California's Constitutional Government
Like other states within the
United States, California's government is run according to the
laws of its state constitution. California has had only two
state constitutions. The
first state constitution was approved
by voters in 1849, a year before statehood. The second and present
constitution was adopted in 1879.
An amendment to the constitution may
be proposed by the state legislature, the voters, or a constitutional
convention. To be ratified, the amendment must be approved by
a majority of the people voting on the issue in an election.
state capitol, Sacramento, CA
California's government consists of a bi-cameral state legislature,
which means that the legislature has two houses. The Senate
and the Assembly pass legislation for the state. California
citizens, however, can pass laws directly or through their power
of initiative, or they can prevent a law from being enacted
by calling for a referendum. The governor leads the executive
branch of government that is responsible for carrying out the
state's laws. The judicial branch of the government conducts
criminal and civil trials and interprets the state's laws.
How a Bill Becomes
Every bill that is proposed by the California Senate or Assembly must be read publicly in the legislature. After the bill is officially introduced, the bill is assigned to a committee that reviews it and decides if it deserves a vote. Once the bill has been reviewed by the committee, it is voted on in whichever house was considering it. If the bill passes, it is transferred to the other house for a vote. If an amendment is added to the bill by the second house, the bill must be considered again by the house of origin. When the bill is approved by both houses in identical form, it is sent to the governor. The government can sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his or her signature, or veto it.
How California's Local Governments Operate
As you travel through your local community, think about how much of what you see is provided by your local government. You will pass by schools, police cars, fire stations, libraries, parks, hospitals, and other facilities that are maintained by government offices.
California contains governments that represent cities, counties,
special districts, and regional bodies. All exist under the
authority of the State of California and its laws, in particular
the California Government Code. California gives cities and
counties the right to draw up and adopt their own charters.
This right is often called home rule. Special districts
are local bodies that typically carry out a special service,
such as fire protection, street lighting, water supply, waste
disposal, and so on. Regional bodies are involved in matters
beyond local city and country boundaries. Some serve in an advisory
role only, while others have regulatory powers.
Governors of the State of California
Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor
of California in 2003. He was born in 1947 near the city of
Graz, Austria. Schwarzenegger became a naturalized American
citizen in 1984. Before seeking public office, Schwarzenegger
won fame as a bodybuilder and movie actor. To see the complete
list of California's governors, go to the Web site maintained
by the State of California:
Governors of the State of California
|Peter H. Burnett
|John Neely Johnson
|John B. Weeler
|Milton S. Latham
|John G. Downey
|Frederick F. Low
|Henry H. Haight
|George C. Perkins
|Robert W. Waterman
|Henry H. Markham
|James H. Budd
|Henry T. Gage
|George C. Pardee
|James N. Gillett
|Hiram W. Johnson
|William D. Stephens
|Friend William Richardson
|Clement C. Young
|James Rolph, Jr.
|Frank F. Merriam
|Culbert L. Olson
|Goodwin J. Knight
|Edmund G. Brown
|Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Voting in California
The Office of Secretary of State maintains
the state's election procedures. This office dictates some of
the rules on how the state's citizens must vote. A voter must
be a United States citizen, resident of California, at least
18 years of age by election day, mentally competent, and must
not be serving a jail sentence for a felony conviction.
A citizen may register to vote online or at a local county election
office, public library, U.S. Post Office, or California Department
of Motor Vehicles office. A citizen needs to register only once.
If a voter's name or address changes, however, he or she should
contact a country registrar of voters. A citizen registering
to vote does not have to declare a party preference.
On election day, the voter must present an acceptable form of
identification at the polling place. The poll worker finds the
voter's name on the poll list, and the voter signs the rolls.
When this process is completed, the voter casts his or her vote.
California's first constitution
was adopted by the territorial government in 1849. The present
constitution was adopted in 1879. It has been amended hundreds
A proposed amendment must be placed on the ballot in a regular
statewide election. It may be proposed and placed on the ballot
in any of three ways: the state legislature may propose it by
a two-thirds majority vote in each house; a group of citizens
may propose an amendment by submitting a petition; or a constitutional
convention, approved by two-thirds of the legislature, may propose
an amendment. To become law, an amendment must be approved by
a majority of the voters.
List of U.S. Senators and Representatives
California has fifty-three members
in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Thompson, Mike, 1st
Lungren, Daniel E., 3rd
Woolsey, Lynn C., 6th
Pelosi, Nancy, 8th
Lantos, Tom, 12th
Eshoo, Anna G., 14th
Cardoza, Dennis A., 18th
Costa, Jim, 20th
William M., 22nd
Gallegly, Elton, 24th
Dreier, David, 26th
Howard L., 28th
Waxman, Henry A., 30th
Solis, Hilda L., 32nd
Roybal-Allard, Lucille, 34th
Harman, Jane, 36th
Grace F., 38th
Royce, Edward R., 40th
Miller, Gary G., 42nd
Calvert, Ken, 44th
Rohrabacher, Dana, 46th
Cunningham, Randy "Duke," 50th
Hunter, Duncan, 52nd
Doolittle, John T., 4th
Miller, George, 7th
Pombo, Richard W., 11th
Stark, Fortney Pete, 13th
Honda, Michael M., 15th
Farr, Sam, 17th
Nunes, Devin, 21st
Capps, Lois, 23rd
McKeon, Howard P.
Sherman, Brad, 27th
Schiff, Adam B., 29th
Watson, Diane E., 33rd
Waters, Maxine, 35th
Sanchez, Linda T., 39th
Lewis, Jerry, 41st
Bono, Mary, 45th
Sanchez, Loretta, 47th
Filner, Bob, 51st
Davis, Susan A., 53rd
Matsui, Doris, 5th
Like every other state, California has
two members in the U.S. Senate.