In the beginning, there was state government.
Before there was a federal government, a collection of states organized under the Articles of Confederation in 1781. But the 13 separate entities with different interests soon realized they needed an overarching body to enforce laws, regulate commerce and wage war. So the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787, then ratified by the states and took effect in 1789.
Yet, despite states being the foundation upon which this country’s government is organized, their role in our daily lives is not always apparent. And in some respects — and especially for a place as populous as California — state and local governments play a more prominent role in decisions that affect daily life than the federal government, according to research from nonpartisan the Brookings Institution.
But how much do you really know about how California’s state government works?
CalMatters answers many of the most important questions in this explainer. (Have a question that’s not covered below? Submit it here.)
About the Authors
Sameea covers the state Capitol and California politics for CalMatters and is also a production assistant. She joined CalMatters in June 2021 from the Los Angeles Times, where she was a News Desk editor. Sameea was one of three 2020 IRE Journalist of Color fellows, and previously worked for the Center for Public Integrity. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia Journalism School. Sameea was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California and is one of the Maynard Institute’s M200 fellows.
Jeremia is a data journalist who uses code and data to make policy and politicians easier to understand. He was previously a graphics editor at the COVID Tracking Project and a data journalist at NBC News covering elections and national politics. He grew up in California and is excited to be back home after an extended time as a New Yorker. When he isn’t on the computer you can find him out in the garden or on a bicycle.
CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.