Florida is a southern state in the United States. It is known as the Sunshine State. "Florida" is a Spanish adjective which means "flowery". It was discovered by Spanish explorers during the Easter season, which is called Pascua Florida in Spanish. The U.S. Postal abbreviation is FL.
USS Florida was named in honor of this state.
Archaelogical finds indicate that Florida had been inhabited for many thousands of years prior to any European settlements. Spaniards first arrived in 1513 and lay claim to a large, imprecisely defined area extending from about modern day Gainesville northward to the Carolinas, which they called La terra florida, "The flowery land". Over the following century, the Spanish and French both established settlements in Florida, with varying degrees of success. The area of Florida diminished with the establishment of British colonies to the north and French colonies to the west. Control of parts of Florida passed among Spanish, British, and American control. Spain finally ceded Florida to the United States with the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819, in exchange for the US renouncing any claims on Texas. On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. Today, Florida is the fourth most populous state in the Union.
Law and Government
The Florida Legislature has a Senate of 40 members and a House of 120 members. The current governor is Republican Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush.
Though Florida has traditionally been a Democratic state, in recent years explosive population growth has brought with it many Republicans, leaving the state approximately evenly split between the two parties. Although the Republicans control the governorship and most other statewide elected offices, both houses of the state legislature, and 18 of the state's 25 seats in the US House, Democrats control the state's two Senate seats, and the presidential contest in Florida in 2000 was extremely close. As such, and because of its high population and large number of electoral votes, Florida is considered by political analysts to be a key swing state in Presidential elections.
In Miami, the liberal Democrats vie for control with wealthy Cuban right wing Republicans and their business allies. Tampa was once a hotbed of Democratic union support, but has reversed polarity completely in recent years, and is now governed by heavily pro-business Republicans. Outside of liberal Miami-Dade County, the Florida Democratic Party tends to be socially conservative and heavily associated with the good ol' boy network. See: List of Florida Governors
Florida is one of the nine states which does not impose personal income tax (list of others). The state sales tax rate is 6 percent. Local governments may levy a local option sales on top of that, so sales taxes vary by county between 6 and 7.5 percent. The state use tax is 6 percent on purchases made out of state and brought into Florida within 6 months of the purchase date.
Map of Florida
See: List of counties in Florida
Florida taken from NASA Shuttle Mission STS-95 on 31st October 1998.
Florida consists of a panhandle extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico and a large peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean as its eastern border and the Gulf of Mexico as its western border. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama. It is near the countries of the Caribbean, particularly the Bahamas, Cuba, and Haiti.
At 345 feet (105 metres) above sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida (it's also the lowest state highpoint.)
Hurricane Frances near peak strength.
Most of Florida has a humid subtropical climate, with a more tropical climate in the south. These climates are characteristic of "hot and hotter" seasons, with warm, relatively dry winters and autumns (the dry season) and hot, wet springs and especially the summers (the wet season). During the summer and fall, Florida is often hit by hurricanes. Most recently, Florida was hit by a record four hurricanes (in 2004). Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne cumulatively costed twenty five billion dollars to the state. Florida was also the site of the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which ironically, costed twenty five billion dollars all by itself.
Florida's economy is heavily based on tourism. Warm weather most of the year and many miles of pristine beaches provide a thriving vacation spot for travelers from around the world. The large Walt Disney World theme park and resort complex, located near Orlando, drives the economy of that area, along with more recent entries into the theme park arena such as the Universal Orlando Resort. The great amount of sales tax revenue is what allows the state to be one of the few to not levy a personal income tax. Other major industries include citrus fruit and juice production, banking, and phosphate mining. With the arrival of the space program at Kennedy Space Center in the 1960s, Florida has attracted a large number of aerospace and military industries to the state. Florida did not have any state minimum wage laws until November 2, 2004.
As of the 2000 census, the state had a population of 15,982,378. The population is fairly evenly distributed, with most living on the coast.
Important cities and towns
Florida's public school revenue per student and spending per $1000 of personal income usually ranks in the bottom 25% of U.S. states. Average teacher salaries rank near the middle of U.S. states.
Florida public schools have consistently ranked in the bottom 25% of many national surveys and average test score rankings. It should be noted that many education surveys are not scientific, but do measure prestige. Governor Jeb Bush has been criticized by many Florida educators for a program that penalizes underperforming schools (as indicated by standardized tests, such as the FCAT) with fewer funding dollars. Major testing organizations frequently discount the use of state average test score rankings, or any average of scaled scores, as a valid metric (see psychometrics for more details on scaled test scores).
In 2000, Governor Bush and the state legislature acted to abolish the Board of Regents that governed the State University System of Florida. Instead, each public university is now controlled by its own Board of Trustees who are directly appointed by the governor. As is typical of executive-appointed government boards, the appointees so far have been overwhelmingly Republican. This has not been without controversy. http://www.sptimes.com/News/050801/State/Bush_s_trustees_mostl.shtml In 2002, Democratic Senator Bob Graham started a ballot referendum designed to revert to the Board of Regents system.
Colleges and universities
Professional sports teams in Florida
Florida is an extremely popular location for Major League Baseball spring training, with teams informally organized into the "Grapefruit League". As of 2004, Florida hosts the following major league teams for spring training:
Minor League teams
Florida also hosts the following minor league baseball teams:
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