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Alabama (Divergence Factor -0.229)

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Alabama
State of Alabama
Flag of Alabama United States Map alabama highlight
Dependency of:
US 51-star alternate flag
United States
Capital Montgomery
Governor Bob R. Riley
Area 135,765 km²
Population 4,447,100 inhabitants
Admittance to Union December 14, 1819


Alabama is a state located in the Southern United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. The twenty-second state admitted to the Union, Alabama seceded from the union in 1861 to become part of the Confederate States of America. Following the Civil War and Reconstruction, Alabama was readmitted to the union in 1868.

Until World War II, Alabama, like many Southern states, remained mired in poverty. In the following years, Alabama would emerge as a growing economic power as the economy of the state transitioned from agriculture to diversified interests in heavy manufacturing, mineral extraction, education, and high technology. Today, the state is heavily invested in the aerospace, education, health care, banking, and various heavy industries including automobile manufacturing and mineral extraction.

Alabama is known as The Heart of Dixie and the Yellowhammer state. The capital is Montgomery and the largest city is Birmingham.

Climate

The climate of Alabama is best described as being a humid subtropical climate. This is especially true in the southern part of the state with its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, while the northern parts of the state, especially in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be much closer to a continental climate. Generally, Alabama has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. March is typically the wettest month and October is the driest month.

Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over 90 °F throughout the summer in the entire state. Alabama is also prone to strikes by hurricanes. Even areas of the state far away from the Gulf are not immune to the effects of hurricanes or tropical storms, which often dump tremendous amounts of rain as they move inland and weaken. Southern Alabama, in common with much of the southeastern coast, has frequent thunderstorms, averaging around 70 days per year. Tornadoes are common in Alabama throughout the state, although the peak season for tornadoes varies from the northern to southern parts of the state. Also, Alabama is one of the few places in the world that has a secondary tornado season (November and December) in addition to the Spring severe weather season.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average January low temperatures around 40 °F in Mobile and around 32° F in Birmingham. Snow is a rare event in much of Alabama. Areas of the state north of Montgomery may receive a dusting of snow a few times every winter, with an occasional moderately heavy snowfall every few years. In the southern Gulf coast, snowfall is less frequent, sometimes going several years without any snowfall.

Law and government

State government

The foundational document for Alabama's government is the Alabama Constitution, which was ratified in 1901. At more than 770 amendments and 310,000 words, it is the world's longest constitution and is roughly forty times the length of the U.S. Constitution.[1][2]

Alabama is divided into three equal branches:

The legislative branch is the Alabama Legislature, a bicameral assembly composed of the Alabama House of Representatives, with 105 members, and the Alabama Senate, with 35 members. The Legislature is responsible for writing, debating, passing, or defeating state legislation.

The executive branch is responsible for the execution and oversight of laws. It is headed by the Governor of Alabama. Other members of executive branch include the cabinet, the Attorney General of Alabama, the Alabama Secretary of State, the Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, the Alabama State Treasurer, and the Alabama State Auditor.

The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the Constitution and applying the law in state criminal and civil cases. The highest court is the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Local and county government

Alabama has 67 counties. Each county has its own elected legislative branch, usually called the Board of Commissioners, which usually also has executive authority in the county. Due to the restraints placed in the Alabama Constitution, all but 7 counties (Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Madison, Montgomery, Shelby, and Tuscaloosa) in the state have little to no home rule. Instead, most counties in the state must lobby the Local Legislation Committee of the state legislature to get simple local policies such as waste disposal to land use zoning.

Alabama is an alcoholic beverage control state; the government holds a monopoly on the sale of alcohol.

State politics

The current governor of the state is Bob Riley. The lieutenant governor is Jim Folsom Jr. The Democratic Party currently holds a large majority in both houses of the Legislature. Due to the Legislature's power to override a gubernatorial veto by a mere simple majority (most state Legislatures require a 2/3 majority to override a veto), the relationship between the executive and legislative branches can be easily strained when different parties control both branches.

During Reconstruction following the American Civil War, Alabama was occupied by federal troops of the Third Military District under General John Pope. In 1874, the Redeemers took control of the state government from the Republicans. After 1890, a coalition of whites passed laws to segregate and disenfranchise black residents. The state became part of the "Solid South," a one-party system in which the Democratic Party became essentially the only political party in every Southern state. For nearly 100 years, local and state elections in Alabama were decided in the Democratic Party primary, with generally no Republican challenger running in the General Election. It was not until the 1980s that Republicans began to successfully challenge and win elections in local and state offices.

Alabama state politics gained nationwide and international attention in the 1950s and 1960s during the American Civil Rights Movement, when it bureaucratically, and at times, violently resisted protests for electoral and social reform. This ended up hurting Alabama's image and making it out to be a hotbed for racism. The state's governor during the period, George Wallace, remains a notorious and controversial figure.

Federal politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democrat
2004 62.46% 1,176,394 36.84% 693,933
2000 56.47% 944,409 41.59% 695,602
1996 50.12% 769,044 43.16% 662,165
1992 47.65% 804,283 40.88% 690,080
1988 59.17% 815,576 39.86% 549,506
1984 60.54% 872,849 38.28% 551,899
1980 48.75% 654,192 47.45% 636,730
1976 42.61% 504,070 55.73% 659,170
1972 72.43% 728,701 25.54% 256,923
1968* 13.99% 146,923 18.72% 196,579
1964 69.45% 479,085 30.55% 210,732
1960 42.16% 237,981 56.39% 318,303
*State won by George Wallace
of the American Independent Party,
at 65.86%, or 691,425 votes

From 1876 through 1956, Alabama supported only Democratic presidential candidates, by large margins. 1960 was a curious election; the Democrats won with John F. Kennedy on the ballot, but the Democratic electors gave most of their electoral votes as a protest to someone else. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater carried the state. In the 1968 presidential election, Alabama supported native son and American Independent Party candidate George Wallace over both Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. In 1976, Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter carried the state, the region, and the nation, but Democratic control of the region slipped thereafter. Since 1980, the Republican party has become increasingly dominant in Alabama's federal elections. In local politics, by contrast, Democrats still control many offices, such as their large and long standing majority in the Alabama Legislature.

In 2004, George W. Bush won Alabama's nine electoral votes by a margin of 25 percentage points with 62.5% of the vote. The only 11 counties voting Democratic were Black Belt counties, where African Americans are in the majority. Alabama is one of the most conservative states in the country; Shelby County, in suburban Birmingham, and the city and county of San Francisco, California are the closest pair of greatly populated areas to being political polar opposites.

The state's two current U.S. senators are Jefferson B. Sessions III and Richard C. Shelby, both from the Republican Party.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the state is represented by seven members, five of whom are Republicans, and two Democrats. The Representatives are Jo Bonner, Terry Everett, Mike D. Rogers, Robert Aderholt, Bud Cramer, Spencer Bachus, and Artur Davis.

Geography

Alabama is the 30th largest state in the United States with 52,423 sq mi (135,775 sq km) of total area. 3.19% of that is water, making Alabama 23rd in the amount of surface water, also giving it the second largest inland waterway system in the United States.[3] About three-fifths of the land area is a gentle plain with a general decline towards the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The North Alabama region is mostly mountainous, with the Tennessee River cutting a large valley creating numerous creeks, streams, rivers, mountains, and lakes.[4] Another natural wonder is "Natural Bridge", the longest land bridge span east of the Mississippi River. Alabama generally ranges in elevation from sea level[5] at Mobile Bay, to a little more than 1,800 feet (550 m) in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast. The highest point is Mount Cheaha.[4]

States bordering Alabama include Tennessee to the north; Georgia to the east; Florida to the south; and Mississippi to the west. Alabama has coastline at the Gulf of Mexico in the extreme southern edge of the state.[4]

National Parks in Alabama include Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston; Little River Canyon National Preserve in Fort Payne; Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport; Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Tuskegee; and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site near Tuskegee.[6]

Alabama also contains the Natchez Trace Parkway, the Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail, and the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail.


Climate

The climate of Alabama is best described as being a humid subtropical climate. This is especially true in the southern part of the state with its close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, while the northern parts of the state, especially in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeast, tend to be much closer to a continental climate. Generally, Alabama has very hot summers and mild winters with copious precipitation throughout the year. March is typically the wettest month and October is the driest month.

Summers in Alabama are among the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over 90 °F throughout the summer in the entire state. Alabama is also prone to strikes by hurricanes. Even areas of the state far away from the Gulf are not immune to the effects of hurricanes or tropical storms, which often dump tremendous amounts of rain as they move inland and weaken. Southern Alabama, in common with much of the southeastern coast, has frequent thunderstorms, averaging around 70 days per year. Tornadoes are common in Alabama throughout the state, although the peak season for tornadoes varies from the northern to southern parts of the state. Also, Alabama is one of the few places in the world that has a secondary tornado season (November and December) in addition to the Spring severe weather season.

Winters are generally mild in Alabama, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average January low temperatures around 40 °F in Mobile and around 32° F in Birmingham. Snow is a rare event in much of Alabama. Areas of the state north of Montgomery may receive a dusting of snow a few times every winter, with an occasional moderately heavy snowfall every few years. In the southern Gulf coast, snowfall is less frequent, sometimes going several years without any snowfall.


Miscellaneous topics

  • The phrase The Heart of Dixie is required by state law to be included on standard state vehicle license plates, but has recently been reduced to a very small size and eclipsed by the phrase Stars Fell on Alabama. As of October 2006, Alabama also provides an alternative "God Bless America" license plate at no additional charge.[7] Both plates are considered the standard plate for the state.[8]

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