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Structure Of American And California Governments

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Autor:   •  December 4, 2010  •  9,591 Words (39 Pages)  •  278 Views

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The United States of America is one of the most powerful nation-states in the world today. The framers of the American Constitution spent a great deal of time and effort into making sure this power wasn't too centralized in one aspect of the government. They created three branches of government to help maintain a checks and balance system. In this paper I will discuss these three branches, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, for both the state and federal level.

The legislative branch of America helps create the laws or legislation. Ideally, it works to create a society that is safe for all members. The State of California like the federal government has a bicameral legislature, in other words, composed of two chambers. The upper chamber is called the senate, while the lower is called the assembly. A unique process for the state level is that it allows for the initiative. This process circumvents the state congress and can create laws without their aide. In the state of California, every ten years, following a US census, which collects demographic information, state legislators draw redistricting plans for itself, California seats in the US House of Representatives, and the State Board of Equalization. There have been attempts to create a "non-partisan" redistricting commission, but this has been turned down by voters numerous times. Proposition 14, 39, 118, and 119 were all turned down by voters to create a non-partisan districting commission. Every decade a large portion of the state congress's energy is spent on redistricting. In fact, two of the last four censuses, Supreme Court has had to step in to break a deadlock. In 1970, Ronald Reagan, a Republican, vetoed all together the Democratic redistricting plan. The Supreme Court had to step in and created its own plans for California to follow. Then in 1981, Democrats proposed redistricting as well as congressional delegation redistricting. The Republicans stopped this by adding referendums to the state ballot. Because it was too close to elections though, Supreme Court overturned these referendums in 1982. In 1984, they officially passed the new redistricting plan which was very similar to the original plans.

In 1990, Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican, could not agree with a predominantly Democratic state legislature. The United States Supreme Court again had to step in and make independent plans. They created a system that moved two assembly districts into each senate district, otherwise known as a "nested" system.

The Republicans tried again to create a commission through Proposition 26. But this prop was turned down by the Supreme Court as it did not adhere to the single subject rule. It talked about both creating a districting commission and lowering legislature salaries. A lot of this desire to create a districting commission stems from the fear of the Democrats creating a partisan gerrymander, a division of districts that is unlawful and unrepresentative of the demographics. Already Democrats win less than 55% of the vote, but hold 60% of the congress seats. These results are in a large part due to districting.

To understand the power of the Democratic Party in California it is also essential to understand the basic building blocks of the state legislative process. Senate has 40 members, half of which will be in the election since they serve staggered 4 year terms. A staggered senate allows for half of the senators to be up for trial, therefore minimizing special interest bills, because the senators are not in office as long. Assembly members serve 2 year terms and currently there are 80 members. While senators serve a maximum of two terms, the assembly members serve a maximum three terms. These term limits set by Proposition 140, which not only set the limits, but also limited retirement benefits and how much could be spent to operate the state legislature.

The speaker in the assembly is the presiding officer. An important figure to change the structure of this position was Jesse Marvin Unruh. Elected in 1961, he brought the speaker's position to be almost as powerful as the governors. Then in 1980, another figure emerged, William Lewis Brown, Jr. He served the longest tenure in California history, from 1980 till 1995. The Speaker is powerful due to three reasons. First, the legislature was becoming more professional due to the passage of Proposition 1A in 1966. This proposition boosted pay, and provided long term benefits to legislators. The speaker thus controlled this activity and appointed a large part of the staff. Second, the united majority and minority parties helped to make California's political system very polarized. This helped the speaker since he had party support behind him. Thirdly, due to the rising campaign costs, speakers could raise large amounts of money and could then share this money with other members, thus creating loyal members. Proposition 34 put limits on how much contribution could come from another member, but then again, the speaker may always sway an outside organization's will to donate to a member.

The speaker now has power for a short time due to term limits, but they can still can do an array of tasks while in office. The speaker can appoint members to all standing committees except the Rules Committee; they can only appoint five of the eight members there. He can appoint the chairs for all committees. He can even change committee assignments even for just a day to push or fight a bill.

Senate on the other side of the spectrum has a lieutenant governor as a president. This position doesn't have nearly as much power as the speaker does. The lieutenant only votes in case of a tie, and usually doesn't even appear for senate proceedings. The more important position in the senate is the president pro tempore (tem). He acts as the active president. He chairs his Rules Committee with five members, three from the majority party and two from the minority party. The Rules Committee of the Senate then appoints all other committee members and chairs.

Together these two organizations can create state legislation. Before it can become a law, a bill is proposed in one chamber. It is given to a specific standing committee, or permanent committee, that has to do with the said subject matter. A bill may be presented straight to the floor of one chamber but only after it has been given a full inspection in the other chamber. If passed by both chambers, but in different forms, a resolution must be found. If one cannot be found, a resolutions committee is created for the bill. This committee works out a compromise and then re-issues it to both chambers for a new vote. If accepted, it is then sent to the governor. The governor may veto the bill, and then it would require two-thirds of all votes in each chamber to be enacted. Bill then becomes a

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