From: Census2000 <Census2000(a)ccmc.org>
Legislation Modifying Census Plan Heads to House Floor, As Census
Director Warns of "Disastrous" Consequences
Commerce Secretary Would Recommend Veto of Three Bills
The House Committee on Government Reform approved seven bills affecting
census operations, mostly along party lines, despite strong opposition
to three of the measures from Commerce Secretary William M. Daley.
Citing an analysis of the legislation by Census Bureau Director Kenneth
Prewitt, the Secretary told the committee in a March 16 letter that
bills requiring a post census local review, printing census forms in 33
languages and Braille, and mailing a second questionnaire to all
households would "reduce the accuracy and seriously disrupt the schedule
of Census 2000." He said he would recommend a veto if those bills reach
the President's desk in their current form.
The committee 'mark-up,' which lasted nearly six hours, highlighted the
ongoing disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on how best to
address the chronic undercount of racial minorities, children,
immigrants, and the urban and rural poor. In his opening remarks,
committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) questioned why anyone would oppose
the seven proposals, saying they were "designed to get more people to
participate in the census." "I don't think [the Census Bureau is]
trying very hard to do an accurate head-count," Rep. Burton said.
Census Subcommittee Chairman Dan Miller (R-FL) said a "two-number census
is a recipe for disaster," referring to the Bureau's decision to produce
state population totals without sampling for congressional apportionment
and then to correct undercounts and overcounts in the initial tally
based on a quality-check survey. Rep. Miller sponsored all but one of
the measures approved by the committee; he was an original cosponsor of
a bill introduced by Rep. Carrie Meek (D-FL), a former committee member.
(See March 16 News Alert for a complete description of the bills
considered by the Government Reform Committee.)
The committee's senior Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), accused
Republicans of trying to "burden" the census process in order to prevent
the Bureau from tabulating corrected census numbers by the legal
deadline for transmitting redistricting data to the states. The census
panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) called the package
of bills "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
At its March 17 meeting, the committee approved the following bills.
There are 24 Republicans, 19 Democrats, and one Independent on the
Government Reform Committee. The full House is likely to consider at
least one of the measures next week before Congress breaks for its
1. The "Local Census Quality Check Act" (H.R. 472) requires a
1990-style post census local review in the 2000 census. Local and
Tribal officials would have 45 working days to review and challenge
preliminary housing unit counts or address lists and jurisdictional
boundaries before the census counts are finalized. The Bureau strongly
opposes the measure. By a 21 - 23 vote, the committee rejected an
amendment offered by Rep. Maloney to give the Census Bureau more
flexibility in designing a local review program and to ensure that the
beureau can correct the initial census counts, based on a quality-check
survey, by the legal deadline for transmission of detailed population
counts to the states. The committee then approved H.R. 472, 23 - 21.
Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD) was the only Republican to vote for the
Maloney amendment and against the bill.
2. The "Decennial Census Improvement Act of 1999" (H.R. 683)
sponsored by Rep. Meek, would make it possible for recipients of federal
benefits or pensions to take temporary census jobs without losing their
benefits or affecting the amount of their pensions. The Census Bureau
supports the bill but noted that individual states and American Indian
tribes must decide how to treat income earned by census workers in
determining eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The
committee approved H.R. 683 by a vote of 31 - 1. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
voted against the bill.
3. The "2000 Census Mail Outreach Improvement Act" (H.R. 928)
requires the Bureau to send a second questionnaire to all households
(blanket mailing) or to households that don't return the first form
(targeted mailing). The Bureau opposes the bill based on evaluations of
its 1998 Dress Rehearsal, when it tested a blanket second mailing. H.R.
928 could result in a high duplication rate that would delay the
processing of census forms, potentially add more mistakes into the
count, and confuse the public, Dr. Prewitt said. The committee
4. The "2000 Census Language Barrier Removal Act" (H.R. 929)
requires the Bureau to make questionnaires available in 33 languages
(including English) and Braille. Dr. Prewitt said the "entire census
questionnaire workflow for receipt, image capture, transcription, and
key-from-paper would have to be modified" and the Bureau would have to
renegotiate its largest contracts. By a party-line vote of 20 - 24, the
committee defeated an amendment offered by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
(D-DC) to give the Bureau more flexibility in reaching non-English
speaking residents. Rep. Norton said only one percent of households do
not speak one of the six languages in which the Bureau plans to print
forms and many of them might also be illiterate in their own languages.
The committee approved H.R. 929, 23 - 21. Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) was the
only Republican to vote against the bill.
5. The "2000 Census Community Participation Enhancement Act" (H.R.
1009) authorizes $26 million for a matching grant program for local and
Tribal governments, and public and private nonprofit organizations. Dr.
Prewitt said the Bureau does not have the experience to manage a
competitive grant program. He also expressed concern that "the amount
of funds available per awardee would be so low as to raise questions
about the sincerity of this effort, or there would be many more losers
than winners, [placing] the Bureau in an untenable position." By voice
vote, the committee defeated an amendment by Rep. Maloney to shift
responsibility for administering a grant program to a private
foundation, to target grants to communities with undercounts of two
percent or greater in the 1990 census, and to remove the funding cap
from the bill. The committee then approved H.R. 1009 by voice vote.
6. H.R. 1010 authorizes $300 million for census promotional,
outreach, and marketing activities. The Bureau's original Census 2000
plan allocated $240 million for all marketing activities, including $100
million for paid advertising. In announcing the revised plan last
month, Dr. Prewitt said the Bureau would expand the program and pursue
"nontraditional advertising methods." The committee approved, by voice
vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), urging the Bureau
to use local businesses experienced in outreach to hard-to-count
communities. The amendment was drafted in cooperation with Rep. Mark
Louder (R-IN) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA). The committee approved H.R.
1010, as amended, by voice vote.
7. The "Census in the Schools Promotion Act" (H.R. 1058) requires
the Bureau to send a letter to all elementary and secondary school
principals, all elementary school teachers, and all secondary school
math, geography, and social studies teachers, inviting them to
participate in the Census in the Schools program. Responding educators
would receive the full program kit. The Bureau's plan targets teachers
in about 40 percent of schools in hard-to-count areas (including Indian
reservations), although the materials would be available to all schools
on the Internet. Democrats said they share the bill's goal but scolded
the bill's sponsors for voting on the bill without any review or cost
analysis. They also criticized the specific requirements as
unnecessary "micro-managing" of the census. Rep. Miller pledged to
provide adequate funding for the expanded program. The committee voted
20 - 21 against an amendment by Rep. Maloney to allow the Bureau to
develop an effective approach for reaching all schools. The committee
then approved H.R. 1058 by voice vote.
New congressional committee assignment: Freshman Rep. Janice Schakowsky
(D-IL) has been appointed to the House Committee on Government Reform,
which oversees the census. She replaces Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), who
has taken a leave of absence from the panel.
Appropriations hearings continue: Secretary of Commerce William Daley
testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce,
Justice, State, and The Judiciary on March 11. Discussion about census
preparations was limited. Chairman Judd Gregg (R-NH) and the panel's
senior Democrat, Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) asked about plans for
census advertising and partnership activities, and the Bureau's decision
not to mail a second questionnaire. (See the March 8 News Alert for a
summary of Secretary Daley's testimony before the counterpart House
Corrections: In our March 8 News Alert, we inadvertently stated that
local governments will be able to add newly-constructed housing units to
the address lists until "March 31, 1999." The expanded address list
opportunity will run through Census Day, April 1, 2000. Tribal
governments are included in all address list development activities.
Also, the Census Bureau has clarified that late new-construction
additions will be visited during the "coverage improvement" phase, so
that enumerators can determine if the structures include multiple
households and interview all residents who lived there on Census Day.
Questions about the information contained in this News Alert may be
directed to TerriAnn Lowenthal at 202/484-2270 or, by e-mail at
<terriann2k(a)aol.com>om>. Please direct all requests to receive News
Alerts, and all changes in address/phone/fax/e-mail, to the Census 2000
Initiative at <Census2000(a)ccmc.org> or 202/326-8700. Please feel free
to circulate this information to colleagues and other interested