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Book Review: "Latinos in the Legislative Process" by Stella M. Rouse

Zunaid is currently a business student at ASU W.P. School of Business. He also has degrees in history and political science from ASU.

"Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence" By Stella M. Rouse

"Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence" By Stella M. Rouse

Background

In her book, Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence, Professor Stella M. Rouse studies Latino representation in government and its influence in the growing Latino communities of the United States in great detail. In general, she examines how ethnicity can actually impact the legislative process. To accomplish these goals, Professor Rouse travels to seven different states—Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Colorado, and Illinois—and studies their legislatures and legislative processes for six years.

Overall, in the early stages of her research, Professor Rouse tries to determine whether or not a distinct Latino political agenda exists today and how it is represented by the state legislators (especially Latino state legislators). Moreover, Professor Rouse observes that “ethnicity is a complex dynamic” that can impact the overall legislative process in various ways, in terms of representing Latino political interests (Rouse 149). Lastly, her book sheds a curious light on how Latino legislators can actually dictate or influence the overall legislative process and agenda-setting methods of some of the larger states, such as California.

Content and Context

To determine the existence of a distinct Latino political agenda, Professor Rouse looks to identify the political interests and issues that matter the most to the Latino community. To do this successfully she carefully studies the data and patterns from national surveys (ANES 2008) and tries to pinpoint the most salient political issues that interest the Latino population relatively accurately (Rouse 25–33, 151–153). Moreover, she conducts formal interviews with state legislators from New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas to determine their legislative behaviors and the political issues that interest them the most for representing the Latino populations of these states.

Based on the thorough and clear-cut results, accounts, and analyses of her research on this issue, it is clear to readers that a distinct Latino political agenda does exist. Professor Rouse even goes the extra mile in pointing out some of these policies in detail, such as the importance of increasing government spending for public education, the introduction of a universal healthcare system, and immigration reform (Rouse 44–45).

Secondly, Professor Rouse looks to prove whether or not ethnicity actually plays a role in influencing Latino representation. She literally leaves no stone unturned in terms of accomplishing her goal through in-depth analysis and research. Professor Rouse studies the importance of group interests, agenda settings, the general nature of representation extensively. She also goes on to examine the patterns in Latino state legislators’ legislative behaviors, such as sponsoring and introducing bills during certain agenda-setting periods and compares and contrasts them with those of the white and African-American state legislators in the context of representing the Latino political agenda (Rouse 52-53).

She lets the readers know that the Latino community in general is underrepresented in these seven state legislatures. Moreover, Latino legislators represent more Latino-interest bills than their “non-Latino” colleagues do (Rouse 56–57). Interestingly, Professor Rouse also observes that African- American legislators tend to join forces with their Latino colleagues more often in their collective efforts to pass certain Latino-interest bills since the African-American population’s political interests seem to overlap with those of the Latino population (Rouse 62–63). In the end, Professor Rouse is able to convince her readers that ethnicity is a “complex dynamic” that influences both descriptive and substantive representations of Latino political interests (Rouse 149, 63–68).

Lastly, Professor Rouse points out that Latino legislators can actually dominate or influence the legislative process as a part of the “influential majority of large states such as California (Rouse 140). She provides the accounts of California’s AB 9 (also known as “Seth’s Law”) legislative process as evidence. Even though this is true to a certain extent, this claim is contradictory in the cases of some states, such as Arizona.

Arizona is a smaller state than California. It is also a Republican state where Latino legislators are political minorities (Latinos tend to support the Democratic Party most of the time). On the other hand, California is an overwhelmingly a Democratic state. So, for obvious reasons, the Latino legislators of that state are part of the political majority and can directly influence the legislative process of certain Latino-interest bills. However, in Arizona, the Latino legislators are always on the defensive when it comes to exercising their legislative binfluence on Latino-interest bills. They lack both the executive and legislative powers to influence the outcome of the state legislature’s agenda-setting process.

The Takeaway

Overall, Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence is quite an interesting and captivating piece of work, which outlines a comprehensive view of Latino representation and the overall legislative process in this country. Through in-depth analysis and research, Professor Stella M. Rouse is quite successful in showing us that a distinct Latino political agenda does exist today and that ethnicity plays a major role in carrying out these agendas. Last but not least, Professor Rouse does not forget to acknowledge the degree of influence Latino legislators can actually exert on certain Latino-interest bills despite lacking substantial political power for the most part. Altogether, this book is really a political-science junkie’s dream come true.

Works Cited

Rouse, Stella M. Latinos in the Legislative Process: Interests and Influence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Zunaid Kabir