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California Politics

California Politics
A Primer

Fourth Edition
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January 2016 | 192 pages | CQ Press
California Politics: A Primer concisely explains how California’s history, political culture, rules, and institutions work together to shape its political landscape. Author Renee Van Vechten begins with a brief political history of the state, then walks through direct democracy, the legislature, executive branch, and court system, covers local government, and concludes with discussion of the state’s budget process, campaigns and elections, political engagement, and policy issues facing the state. The thoroughly revised Fourth Edition includes new maps and coverage of the political problems raised by persistent drought, prison reform, immigration, political disengagement among young Californians, new laws affecting voting and elections, and the controversy over mandatory vaccination of schoolchildren.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Principles for Understanding California Politics  
Chapter 2: Critical Junctures: California's Political History in Brief
Early California  
The Rise of the Southern Pacific Railroad  
The Power of Organized Interests  
Growth and Industrialization in the Golden State  
The Initiative Process Takes Hold  
Hyperdiversity in a Modern State  
Recalling a Governor  
Pushing Ahead with More Reforms  
The Return of Jerry Brown  
Conclusion: Political Earthquakes and Evolving Institutions  
Chapter 3: Direct Democracy
The Statewide Initiative Process  
Direct Democracy at the Local Level  
Conclusion: The Perils and Promises of Hybrid Democracy  
Chapter 4: The State Legislature
Design, Purpose, and Function of the Legislature  
California Representatives at Work  
Policymaking and Lawmaking  
Annual Budgeting  
Constituency Service and Outreach  
Executive Branch Oversight  
Conclusion: Of the People, for the People  
Chapter 5: The Executive Branch
California's Plural Executive  
California's Governor  
The Constitutional Executive Officers  
Administrators and Regulators  
Conclusion: Competition for Power  
Chapter 6: The Court System
The Three-Tiered Court System  
On and Off the Court  
Court Administration  
Criminal Justice and Its Costs  
Conclusion: Access to Justice  
Chapter 7: Other Governments
County Government  
Municipal Governments  
Special Districts  
Regional Governments  
Tribal Governments  
Conclusion: The State's Interlocking Systems  
Chapter 8: The California Budget Process
California Budgeting 101  
Mechanics of Budgeting: Revenue  
Mechanics of Budgeting: Deficits and Expenditures  
Political Constraints on Budgeting  
Tax Burden: Highest in the Nation?  
Conclusion: Budgeting under Variable Conditions  
Chapter 9: Political Parties, Elections, and Campaigns
Democratic Stronghold, but Weakly Partisan  
Party in the California Electorate  
Party in Government  
Party Organizations  
Party in Informal Networks  
Elections: Continuity and Change  
California Campaigns  
Conclusion: A Complex Electorate  
Chapter 10: Political Engagement
Citizens and Politics  
News Sources and Media Habits  
Political Engagement and Disengagement  
Major Voting Trends  
Special Interest Groups: Indirectly Connecting Citizens to Government  
Conclusion: An Evolving Political Community  
Chapter 11: Concluding Thoughts: Political Paradoxes and Governability


Instructor Resources Site
Password-protected INSTRUCTOR RESOURCES you’ll actually use!
Save time and ease class preparation with the additional guidance and tools, including:

  • Test banks built on Bloom’s Taxonomy to provide a diverse range of test items
  • Editable, chapter-specific PowerPoint® slides offer complete flexibility for creating a multimedia presentation for the course.
  • A set of all the graphics from the text, including all of the maps, tables, and figures, in PowerPoint, .pdf, and .jpg formats for class presentations.

“This well-organized and clearly written book provides students with a solid foundation in California government and works well in an introductory course. In addition to explaining the nuts and bolts of everything from institutions to the budget to the initiative process, it explores political debates and controversies and motivates students to learn what is at stake in state level politics.”

Ronnee Schreiber
San Diego State University

“The strengths of Van Vechten’s text are its brevity and its preference for straight talking. Students appreciate the absence of hyperbole and exaggeration that tends to accompany a lot of the discussion of California politics. I am relieved to have found the book, especially since it is so much more affordable and readable than others. ”

Sarah John
Director of Research at FairVote

"Van Vechten's book is the best introduction to California politics available. Covering topics from direct democracy to citizen engagement, her analysis of California politics is of such high quality that I often use this book as my main political science textbook, even in American politics courses."

David Selby
Ohlone College

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

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Renee B. Van Vechten

Renée B. Van Vechten is associate professor of political science at the University of Redlands, where she teaches courses primarily in American Government and California Politics. She received her PhD in political science from the University of California, Irvine. In 2002–03, she was a Kevin Starr Fellow in California Studies, and in 2008, was honored with the Rowman and Littlefield Award for Innovative Teaching in Political Science, the American Political Science Association's national teaching award at that time. She is also engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning. A lifelong resident of Southern California, she has... More About Author

Also available as a South Asia Edition.

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ISBN: 9781483375595