California

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

The state's first constitution was adopted in 1849. The present constitution, dating from 1879, is noted for its provisions for public initiative and referendum—which have led at times to difficulties in governance—and for recall of public officials. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. California's bicameral legislature has a senate with 40 members and an assembly with 80 members. The state elects 2 senators and 53 representatives to the U.S. Congress and has 55 electoral votes. In the 1980s and 1990s, California elected Republican governors—George Deukemejian (1982, 1986) and Pete Wilson (1990, 1994)— before the Democrat Gray Davis was elected in 1998 (and reelected in 2002). In 2003, Davis was recalled and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to succeed him; Schwarzenegger was reelected in 2006. Jerry Brown, a Democrat who had been been governor in the 1970s and 80s, was elected to the post again in 2010. In 1992, California became the first state to simultaneously elect two women to the U.S. Senate—Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

Among the state's more prominent institutions of higher learning are the Univ. of California, with nine campuses; the California State University System, with 23 campuses; Occidental College and the Univ. of Southern California, at Los Angeles; Stanford Univ., at Stanford; the California Institute of Technology, at Pasadena; Mills College, at Oakland; and the Claremont Colleges, at Claremont. After a period from the 1960s through the 1970s when the state's well-financed public institutions were the envy of the nation, California's colleges have been forced to retrench by tax-cutting initiatives.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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