Government of California
- For information about current politics, see Politics of California; for information about historical politics, see Politics of California before 1900.
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The government of California is composed of three branches: the executive, consisting of the Governor of California and the other elected constitutional officers; the legislative, consisting of the California State Legislature, which includes the Assembly and the Senate; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court of California and lower courts.
Government is exercised through state agencies and commissions as well as local governments consisting of counties, cities and special districts including school districts.
California's constitution is one of the longest collections of laws in the world,1 taking up 110 pages. Part of this length is caused by the fact that many voter initiatives take the form of a constitutional amendment.
The basic form of law in California is a republic, governed by democratically elected state Senators and Assembly members. The governing law is a constitution, interpreted by the California Supreme Court, whose members are appointed by the Governor, and ratified at the next general election. The constitution can be changed by initiatives passed by voters. Initiatives can be proposed by the governor, legislature, or by popular petition, giving California one of the most flexible legal systems in the world.
Many of the individual rights clauses in the state constitution have been construed as protecting rights even broader than the Bill of Rights in the federal constitution. An excellent example is the case of Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, in which "free speech" rights beyond those addressed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution were found in the California Constitution by the California courts.2
The Big Five is an informal institution of the legislative leadership role in California's government, consisting of the governor, the Assembly speaker, the Assembly minority leader, the Senate president pro tempore, and the Senate minority leader.citation needed Members of the Big Five meet in private to discuss bills pending in the legislature. Because the party caucus leaders in California's legislature also control the party's legislative campaign funds, the leaders wield tremendous power over their caucus members. They are thus able to exert some influence in their caucus's votes in Big Five meetings. Therefore, if all five members agree to support a Bill, it will likely pass into law.citation needed
California's executive branch is headed by the Governor. Other executive positions are the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Controller, Insurance Commissioner, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. All offices are elected separately to concurrent four-year terms. Each officer may be elected to an office a maximum of two times.
The Governor has the powers and responsibilities to: sign or veto laws passed by the Legislature, including a line item veto; appoint judges, subject to ratification by the electorate; propose a state budget; give the annual State of the State address; command the state militia; and grant pardons for any crime, except cases involving impeachment by the Legislature. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor also serve as ex officio members of the University of California Board of Regents and of the California State University Board of Trustees.3
The Lieutenant Governor is the President of the California Senate and acts as the governor when the Governor is unable to execute the office, including whenever the Governor leaves the state. As the offices are elected separately, the two could conceivably be from separate parties; this was[update] the case with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi. This has led to interesting scenarios; when Republican Lieutenant Governor Mike Curb was temporarily in power while Democratic Governor Jerry Brown was out of the state, Curb appointed judges to vacant seats and signed or vetoed bills which Brown would have vetoed or signed, respectively.
State government is organized into several dozen departments, of which most were grouped together by Governor Pat Brown into several huge Cabinet-level agencies to reduce the number of people who report directly to the Governor. These agencies are sometimes informally referred to as superagencies, especially by government officials, to distinguish them from the general usage of the term "government agency."4 The independently-elected officers noted above run separate departments not grouped within the superagencies, such as the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Insurance.
The main Cabinet-level agencies are the:
- California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH)
- California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)
- California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS)
- California Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA)
- California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA)
- California State and Consumer Services Agency (SCSA)
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)
In June 2012, Governor Jerry Brown obtained approval from the Legislature to proceed with a reorganization plan.5 By July 2013, the business and housing components of BTH will be consolidated with the consumer components of SCSA to form the new Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency; the remainder of SCSA and the Technology Agency will merge into the new Government Operations Agency; and the transportation components of BTH along with the formerly separate California Transportation Commission will become part of the new Transportation Agency.
The constitution makes the California legislature bicameral, with a Senate and an Assembly.
California's legislature has engaged in some rather unusual redistricting practices (noted in detail in Politics of California#Bi-partisan gerrymandering). The result is that virtually all Assembly and Senate district lines have been drawn in a way so as to favor one party or the other, and it is rare for a district to suddenly shift party allegiance.6
As part of the system of checks and balances, the Legislature has statutory influence over the funding, organization, and procedures used by agencies of the executive branch. It also has the authority to appoint citizens to policy-making committees in the executive branch and to designate members of the Legislature to serve on agency boards. Many appointments made by the governor are subject to legislative approval.7
The Judiciary of California interprets and applies the law and is defined under the California Constitution, law, and regulations. The judiciary has a hierarchical structure with the Supreme Court at the apex. The Superior Courts are the primary trial courts, and the Courts of Appeal are the primary appellate courts. The Judicial Council is the rule-making arm of the judiciary.
The California Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of California and six Associate Justices. The Court has original jurisdiction in a variety of cases, including habeas corpus proceedings, and has discretionary authority to review all the decisions of the California Courts of Appeal, as well as mandatory review responsibility for cases where the death penalty has been imposed.
The Courts of Appeal are the intermediate appellate courts. The state is geographically divided into six appellate districts. Notably, all published California appellate decisions are binding on all Superior Courts, regardless of appellate district.
The Superior Courts are the courts of general jurisdiction that hear and decide any civil or criminal action which is not specially designated to be heard before some other court or governmental agency, like those dealing with workers' compensation. As mandated by the California Constitution, each of the 58 counties in California has a superior court.
There are many government entities and offices that are under neither executive, legislative, judicial, or local control, but operate independently on a Constitutional, statutory, or common law basis.
California also uses grand juries, with at least one per county.8 These county-level grand juries are often called civil grand juries because their primary focus is on oversight of government institutions at the county level and lower. They meet at least once per year.
California is divided into counties which are legal subdivisions of the state.9 There are 58 California counties,10 480 California cities,11 and about 3,400 Special Districts and School Districts.12 Special Districts deliver specific public programs and public facilities to constituents, and are defined as "any agency of the state for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited boundaries."13 Much of the government of California is in practice the responsibility of county governments, while cities may provide additional services.
- Politics of California and Politics of California before 1900
- California Law
- Elections in California
- League of California Cities, lobbying organization of California cities established in 1898
- Janiskee, Brian; Ken Masugi (2007-07-27). "2". Democracy in California: Politics and Government in the Golden State (2 ed.). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 27. ISBN 0-7425-4836-8.
- Linda Greenhouse, "Petitioning Upheld at Shopping Malls: High Court Says States May Order Access to Back Free Speech," New York Times, 10 June 1980, A1.
- "Overview, Board of Trustees". California State University. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- David G. Lawrence, California: The Politics of Diversity (Boston: Wadsworth, 2012), 156.
- Office of the Governor, Governor Brown's Government Reorganization Plan Becomes Law, 3 July 2012.
- "Review & Outlook: The Pelosi Gerrymander - WSJ.com". The Wall Street Journal. October 23, 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- "CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION ARTICLE 5 EXECUTIVE". leginfo.ca.gov. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
- Korey, John L. (2008). California Government (5th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-547-04193-3.
- Constitution of California, article 11, section 1
- State of California, Counties
- State of California, Cities
- A Citizen's Guide to Special Districts in California
- (Government Code §16271 [d])
- California Government official website
- California Courts official website
- California at Ballotpedia
- California at Judgepedia
- California at Sunshine Review