Higher Education

California Politics and Government: A Practical Approach, 13th Edition

  • Larry N. Gerston San Jose State University, Professor Emeritus
  • Terry Christensen San Jose State University, Professor Emeritus
  • ISBN-10: 1285874528  |  ISBN-13: 9781285874524
  • 192 Pages
  • Previous Editions: 2014, 2012, 2009
  • © 2016 | Published
  • College Bookstore Wholesale Price = $72.00
  • Newer Edition Available
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Clear, concise, and straightforward, CALIFORNIA POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT: A PRACTICAL APPROACH equips students with a solid understanding of how government and politics really work, as well as how they affect the students' world, now and in the future. Employing a unique nuts-and-bolts approach, the book provides insight into real-life politics as it vividly illustrates the complex principles at work in state government. Current examples and clear explanations enable students to comprehend the ins and outs of California government. Thoroughly updated, the thirteenth edition addresses many complex economic, social, education, and immigration issues and their impact on state politics. It includes discussion of new court cases, the state's new spending plan, the 2014 elections, changes in government regulations, and more. In addition, public policy coverage is integrated throughout the text, helping students make connections and see firsthand the impact and practical applications of government and legislation in their own lives.

Features and Benefits

  • Keeping students up to date on key issues, changes in state and federal regulations are highlighted throughout the text, including those related to immigration policy, prison reform, and California's environmental policy versus federal policy. The book also presents in-depth coverage of interest groups, campaigns, and state/federal relations.
  • Public policy coverage is integrated throughout the text-rather than being consigned to individual chapters-helping students make connections and focus on the real impacts and practical effects of legislation and other government activities on their lives.

Table of Contents

1. California's People, Economy and Politics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.
2. California's Political Parties and Direct Democracy.
3. California Elections, Campaigns, and the Media.
4. Interest Groups: The Power behind the Dome.
5. The Legislature: The Perils of Policymaking.
6. California Law: Politics and the Courts.
7. The Executive Branch: Coping with Fragmented Authority.
8. Taxing and Spending: Budgetary Politics and Policies.
9. California's Local Governments: Politics at the Grassroots.
10. State and Federal Relations: Conflict, Cooperation, and Chaos.

What's New

  • The “Get Involved” feature, which gives students ideas about how they can directly participate in the California political system, appears in every chapter of this edition.
  • Chapter 7, “The Executive Branch: Coping with Fragmented Authority,” discusses Governor Brown's second term in office in greater detail, with special attention given to his relationship with the state legislature and his policies.
  • Chapter 8, “Taxing and Spending: Budgetary Politics and Policies,” presents updates on the state budget issues, including education spending.
  • Highlights of Chapter 10, “State and Federal Relations: Conflict, Cooperation, and Chaos,” include Covered California, updates on immigration, and new information about high-speed rail.
  • Other new topics in this edition include the severe 2014 drought and the 2014 elections, which receive special attention with discussion of outcomes of the gubernatorial and House of Representative elections as well as statewide ballot propositions.

Efficacy and Outcomes


“Gerston and Christensen. . . both have a keen sense of community, the diversity of California residents, community standards, and the issues and problems at hand-and they present all of this information in a clear, understandable, and succinct manner that is important for the many students of different backgrounds that take the American/California Government courses with me.”

— Angela Oberbauer, San Diego Mesa College

“This book is far superior to most of its competitors in the U.S. Government market. It covers more material, flows better, and is well written.”

— Wesley Hussey, California State University, Sacramento


All supplements have been updated in coordination with the main title. Select the main title's "About" tab, then select "What's New" for updates specific to title's edition.

For more information about these supplements, or to obtain them, contact your Learning Consultant.

Instructor Supplements

Online Instructor's Manual with Test Bank  (ISBN-10: 1285874544 | ISBN-13: 9781285874548)

The Instructor's Manual and Test Bank includes chapter summaries, ideas for class activities, and an assortment of multiple-choice, true/false, and essay questions for each chapter. Access the Instructor's Manual/Test Bank at www.cengage.com/login.

Meet the Author

Author Bio

Larry N. Gerston

Larry N. Gerston, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University, interacts with the political process as both an author and an observer. As an author, he has written 11 academic books in addition to California Politics and Government: A Practical Approach, including Making Public Policy: From Conflict to Resolution (1983); Politics in the Golden State (with Terry Christensen, 1984); The Deregulated Society (with Cynthia Fraleigh and Robert Schwab, 1988); American Government: Politics, Process and Policies (1993); Public Policy: Process and Principles (1987); Public Policymaking in a Democratic Society: A Guide to Civic Engagement (2002); Recall! California's Political Earthquake (with Terry Christensen, 2004); American Federalism: A Concise Introduction (2007); Confronting Reality: Ten Issues Threatening to Implode American Society and How We Can Fix It (2009); Not So Golden After All: The Rise and Fall of California (2012); and Reviving Citizen Engagement: Policies to Renew National Community (2015). Gerston serves as the political analyst for NBC11, a San Francisco Bay Area television station, where he appears on a regular basis. He has written more than 140 op-ed pieces for newspapers throughout the nation and speaks often on issues such as civic engagement and political empowerment.

Terry Christensen

Terry Christensen is a San Jose State University Professor Emeritus of Political Science. Among his many awards for scholarship and service to the university, he was named Outstanding Professor in 1998. He is the author or co-author of nine books. In addition to those co-authored with Larry Gerston, his works include Projecting Politics: Political Messages in American Films (with Elizabeth Haas and Peter Haas, 2015), and Local Politics: A Practical Guide to Governing at the Grassroots (with Tom Hogen-Esch, 2006). Local and national media regularly call on him for analysis of politics in California and Silicon Valley and he is the host of Valley Politics, a television show on local politics in Silicon Valley. Christensen is experienced in practical politics at the local level as an advocate of policy proposals, an adviser to grassroots groups, and an adviser and mentor to candidates for local office -- many of whom are his former students. He has served on numerous civic committees and commissions. He was the founding executive director of CommUniverCity San Jose (www.cucsj.org), a partnership between the City of San Jose, San Jose State University, and adjacent neighborhoods. Through CommUniverCity, hundreds of students are learning about life and politics in their community through service projects selected by neighborhood residents and supported by the city.