Definitions

glacially

California

[kal-uh-fawrn-yuh, -fawr-nee-uh]
California is a U.S. state on the West Coast of the United States, along the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and to the south the Mexican state of Baja California. California is the most populous U.S. state. Its four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, and San Francisco. It is known for its varied climate and geography as well as its diverse population.

The area known as Alta California was colonized by the Spanish Empire beginning in the late 18th century. It and the rest of Mexico became an independent republic in 1821. In 1846 California broke away from Mexico, and after the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded California to the United States. California was admitted to the United States on September 9, 1850.

It is the third-largest U.S. state by land area. Its geography ranges from the Pacific coast to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, to Mojave desert areas in the southeast and the Redwood-Douglas fir forests of the northwest. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.

The California Gold Rush (1848-1855) dramatically changed California with a large influx of people and an economic boom. The early 20th century was marked by Los Angeles becoming the center of the entertainment industry, in addition to the growth of a large tourism sector in the state. Along with California's prosperous agricultural industry, other industries include aerospace, petroleum, and computer and information technology. California ranks amongst the ten largest economies in the world, and were it a separate country, it would be 35th among the most populous countries, just behind Kenya.

Etymology

The word California originally referred to the entire region composed of what is today the state of California, plus all or parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, and the Mexican peninsula of Baja California.

The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a storied paradise peopled by black Amazons and ruled by Queen Califia. The myth of Califia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written as a sequel to Amadís de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer García Ordóñez Rodríguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen Califia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffins and other strange beasts and rich in gold.

"Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island named California, very close to that part of the terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and that they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body, with strong and passionate hearts and great virtues. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks. Their weapons were all made of gold. The island everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones, and upon it no other metal was found.

Geography and environment

California adjoins the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja California. With an area of it is the third largest state in the United States in size, after Alaska and Texas. If it were a country, California would be the 35th largest in the world, between Iraq and Paraguay.

In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valley, bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows approximately one-third of the nation's food. Divided in two by the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the northern portion, the Sacramento Valley serves as the watershed of the Sacramento River, while the southern portion, the San Joaquin Valley is the watershed for the San Joaquin River; both areas derive their names from the rivers that transit them. With dredging, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers have remained sufficiently deep that several inland cities are seaports. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta serves as a critical water supply hub for the state. Water is routed through an extensive network of canals and pumps out of the delta, that traverse nearly the length of the state, including the Central Valley Project, and the State Water Project. Water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta provides drinking water for nearly 23 million people, almost two-thirds of the state's population, and provides water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The Channel Islands are located off the southern coast.

The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy range") include the highest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 ft (4,421 m). The range embraces Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the giant sequoia trees, the largest living organisms on Earth, and the deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume.

The state is home to Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, as well as the second lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere, Death Valley.

To the east of the Sierra Nevada are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential migratory bird habitat. In the western part of the state is Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake by area entirely in California. Though Lake Tahoe is larger, it is divided by the California/Nevada border. The Sierra Nevada falls to Arctic temperatures in winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including Palisade Glacier, the southernmost glacier in the United States.

About 35 percent of the state's total surface area is covered by forests, and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the California White Mountains are the oldest in the world; one Bristlecone pine has an age of 4,700 years.

In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea. Deserts in California make up about 25 percent of the total surface area. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America, Badwater Flat. The distance from the lowest point of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney is less than 200 miles (322 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with routine extreme high temperatures during the summer.

Along the California coast are several major metropolitan areas, including Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Diego.

California is famous for Earthquakes in Californias due to a number of faults, in particular the San Andreas Fault. It is vulnerable to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, Wildfires in Californias, and landslides on steep terrain, and has several Volcanoes of California.

Climate

California climate varies from Mediterranean to subarctic. Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with cool, rainy winters and dry summers. The cool California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. Further inland, one encounters colder winters and hotter summers.

Northern parts of the state average higher annual rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate, and the Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coast. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.

The east side of California's mountains has a drier rain shadow. The low deserts east of the southern California mountains experience hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters; the higher elevation deserts of eastern California see hot summers and cold winters. In Death Valley, the highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, , was recorded July 10, 1913.

Ecology

Ecologically, California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California is part of the Nearctic ecozone and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions.

California's large number of endemic species includes relict species which have died out elsewhere, such as the Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions such as the California lilac (Ceanothus). Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.

California boasts several superlatives in its collection of flora; the largest trees, the tallest trees, and the oldest trees. California's native grasses are perennial plants. After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden brown in summer.

Rivers

The two most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River, which drain the Central Valley and flow to the Pacific Ocean through San Francisco Bay. Two other important rivers are the Klamath River, in the north, and the Colorado River, on the southeast border.

History

Settled by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years, California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America; the area was inhabited by more than 70 distinct groups of Native Americans. Large, settled populations lived on the coast and hunted sea mammals, fished for salmon, and gathered shellfish, while groups in the interior hunted terrestrial game and gathered nuts, acorns, and berries. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, villages, and on the resource-rich coasts, large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage, and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups.

The first European to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River was the Portuguese João Rodrigues Cabrilho, in 1542, sailing for the Spanish Empire. Some 37 years later, the English explorer Francis Drake also explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579. Spanish traders made unintended visits with the Manila Galleons on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565. Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain.

Spanish missionaries began setting up twenty-one California Missions along the coast of what became known as Alta California (Upper California), together with small towns and presidios. The first mission in Alta California was established at San Diego in 1769. In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California), independence from Spain; for the next twenty-five years, Alta California remained a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. After Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government and were secularized by 1832. The ranchos developed under ownership by Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians) who had received land grants and traded cowhides and tallow with Boston merchants.

Beginning in the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive in Northern California, harbingers of the great changes that would later sweep the Mexican territory. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail, and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts surrounding California. In this period, Imperial Russia explored the California coast and established a trading post at Fort Ross.

In 1846, settlers rebelled against Mexican rule during the Bear Flag Revolt. Afterwards, rebels raised the Bear Flag (featuring a bear, a star, a red stripe, and the words "California Republic") at Sonoma. The Republic's first and only president was William B. Ide, who played a pivotal role during the Bear Flag Revolt. His term lasted twenty-five days and concluded when California was occupied by U.S. forces during the Mexican-American War.

The California Republic was short lived. The same year marked the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). When Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and began the military occupation of California by the United States. Northern California capitulated in less than a month to the U.S. forces. After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, including The Siege of Los Angeles, the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, the Battle of San Pascual, the Battle of Rio San Gabriel, and the Battle of La Mesa, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States; the western territory of Alta California, was to become the U.S. state of California, and Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah became U.S. Territories, while the lower region of California, Baja California, remained in the possession of Mexico.

In 1848, the non-native population of California has been estimated to be no more than 15,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with U.S. citizens, Europeans, and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted to the United States as a free state (one in which slavery was prohibited).

The seat of government for California under Mexican rule was located at Monterey from 1777 until 1835, when Mexican authorities abandoned California, leaving their missions and military forts behind. In 1849, the Constitutional Convention was first held there. Among the duties was the task of determining the location for the new State capital. The first legislative sessions were held in San Jose (1850-1851). Subsequent locations included Vallejo (1852-1853), and nearby Benicia (1853-1854), although these locations eventually proved to be inadequate as well. The capital has been located in Sacramento since 1854.

Travel between California and the central and eastern parts of the United States was time-consuming and dangerous. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad through Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well-suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat and other cereal crops, vegetable crops, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.

During the early 20th century, migration to California accelerated with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965, the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union. Since 1965, the population has became one of the most diverse in the world. The state is regarded as a world center of technology and engineering businesses, of the entertainment and music industries, and as the U.S. center of agricultural production.

Demographics

Population

By 2007, California's population is estimated at 36,553,215, making it the most populated state and the 13th fastest-growing state. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 1,909,368 people (that is 3,375,297 births minus 1,465,929 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 774,198 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 1,724,790 people, and migration within the country produced a net decrease of 950,592.

California is the second most populous state of the Americas, exceeded only by São Paulo State, Brazil. More than 12 percent of U.S. citizens live in California and its population is greater than that of all but 34 countries of the world.

California has eight of the top 50 U.S. cities in terms of population. Los Angeles is the nation's second-largest city with a population of 3,849,378 people, followed by San Diego (8th), San Jose (10th), San Francisco (14th), Long Beach (34th), Fresno (36th), Sacramento (37th) and Oakland (44th). Los Angeles County has held the title of most populous county for decades and is more populous than 42 U.S. states.

The center of population of California is at the town of Buttonwillow in Kern County.

Racial and ancestral makeup

According to the 2006 ACS Estimates, California's population is:

California has the largest population of White Americans in the U.S., an estimated 21,810,156 residents. The state has the fifth largest population of African Americans in the U.S., an estimated 2,260,648 residents. California's Asian population is estimated at 4.5 million, approximately one-third of the nation's 14.9 million Asian Americans. California's Native American population of 376,093 is the most of any state.

According to estimates from 2006, California has the largest minority population in the United States, making up 57 percent of the state population. Non-Hispanic whites decreased from 80 percent of the state's population in 1970 to 43 percent in 2006. While the population of minorities accounts for 100.7 million of 300 million U.S. residents, 21 percent of the national total live in California.

Languages

As of 2005, 57.59 percent of California residents age five and older spoke English as a first language at home, while 28.21 percent spoke Spanish. In addition to English and Spanish, 1.59 percent spoke Chinese (which included Cantonese [0.63 percent] and Mandarin [0.43 percent]), 2.04 percent spoke Filipino, 1.4 percent spoke Vietnamese, and 1.05 percent spoke Korean as their mother tongue. In total, 42.4 percent of the population spoke languages other than English. Over 200 languages are known to be spoken and read in California. Including Indigenous languages of California, California is viewed as one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world (the indigenous languages were derived from 64 root languages in 6 language families). About half of the indigenous languages are no longer spoken, and all of California's living indigenous languages are endangered, although there are some efforts toward language revitalization.

The official language of California has been English since the passage of Proposition 63 in 1986. However, many state, city, and local government agencies still continue to print official public documents in numerous languages.

Religion

The largest christian denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 10,079,310; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 529,575; and the Southern Baptist Convention with 471,119. Jewish congregations had 994,000 adherents.

The state has the most Roman Catholics of any state and a large Protestant population, a large American Jewish community, and an American Muslim population.

With a Jewish population estimated at more than 550,000, Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish community in North America.

California also has the largest Muslim community population in the United States, an estimated 3.4 percent of the population, mostly residing in Southern California. According to figures, approximately 100,000 Muslims reside in San Diego.

As the twentieth century came to a close, forty percent of all Buddhists in America resided in Southern California. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area has become unique in the Buddhist world as the only place where representative organizations of every major school of Buddhism can be found in a single urban center. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Northern California and Hsi Lai Temple in Southern California are two of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere. It also has a growing Hindu population.

California has more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Temples than any state except Utah. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have played important roles in the settlement of California throughout the state's history. For example, a group of a few hundred Mormon converts from the Northeastern United States and Europe arrived at what would become San Francisco in the 1840s aboard the ship Brooklyn, more than doubling the population of the small town. Before being called back to Utah by Brigham Young these settlers helped build up the city of Yerba Buena. A group of Mormons also established the city of San Bernardino in Southern California in 1851. According to the LDS Church 2007 statistics, just over 750,000 Mormons reside in the state of California, attending almost 1400 congregations statewide.

However, a Pew Research Center survey revealed that California is somewhat less religious than the rest of the US: 62 percent of Californians say they are "absolutely certain" of the belief in God, while in the nation 71 percent say so. The survey also revealed 48 percent of Californians say religion is "very important", while the figure for the United States is 56 percent.

Economy

As of 2007, the gross state product (GSP) is about $1.812 trillion, the largest in the United States. California is responsible for 13 percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP). As of 2006, California's GDP is larger than all but eight countries in the world (all but eleven countries by Purchasing Power Parity). California is facing a $16 billion budget deficit for the 2008-09 budget year.

California is also the home of several significant economic regions, such as Hollywood (entertainment), Southern California (aerospace), the California Central Valley (agriculture), the Silicon Valley and Tech Coast (computers and high tech), and wine producing regions, such as the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and Southern California's Santa Barbara and Paso Robles areas.

In terms of jobs, the five largest sectors in California are trade, transportation, and utilities; government; professional and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality. In terms of output, the five largest sectors are financial services, followed by trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; government; and manufacturing.

California's economy is very dependent on trade and international related commerce accounts for approximately one-quarter of the state’s economy. In 2007 California exported $134 billion worth of goods, up from $127 billion in 2006 and $117 billion in 2005, surpassing the 2000 peak of $125 billion for two consecutive years. Computers and electronic products are California's top export, accounting for 36 percent of all the state's exports in 2007.

Although agriculture contributes the least toward employment and output, it remains a very important sector in California's economy. Farming-related sales have more than quadrupled over the past three decades, from $7.3 billion in 1974 to nearly $31 billion in 2004. This increase has occurred despite a 15 percent decline in acreage devoted to farming during the period. Factors contributing to the growth in sales-per-acre include more intensive use of active farmlands and technological improvements in crop production.

Per capita personal income was $38,956 as of 2006, ranking 11th in the nation. Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley is the most impoverished, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage. Recently, the San Joaquin Valley was characterized as one of the most economically depressed regions in the U.S., on par with the region of Appalachia.

Many coastal cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S. The high-technology sectors in Northern California, specifically Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, have emerged from economic downturn caused by the dot.com bust. In spring 2005, economic growth had resumed in California at 4.3 percent.

California levies a 9.3 percent maximum variable rate income tax, with six tax brackets. It collects about $40 billion per year in income taxes. California's combined state, county and local sales tax rate is from 7.25 to 8.75 percent. The rate varies throughout the state at the local level. In all, it collects about $28 billion in sales taxes per year. All real property is taxable annually, the tax based on the property's fair market value at the time of purchase. This tax does not increase based on a rise in real property values (see Proposition 13). California collects $33 billion in property taxes per year.

Energy

Resources and consumption

California’s crude oil and natural gas deposits are located in six geological basins in the Central Valley and along the coast. California has more than a dozen of the United States' largest oil fields, including the Midway-Sunset Oil Field, the second largest oil field in the contiguous United States. California’s hydroelectric power potential ranks second in the United States (behind Washington State), and substantial geothermal and wind power resources are found along the coastal mountain ranges and the eastern border with Nevada. High solar power potential is found in southeastern California’s deserts. California is the most populous state in the nation, but its total energy demand is second to the state of Texas. Although California is a leader in some energy-intensive industries, the state has one of the lowest per capita energy consumption rates in the country. This is in spite of the fact that more motor vehicles are registered in California than any other state, and worker commute times are among the longest in the country.

Petroleum

California’s crude oil output accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. production. Drilling operations are concentrated primarily in Kern County and the Los Angeles basin. Although there is also substantial offshore oil and gas production, there is a permanent moratorium on new offshore oil and gas leasing in California waters and a deferral of leasing in Federal waters.

California ranks third in the United States in petroleum refining capacity and accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. capacity. In addition to oil from California, California’s refineries process crude oil from Alaska and foreign suppliers. The refineries are configured to produce cleaner fuels, including reformulated motor gasoline and low-sulfur diesel, to meet strict Federal and State environmental regulations.

Most California motorists are required to use a special motor gasoline blend called California Clean Burning Gasoline (CA CBG). By 2004, California completed a transition from methyl tertiary butyl-ether (MTBE) to ethanol as a gasoline oxygenate additive, making California the largest ethanol fuel market in the United States. There are four ethanol production plants in central and southern California, but most of California’s ethanol supply is transported from other states or abroad.

Natural gas

California natural gas production typically is less than 2 percent of total annual U.S. production and satisfies less than one-fifth of state demand. California receives most of its natural gas by pipeline from production regions in the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and western Canada.

Electricity

Natural gas-fired power plants typically account for more than one-half of State electricity generation. California is one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the United States, and with adequate rainfall, hydroelectric power typically accounts for close to one-fifth of State electricity generation. Due to strict emission laws, only a few small coal-fired power plants operate in California.

The Mojave Desert is one of the best sites in the United States for solar power plants. Solar insolation is very high and significant population centers are located in the area. Two prototype systems known as "Solar One" and "Solar Two" produced 10 MW each when they were in operation.

California’s two nuclear power plants account for almost one-fifth of total generation, these are:

California leads the United States in electricity generation from nonhydroelectric renewable energy sources, such as wind, geothermal, solar energy, fuel wood, and municipal solid waste/landfill gas resources. A facility known as “The Geysers,” located in the Mayacamas Mountains north of San Francisco, is the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world, with more than 750 megawatts of installed capacity. Due to high electricity demand, California imports more electricity than any other state, primarily hydroelectric power from states in the Pacific Northwest (via Path 15 and Path 66) and coal- and natural gas-fired production from the desert Southwest via Path 46.

Transportation

California's vast terrain is connected by an extensive system of freeways, expressways, and highways. California is known for its car culture, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. Construction and maintenance of state roads and statewide transportation planning are primarily the responsibility of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

One of the state's more visible landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937. With its orange paint and panoramic views of the bay, this highway bridge is a popular tourist attraction and also accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists. It is simultaneously designated as U.S. Route 101 which is part of the El Camino Real (Spanish for Royal Road or King's Highway), and State Route 1 which is also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Another of the seven bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area is the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, completed in 1936. This bridge transports approximately 280,000 vehicles per day on two-decks, with its two sections meeting at Yerba Buena Island.

Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state.

California also has several important seaports. The giant seaport complex formed by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in Southern California is the largest in the country and responsible for handling about a fourth of all container cargo traffic in the United States. The Port of Oakland, fourth largest in the nation, handles trade from the Pacific Rim and delivers most of the ocean containers passing through Northern California to the entire USA.

Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak California, which manages the three busiest intercity rail lines in the US outside the Northeast Corridor. Integrated subway and light rail networks are found in Los Angeles (Metro Rail) and San Francisco (BART and MUNI Metro). Light rail systems are also found in San Jose (VTA), San Diego (San Diego Trolley), Sacramento (RT Light Rail), and Northern San Diego County (Sprinter). Furthermore, commuter rail networks serve the San Francisco Bay Area (ACE, Caltrain), Greater Los Angeles (Metrolink), and San Diego County (Coaster). Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus lines as well. Intercity bus travel is provided by Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Coach. The rapidly growing population of the state is straining all of its transportation networks. A regularly recurring issue in California politics is whether the state should continue to aggressively expand its freeway network or concentrate on improving mass transit networks in urban areas.

The California High Speed Rail Authority was created in 1996 by the state to implement an extensive 700 mile (1127 km) rail system. Construction is pending approval of the voters during the November 2008 general election, in which a $9.95 billion state bond would have to be approved.

Government & politics

State government

California is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of California and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Assembly and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of California and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification. California follows a closed primary system. The state's capital is Sacramento.

Governor elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2006 55.88% 4,850,157 38.91% 3,376,732
2002 42.41% 3,169,801 47.28% 3,533,490
1998 38.38% 3,216,749 57.97% 4,858,817
1994 55.18% 4,781,766 40.62% 3,519,799
1990 49.25% 3,791,904 45.78% 3,525,197
1986 61.25% 4,505,601 37.58% 2,781,714

The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The California State Legislature consists of a 40 member Senate and 80 member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assembly members two. Members of the Assembly are subject to term limits of three terms, and members of the Senate are subject to term limits of two terms.

For the 2007–2008 session, there are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The governor is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California's judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges, while the federal system has only about 840). It is supervised by the seven Justices of the Supreme Court of California. Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years.

Federal politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2004 44.36% 5,509,826 54.40% 6,745,485
2000 41.65% 4,567,429 53.45% 5,861,203
1996 38.21% 3,828,380 51.10% 5,119,835
1992 32.61% 3,630,574 46.01% 5,121,325
1988 51.13% 5,054,917 47.56% 4,702,233
1984 57.51% 5,467,009 41.27% 3,922,519
1980 52.69% 4,524,858 35.91% 3,083,661

California is known for having a progressive political culture. In 2008, it was the second state in the country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. In contrast, California had previously been the first state, via Proposition 22 in 2000, to pass a law declaring that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized. Yet, domestic partnerships were made available to citizens through a law created by the state legislature. Other contemporary values include California's leadership in renewable energy and climate change, as well as enacting statute to protect abortion rights.

Since 1990, California has generally elected Democratic candidates; however, the state has had little hesitance in electing Republican Governors, though many of its Republican Governors, such as Governor Schwarzenegger, tend to be considered "Moderate Republicans" and tend to be more liberal than the party itself.

Democratic strength is centered in coastal regions of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Democrats also hold a majority in Sacramento. The Republican strength is greatest in the San Joaquin Valley, which includes the growing cities of Stockton and Modesto. Orange County remains mostly Republican.

Overall, the trend in California politics has been towards the Democratic Party and away from the Republican Party. The trend is most obvious in presidential elections. Additionally, the Democrats have easily won every U.S. Senate race since 1992 and have maintained consistent majorities in both houses of the state legislature. In the U.S. House, the Democrats hold a 34-19 edge for the 110th United States Congress. The U.S senators are Dianne Feinstein (D), a native of San Francisco, and Barbara Boxer (D). The districts in California are usually dominated by one or the other party with very few districts that could be considered competitive. According to political analysts, California should soon gain three more seats, for a total of 58 electoral votes - the most electoral votes in the nation.

California state law

California's legal system is explicitly based on English common law (as is the case with all other states except Louisiana) but carries a few features from Spanish civil law, such as community property. Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment and the state has the largest "Death Row" population in the country (though Texas is far more active in carrying out executions). California's "Death Row" is in San Quentin State Prison situated north of San Francisco in Marin County.

Cities, towns and counties

For lists of cities, towns, and counties in California, see List of cities in California (by population), List of cities in California, List of urbanized areas in California (by population), List of counties in California, and California locations by per capita income.

The state is divided into 58 counties.

California has 480 incorporated cities and towns, of which 458 are cities and 22 are towns. Under California law, the terms "city" and "town" are explicitly interchangeable; the name of an incorporated municipality in the state can either be "City of (Name)" or "Town of (Name)".

San Jose, San Diego and Benicia became California's first incorporated cities on March 27, 1850. Menifee became the state's most recent and 480th incorporated municipality on October 1, 2008.

The majority of these cities and towns are within one of five metropolitan areas. Sixty-eight percent of California's population lives in its three largest metropolitan areas, Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Riverside-San Bernardino Area, known as the Inland Empire. Although smaller, the other two large population centers are the San Diego and the Sacramento metro areas. California is home to the largest county in the contiguous United States by area, San Bernardino County.

The state recognizes two kinds of cities--charter and general law. General law cities owe their existence to state law and consequentially governed by it; charter cities are governed by their own city charters. Cities incorporated in the 19th century tend to be charter cities. All of the state's ten most populous cities are charter cities.

Education

California offers a unique three-tier system of public postsecondary education:

  • The preeminent research university system in the state is the University of California (UC) which employs more Nobel Prize laureates than any other institution in the world, and is considered one of the world's finest public university systems. There are ten general UC campuses, and a number of specialized campuses in the UC system.
  • The California State University (CSU) system has over 400,000 students, making it the largest university system in the United States. It is intended to accept the top one-third (1/3) of high school students. The CSU schools are primarily intended for undergraduate education.
  • The California Community Colleges system provides lower division courses. It is composed of 109 colleges, serving a student population of over 2.9 million.

California is also home to such notable private universities such as Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). California has hundreds of other private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions.

Public secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages, and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. California's public educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires 40 percent of state revenues to be spent on education.

Sports

California hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as well as the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

California has nineteen major professional sports league franchises, far more than any other state. The San Francisco Bay Area has seven major league teams spread in three cities, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. While the Greater Los Angeles Area is home to ten major league franchises, it is also the largest metropolitan area not to have a team from the National Football League. San Diego has two major league teams, and Sacramento also has two.

Home to some of the most prominent universities in the United States, California has long had many respected collegiate sports programs. In particular, the athletic programs of UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, Stanford and Fresno State are often nationally ranked in the various collegiate sports. California is also home to the oldest college bowl game, the annual Rose Bowl, and the Holiday Bowl, among others.

Below is a list of major sports teams in California:

Club Sport League
Oakland Raiders American Football National Football League
San Diego Chargers American Football National Football League
San Francisco 49ers American Football National Football League
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Baseball Major League Baseball
Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Major League Baseball
Oakland Athletics Baseball Major League Baseball
San Diego Padres Baseball Major League Baseball
San Francisco Giants Baseball Major League Baseball
Golden State Warriors Basketball National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Clippers Basketball National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball National Basketball Association
Sacramento Kings Basketball National Basketball Association
Anaheim Ducks Ice Hockey National Hockey League
Los Angeles Kings Ice Hockey National Hockey League
San Jose Sharks Ice Hockey National Hockey League
Chivas USA Soccer Major League Soccer
Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Major League Soccer
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Major League Soccer
Los Angeles Avengers American Football Arena Football League
San Jose SaberCats American Football Arena Football League
Los Angeles Sparks Basketball Women's National Basketball Association
Sacramento Monarchs Basketball Women's National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Riptide Lacrosse Major League Lacrosse
San Francisco Dragons Lacrosse Major League Lacrosse
San Jose Stealth Lacrosse National Lacrosse League
California Cougars Soccer Major Indoor Soccer League

References

Further reading

External links

U.S. Government

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