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California Politics
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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

 
Progressivism

 
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

 
Referendum

 
Recall

 
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

 
Leaders

 
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

 
Juries

 
Criminal Justice and Its Costs

 
Conclusion: Access to Justice

 
 
Chapter 7: Other Governments
County Government

 
Municipal Governments

 
Special Districts

 
Regional Governments

 
Federalism

 
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

Supplements

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
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