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. Florida seceded from the Union on Januray 10 , 1861 and was one of the founding members of the Confederate States of America (CSA, also known as the Confederacy). Florida joined the CSA on Feburay 10, 1860. After the fall of the Confederacy in 1865, Flordia was readmitted into the Union on June 25,1868. 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 and son of former President George H. 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. Despite this demographic parity, Republicans control the governorship and most other statewide elected offices; both houses of the state legislature; 18 of the state's 25 seats in the House of Representatives; and one of the state's two senate seats. The Presidential election 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. Outside of liberal Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm BeachCounties, 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.
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.)
Most of Florida has a humid subtropical climate; the climate of far South Florida and the Keys verges on tropical. 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).
Hurricanes pose a threat during the summer and fall. Florida saw a slew of destruction in 2004 when it was hit by a record four hurricanes. Hurricanes Charley (August 13), Frances (September 4-5), Ivan (September 16), and Jeanne (September 25-26) cumulatively cost forty-two billion dollars to the state. Florida was also the site of the most costly single weather disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which cost twenty-five billion dollars when it struck on August 12, 1992. Among a long list of other infamous hurricane strikes were the Miami Hurricane of 1926 , the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 , the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Donna in 1960 and Hurricane Opal in 1995. Many other smaller hurricanes have hit or brushed Florida, and many more hurricanes will hit in the future.
Florida's economy is heavily based on tourism. Warm weather most of the year and hundreds of miles of beach 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, when voters passed a Constitutional Amendment requiring inflationary increases to the minimum wage every six months.
As of 2003, the state had a population of 17,019,068.
The five largest ancestries in the state are: African American (14.6%), German (11.8%), Irish (10.3%), English (9.2%), American (8%).
Religiously, Florida is mostly Protestant, but with a growing Roman Catholic community due to Hispanic immigration.
The three largest Protestant denominations in Florida are: Baptist (22% of the total state population), Methodist (8%), Presbyterian (4%)
Important cities and towns
Ranked by per capita income
Fisher Island, Florida
Jupiter Island, Florida
Indian Creek, Florida
Gulf Stream, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida
Indian River Shores, Florida
South Beach, Florida
Pelican Bay, Florida
Oak Point, Florida
North Key Largo, Florida
Longboat Key, Florida
North Beach, Florida
Ocean Ridge, Florida
Golden Beach, Florida
Bal Harbour, Florida
Highland Beach, Florida
Boca Pointe, Florida
Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida
Belleair Beach, Florida
See complete list of Florida places
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.  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: