Hand-out for a 4H group I spoke to tonight:

Basics                                                      Presented:
September 19, 2019
V. Gibbs
What is government?
of Independence: Governments are instituted among men to secure our rights.  The Constitution of the United States sets up
the framework of our government, determines the distribution of power to the
different parts of government, and provides a method for changes to the
government, if necessary.  The Federal
Government consists of three branches; Legislative, Executive, and
Judicial.  The Legislative Branch is
tasked with creating, modifying, and repealing laws.  The Executive Branch is tasked with executing
the laws, and as the figurehead of the United States while dealing with foreign
powers.  The Judicial Branch is tasked
with applying the black letter of the law to the cases they hear.  While it has become common practice for the
judiciary to also review laws for validity, be it by determining
constitutionality, or if the law is a just law, there are no constitutional
authorities allowing the courts to carry out such a task.  Judicial Review, as it is called, is
technically unconstitutional.
What are rights?
of Independence: Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.   Among them are Life, Liberty, and the
Pursuit of Happiness.  Our rights belong
to us based on our birth, and it was believed by the Framers of the U.S.
Constitution that our rights are “God-given.” 
The Declaration provides the following characteristics to our rights: We
are entitled to them, they are our possession, we are endowed by the Creator
with our rights, they are self-evident, and they are unalienable.  The Bill of Rights was written as a warning
to the federal government to not interfere with our rights.  According to the Constitution the government
does not exist to guarantee or protect our rights, but to secure our rights in
our possession by restraining itself, and others, from interfering with our
How does government work?
In most
governmental systems there are three parts. 
Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. 
In the United States we have a Federal Government, State Governments,
County Governments, and Municipal Governments. 
Each of them are broken up into those three parts.
· Federal:  Legislative – Congress.  Executive – President.  Judicial – Court System.
· State:
Legislative – Assembly and State Senate. 
Executive – Governor.  Judicial –
State Courts.
· County:
Legislative – County Supervisors. 
Executive – Sheriff.  Judicial –
County Courts.
· Municipal:
Legislative – City Council.  Executive –
Mayor and Chief of Police.  Judicial –
City Attorney and Municipal Courts.
Structure of the legislature.
legislatures consist of two houses.  This
is called a “bicameral congress.” 
Legislatures work best when there are two houses and the houses are
different from each other.  In the Roman
Empire the Legislature consisted of an Assembly (voice of the common people),
and the Senate (voice of the wealthy and powerful).  In Britain you have the House of Commons
(voice of the commoner), and the House of Lords (voice of the nobles).  In the United States, at the founding of our
country, the two Houses of Congress were the House of Representatives (voice of
the people), and the United States Senate (voice of the States, changed to
democratic vote in 1913 with the 17th Amendment).  All State legislatures (except Nebraska) are
also broken up into two houses.  The
Assembly (or State House of Representatives) and the State Senate.  Prior to 1964 (Reynolds v. Simms) the Assemblies (or State Houses) were the voice
of the people, and the State Senate was the voice of the Counties.  The State Senate districts, back then, were based
on the county lines.  In an attempt to
turn the United States into a democracy, anti-constitution forces fought to
change the system so that the Senate districts are designed to break up the
States into equally populated districts, and for the senators to be
democratically voted into office.  While
unconstitutional, today all 50 States follow this model.  Prior to Reynolds
v. Simms,
States like California saw one senator per county.  Today, State Senate District 2 (which spans
along the Northern California Coast between the Oregon State Line and the
northern edge of the San Francisco Bay) consists of seven counties, while Los
Angeles County contains fourteen senate districts.
How are laws made?
bill may be presented by one of the houses. 
Once it is approved by vote it moves to the other house for
approval.  If no amendments are made and
the vote approves the bill, it then goes to the executive for signature.  However, if amendments are made, the bill
must return to the other house for approval. 
The process continues until both houses approve the same exact bill with
an agreement on all of the amendments, or the bill dies in the legislature
unable to receive enough votes to move forward to the executive.  If the executive disagrees with the bill, or
believes it to be unjust or outside legality (unconstitutional), he may veto
that bill.  If vetoed, the bill will
either die, or can become law if the legislature has enough votes to override
the veto.  In the U.S. Congress a
two-thirds majority from each house is required to override a veto.
How many members are there in a
number varies by State and/or legislature. 
In the U.S. Congress there are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives
(a State’s number of representatives is based on population), and one hundred
members of the Senate (two per State).
What is the Electoral College?
Electoral College is a unique, American-style, way of electing the President of
the country.  Electors are chosen to
elect the president, and then points are awarded based on a State’s number of
representatives in Congress.  For
example, California has 53 members of the House of Representatives and two
members of the U.S. Senate, giving the State 55 Electoral Votes.  The Electoral College protects the country
from the excesses of democracy, changing the vote from a single popular vote to
51 (50 States plus Washington D.C.) separate and distinct contests.  The Electoral College, in the process,
reduces the influence heavily populated areas have on the election.  Without the Electoral College, the votes from
the Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington D.C., and
San Francisco metropolitan areas would be sufficient to elect the President,
and nobody else’s votes would matter. 
All but two States have a “winner take all” system where all of the
electoral votes for the State go to the statewide winner.  Nebraska and Maine split up their electoral
votes into electoral districts, so it is possible for some of the State’s
electoral votes to go to one candidate, and the rest to another.  Some States, in an attempt to sabotage the
Electoral College, have been proposing legislation that would change the system
in their State to all of their electoral votes going to the national popular
vote winner.
What is the difference between a
Democracy and a Republic?
a Democracy the laws and rules of society are only determined by democratic
vote.  In a representative democracy the
people vote for representatives to make the laws for them.  In a republic the power of the vote is
minimized through a series of checks and balances, and any democratic votes are
limited. Originally, in the United States, the only federal office
democratically voted into power was the House of Representatives.  Thomas Jefferson called democracy the “tyranny
of the majority where 51% can vote away the rights of the other 49%.”  John Adams said that “there was never a
democracy that did not commit suicide.” 
James Madison said, “Democracies are short in their lives and violent in
their deaths.”   The United States was
originally established as a republic, and in Article IV. of the U.S.
Constitution the document states that the United States shall guarantee to each
State a republican form of government.
What powers are different between the
two Houses of the U.S. Congress?
one time the Senators were appointed by the State legislatures.  Since 1913 (17th Amendment) the Senators have
been democratically voted into office by the populace.  Therefore, the two chambers of Congress are
essentially equal, save for these differences: Persons nominated by the
President of the United States, such as judges, ambassadors, cabinet officers,
and other senior primary officers of the U.S. Government must be confirmed by
the Senate by a majority vote; Treaties negotiated with foreign countries must
be ratified by the Senate with a two-thirds majority vote; in cases of
impeachment, the Senate hears the cases with the President of the Senate (Vice
President of the United States) carrying out the duties as chief presiding
officer, unless the President is being impeached, at which time the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court will preside over the hearing.  The U.S. House of Representatives alone has
the power to establish articles of impeachment, and bills affecting revenue may
only originate in the House of Representatives.
Why is government important?
framers of the U.S. Constitution called government a “necessary evil.”  With government, we run the risk of it
becoming a tyranny.  Without it, we live
in chaos with no rules regarding how to live together in a society.  As a member of a society with a government,
it is our duty to respect the government, obey the laws, and give thoughtful
opinions as we participate in the duties of citizenship.  With freedom comes responsibility, and that means
we must all participate, and work to change the laws or representation in our
government should we believe that the laws or representatives are not best for
our society.  As Americans we agree to do
what we can to keep our system of government in good working order, and
consistent with the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

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