parched, brown slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains that would normally be covered by deep snow. The executive order issued by Brown would aim to achieve a 25 percent reduction in water usage across cities and towns throughout California by a combination of measures. "As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible," Brown said.
By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown, acting in the face of a devastating, multiyear drought, ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions on Wednesday, directing cities and communities to reduce usage by 25 percent. Brown, who made the announcement at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada mountains, said the move, which comes as California reports its lowest snowpack levels on record, would save some 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months. Brown last week signed emergency legislation that fast-tracks over $1 billion in funding for drought relief and water infrastructure within the parched state. The proposed legislation would appropriate voter-approved bond funds to speed up water projects and programs and provide aid to struggling California cities and communities.Earlier in March, the state Water Resources Control Board imposed new drought regulations, outlawing lawn watering within 48 hours of rain and prohibiting water from being served in restaurants unless a customer requests it.The state is entering the fourth year of record-breaking drought that has prompted officials to sharply reduce water supplies to farmers and impose strict conservation measures statewide.
By Steve Barnes LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday rejected a religion bill he had said he would sign into law, reversing course after a national firestorm of criticism assailing such legislation as discriminating against gays and lesbians. In a news conference Hutchinson said he was sending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) back to the Republican-controlled state legislature for a rewrite to better balance tolerance for diversity and protections of religious freedom. The governor said his own son had asked him to veto it, adding a personal element to the intense pressure to reject the bill he had already faced from businesses such as Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's biggest retailer. "We just didn't get it perfect through that legislative process." Hutchinson's reversal came a day after Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a Republican, said he was sending his state's RFRA back for a rewrite for the same reason.
By Andy Sullivan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several Republican governors likely to run for president have secured hundreds millions of dollars under Obamacare while working to dismantle the healthcare law, according to a Reuters review of federal spending records. Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, all staunch opponents of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, have collectively applied for and won at least $352 million through grant programs set up by the law, federal records show. "Receiving federal grants that existed prior to the ACA is not the same as participating in the core elements of the ACA." The money in question stems from less controversial parts of the law that enhance public health and other nuts-and-bolts programs, rather than the insurance exchanges and expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor that have drawn fierce opposition from Republicans.
Russia and Iran's foreign ministers claimed a breakthrough early Wednesday in talks on a framework deal curtailing Tehran's nuclear programme, but the US said not all issues had been agreed yet, as discussions were suspended for the night. "One can say with relative certainty that we at the minister level have reached an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement of this issue," Russian media quoted Sergei Lavrov as saying at talks in Switzerland. This came after Russia's top diplomat and the foreign ministers of five other major powers and Iran continued working through the night as they missed a midnight (2200 GMT) deadline to agree the main outlines of what they hope will be an historic accord. The powers hope a full agreement, due to be finalised by June 30, will see Iran scale back its nuclear capability to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian programme.
Arkansas lawmakers passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Tuesday that critics said would allow businesses to deny service to gays and lesbians, drawing a swift demand from Wal-Mart Stores Inc for the governor to veto the bill. Arkansas followed Indiana, which passed a similar act last week. The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart , based in Bentonville, Ark., issued a statement saying the Arkansas bill threatened to undermine "the spirit of inclusion" in the state and "does not reflect the values we proudly uphold." Signed by Doug McMillon, chief executive officer, the statement asked Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto the legislation.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday vetoed a measure by Republicans in Congress that would have blocked a government labor agency's rules designed to speed up the time it takes to unionize workers. The rules would shorten the period between a union filing a petition to represent workers and an election, from the current median of 38 days to as little as 14 days. Employers would be required to share workers' names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses with unions. The National Labor Relations Board adopted the rules last year and they are set to take effect April 14.