House should approve Census oversight bill

by Peter Wagner, December 12, 2010  

On Friday, the Prison Policy Initiative joined the American Statistical Association and 26 other organizations in a letter to Congress in support of the Census Oversight Efficiency and Management Reform Act of 2010 (S. 3167/H.R. 4945).

The bill, which passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 8, must pass the House quickly before the legislative session ends later this month. The bill would give the Census Bureau more independence and give the Census Bureau director a fixed 5 year term. This later reform would make it less likely that the Census Bureau would be without leadership shortly before a decennial Census is taken.

In our work to end prison-based gerrymandering, the Prison Policy Initiative has closely studied the Census Bureau and how it operates. Although this bill does not address our work in any way, it is obvious to us that the bill is good for the Census Bureau and the taxpayer, so we support its timely passage.

As the New York Times explained in yesterday’s editorial Census Showdown about the bill:

This bill deserves to become law. It would address problems — including unsteady management and political interference — that have long plagued the census. Among the reforms, it would strengthen the role of the Census Bureau director, who would report directly to the commerce secretary and be allowed to communicate views to Congress that are not necessarily those of the administration….

The House leadership should take charge, putting the census bill on the calendar so members can vote before the clock runs out. The White House, which has made bipartisanship its priority, should play a constructive role by signaling its support.

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