GOVT 180 California State and Local Politics

Professor Witko


Tahoe Hall 3115                                                                                                                                                                       Phone:  278-3572

Office Hours: MW 3:00-4:30 and by appointment                                                                                                           


Course Objectives:

First, you should come away from this course with a basic understanding of the institutions and processes surrounding California State and Local Government.  Second, you should be able to make critical assessments of these institutions and processes.  Many people think the California political system is fundamentally broken and that it needs to be drastically altered if it is to effectively confront the state’s problems.  You need to be able to agree or disagree with these critics, and determine which institutions are working and which aren’t.  Finally, you should have enough knowledge to actively and successfully participate in the political life of your state and local community.


Required Texts:

Broder, David S.  Democracy Derailed: Initiative Campaigns and the Power of Money


Debow, Ken and John C. Syer.  Power and Politics in California.  7th ed.


Michaels, Jay and Dan Walters.  The Third House:  Lobbyists, Power and Money in Sacramento.


Schrag, Peter.  Paradise Lost:  California’s Experience, America’s Future. 


You are also required to read the Sacramento Bee Monday-Friday (on-line is ok)

Methods of Evaluation

Exams -There will be a midterm and final exam.  These exams will be based on both readings and in class activities. 


Papers- There will be a 2-3 and a 5-7 page paper due during the semester.  For the second paper you will take a position and conduct research on an issue of importance, which will serve as the basis for your participation in a debate during the last 2 weeks of class.   


Debate- During the last two weeks of class students will participate in debates on important controversial issues in California Politics.      


Attendance and participation are required.  While some classes may be primarily lecture, most will involve discussing the readings and current state issues.  Furthermore, we will begin most classes with a discussion of recent political events covered in the Sacramento Bee.  Therefore, student participation is crucial.  Each recorded absence beyond three will letter grade reduction in your participation and attendance grade.  Perfect attendance does not ensure a high participation grade - active, intelligent involvement does. 




Debate (10%)

Midterm (20%)

Final (30%)

Paper 1  (10%)

Paper 2 (20%)

Participation (10%) 


GOVT180 on the Web

From time to time supplementary class materials may be posted on my website. 


Plagiarism is the use of distinctive ideas or works belonging to another person without providing adequate acknowledgement of that person's contribution. Regardless of the means of appropriation, incorporating another's work into one's own requires adequate identification and acknowledgement. Plagiarism is doubly unethical because it deprives the author of rightful credit and gives credit to someone who has not earned it. Acknowledgement is not necessary when the material used is common knowledge. When the course is not noted, the following would constitute plagiarism:
1. Word-for-word copying.
2. The mosaic (to intersperse a few words of one's own here and there while, in essence, copying another's work).
3. The paraphrase (the rewriting of another's work, yet still using the fundamental idea or theory).
4. Fabrication (inventing or counterfeiting sources).
5. Ghost-written material (submitting another's effort as one's own).
It is also plagiarism to neglect quotation marks on material that is otherwise acknowledged. Plagiarism and acts associated with it are cause for disciplinary and/or legal action.
California Code of Regulations, Sections 41301 through 41304 of Title 5, Article 1.1 states, "Following procedures consonant with due process established pursuant to Section 41304, any student of a campus may be expelled, suspended, placed on probation or given a lesser sanction for one or more of the following causes which must be campus related:
(a) Cheating or plagiarism in connection with an academic program at a campus."


Students with Disabilities


If you have a disability and require accommodations, you need to provide disability documentation to SSWD, Lassen Hall 1008, (916) 278-6955.  Please discuss your accommodation needs with me after class or during my office hours early in the semester. 


Course Outline



Week 1: Course Introduction and The California Context

Read:  D+S Chapters 1 and 2



Week 2:  Political Development and Culture

Read:  Schrag, preface and p. 1-126. 




Week 3:  Critiques of the California System

Read:  Schrag p. 127-283.



Week 4: The Politics of Diversity

Read:  D+S Chapter 4

2/16 Paper 1 Due



Week 5:  Political Parties and the Media

Read:  D+S Chapter 5 (start to read Michaels and Walters this week-see below)



Week 6:  Interest Groups

Read: D+S Chapter 3 and Michaels and Walters (ALL)



Week 7:  Elections

Read: D+S Chapter 6

3/8 Midterm Exam



Week 8:  The Legislature

Read: D+S Chapter 7, Michaels and Walters



Week 9:  The Governor and the Executive Branch

Read: D+S Chapter 8

Second Paper Topic Assigned



Week 10:  The Judiciary

Read: D+S Chapter 10

3/31 – No class, Happy Birthday Cesar Chavez


Week 11 (4/5-4/11)

Spring Break, No Class



Week 12:  Budgetary Politics

Read: D+S Chapter 9

4/14 or 4/16 Debate Group Meetings



Week 13:  Local Government

Read: D+S Chapter 11 (begin reading Broder this week, see below)



Week 14:  Direct Demoncracy

Read:  Broder (ALL)

4/28 Paper 2 Due



Week 15:  Class Debates  



Week 16:  Class Debates continued


Final Exam:

MWF 9 a.m. is 5/21, 8-10 a.m.

MW 1:30 p.m. is 5/17, 12:45-2:45 p.m.