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Census lawsuit proceeds

Good.

A federal judge in New York on Thursday allowed a lawsuit challenging the addition of a citizenship question to the Census to move forward. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman’s decision rejected the Trump administration’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which was brought by numerous states and localities.

The judge said that the court has jurisdiction to review Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add the question, rejecting the administration’s arguments that Ross could be insulated from judicial review.

Furman said that while Ross indeed had the authority under the Constitution to add the question, the judge concluded that the exercise of that authority in this particular case may have violated the challengers’ constitutional rights.

At this stage of the proceedings, Furman is required to assume the challengers’ allegations are true, and he must draw any inference from those allegations in the challengers’ favor. In doing so on Thursday, Furman said that the challengers “plausibly allege that Secretary Ross’s decision to reinstate the citizenship question on the 2020 census was motivated by discriminatory animus and that its application will result in a discriminatory effect. ”

See here, here, and here for the background. Nothing really new here, just another chance for me to say that this absolutely was motivated by discrimination and that it would be very nice to have it halted by the time the counting actually begins. Daily Kos and NPR have more.

Census lawsuit may proceed

Good.

A federal judge said Tuesday that there was a “strong showing of bad faith” by the Trump administration in adding a controversial question about US citizenship to the 2020 census. The judge hinted that he would allow the case to move forward over objections from the administration, and senior administration officials will be subjected to questioning under oath about why the question was added.

Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said the administration “deviated from standard operating procedure” by adding the question with no testing. Furman ruled that the plaintiffs challenging the question—including the state of New York and the American Civil Liberties Union—can depose senior officials from the Commerce Department and Justice Department as the case moves forward.

The census has not asked respondents about their citizenship status since 1950. Civil rights groups say the citizenship question will depress response rates from immigrants, imperil the accuracy of the census, and shift political power to areas with fewer immigrants. The census determines how $675 billion in federal funding is allocated, how much representation states receive, and how political districts are drawn.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, approved the citizenship question in March, saying it was needed for “more effective enforcement” of the Voting Rights Act. Ross said at the time and in subsequent testimony before Congress that he approved the question after the Justice Department requested in December 2017 that it be added.

However, Ross stated in a memo he filed to the court on June 21 that he first considered adding a citizenship question to the census after he was confirmed as commerce secretary in February 2017, months before the Justice Department requested the question. He wrote that he had approached the Justice Department about the question, not the other way around, after consulting with “other senior Administration officials” who had “previously raised” the citizenship question.

Furman cited Ross’s memo to question his truthfulness and the administration’s motives in adding the question. “It now appears these statements were potentially untrue,” Furman said of Ross’ claims that the question was added at the Justice Department’s request. “It now appears that the idea of adding a citizenship question originated with Secretary Ross and not the Department of Justice.”

See here and here for some background. The judge did subsequently allow the lawsuit to go forward, while also granting the motion for discovery. I for one can’t wait to see what bits of treasure that digs up. Time is of the essence here, so I hope there’s a speedy schedule to get us towards a resolution.

Multiple cities and states sue over Census citizenship question

Good.

Seventeen states, the District of Columbia, and six major cities sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over the addition of a controversial new question about US citizenship to the 2020 census. This is the third major lawsuit against the administration’s action, after California and the NAACP sued last week, marking a major escalation of the legal and political battle over the census. Civil rights advocates say the question is designed to spark fear in immigrant respondents and will cause many immigrants not to be counted, diminishing the political power and financial resources of the jurisdictions where they live.

“This is a blatant effort to undermine the census and prevent the census from carrying out its Constitutional mandate,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who organized the multi-state lawsuit, at a press conference in lower Manhattan. New York has the third-largest immigrant population in the country, after California and Texas. More than 1 in 5 New York residents are foreign-born. “This is an effort to punish states like New York that welcome immigrants,” Schneiderman said.

The lawsuit says the new question “violates the constitutional mandate to conduct an ‘actual Enumeration’” of the country’s entire population, not just citizens, as well as a provision of the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act barring federal agencies from taking “arbitrary, capricious” actions.

The lawsuit was filed by New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia, and joined by the cities of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle. The bipartisan US Conference of Mayors, which represents the 1,400 cities with a population of 30,000 or more, also joined the suit.

[…]

Past leaders of the Census Bureau and current advisers to the bureau have also blasted the question. Six former bureau directors, who served under Republican and Democratic presidents, told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in January that “an untested question on citizenship status at this late point in the decennial planning process would put the accuracy of the enumeration and success of the census in all communities at grave risk.” Members of the bureau’s Scientific Advisory Committee, who are appointed by the director, blasted the decision at a meeting of the Census Bureau last week.

“I want to say in no uncertain terms that I think this is an absolutely awful decision,” said D. Sunshine Hillygus, a professor of political science at Duke University. “I am dumbfounded that this decision is coming in at such a late date. My view is that this is going to have severe negative implications for data quality and costs.”

She began her PowerPoint presentation at census headquarters with the phrase “W.T.H.,” short for “what the hell.”

The Commerce Department, which oversees the census, said the new question was needed to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, but Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under Barack Obama, told Mother Jones that was “plainly a ruse to collect that data and ultimately to sabotage the census.”

See here for some background. Even with the involvement of the US Conference of Mayors, I say every city of decent size should want to get involved, because it’s their residents who are going to be undercounted as a result of this malevolent policy, and that will cost them in terms of funding, representation, and more. This is a big, serious deal and it needs to be treated as such. Think Progress, which also looks at the effect of this policy on Texas, has more.

Here come the nukes

Alas.

Texas can import low-level radioactive waste from 36 other states, a commission run jointly by Texas and Vermont decided Tuesday in Andrews County.

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission vote was a decisive victory for Waste Control Specialists, a company owned by a politically connected billionaire that has shaken off a series of permitting and court challenges by environmental activists.

The decision is sure to be challenged by the activists, but WCS could bury waste as soon as October at its 1,300-acre disposal site in Andrews County in West Texas.

As we know from when we first heard about this, the “politically connected billionaire” is Rick Perry sugar daddy Harold Simmons. After opponents got an injunction from a state district court judge to temporarily stop the hearing, US District Court Judge Sam Sparks cleared the way for the state to proceed, ruling that neither court had the jurisdiction to stop them. And so here we are. We’ll see what challenges follow. Texas Vox has more.

Vote on nuclear waste dump expansion temporarily halted

Good.

A Travis County state district judge on Thursday sided with environmentalists and temporarily halted plans to allow a West Texas radioactive waste disposal site to accept waste from an additional three dozen states.

The decision by Judge Jon Wisser to issue a temporary restraining order for potential open meetings violations against the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission could delay the politically connected dump long after the order expires.

The commission was scheduled to meet Jan. 4 and vote on whether Texas can import radioactive waste from outside Texas and Vermont, two days before a new Vermont governor who has expressed reservations about expanding the site takes office.

[…]

The judge agreed, issued the restraining order and ordered the parties back on Jan. 13. In the meantime, the balance of power on the commission is scheduled to change.

The eight-member commission is made up of six Texans — all appointed by Gov. Rick Perry — and two Vermonters. Currently, the Vermonters and four of the Texans have said they support the expansion. The commission needs five votes to take waste from other states.

There’s a chance the Jan. 4 meeting could still happen. The commission was not represented at Thursday’s hearing because the advocacy groups did not contact the attorney general’s office, which has represented the commission on some matters. Lawyers with the attorney general’s office later won a hearing, set for Monday, on whether the restraining order should be lifted.

Some background is here. At least there’s a chance we could have a meeting on this that can reasonably be described as “public”, which was not the case before. I presume you can still address any feedback you may have on this to [email protected], so take advantage of it if you wish. Texas Vox has more.

A little nuclear waste in your stocking

There’s a reason why stories like this tend to appear just before a big holiday weekend.

Potentially sidestepping political obstacles, a commission overseeing radioactive waste disposal could decide in early January to open a radioactive waste dump in West Texas to 36 other states.

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission will meet to decide whether Texas can import radioactive waste from outside Texas and Vermont. In a political and geographical peculiarity, the two states are the sole members of the compact, which grew out of federal laws encouraging agreements between states to dispose of the low-level waste.

The commission consists of six Texans — all named by Gov. Rick Perry — and two Vermonters.

The waste, which will be buried in concrete canisters, does not include spent nuclear fuel or waste from nuclear weapons. Most of it is material or hardware from nuclear power plants or syringes, protective clothing, glassware and rags from hospitals and academic labs. The vast majority of it, if sealed in a drum, would be safe enough to sit atop and will lose its radioactivity within a century.

Disposal of the waste could be worth billions of dollars, and the decision would benefit a single company, Waste Control Specialists , which is owned by one of Perry’s chief donors and is the sole company licensed by the Texas environmental agency to accept the low-level waste, at its facility in Andrews County.

The commission will meet Jan. 4, two days before Vermont’s governor-elect, who has expressed reservations about expanding the site to other states, takes office. The inauguration “was a consideration, but not the sole basis for choosing that date,” said commission Chairman Michael Ford.

The Perry sugar daddy in question is Harold Simmons, who’s graced him with over a million bucks in total. You just knew there’d be a sugar daddy prominently featured in this story, right? Putting aside all of the questions and concerns about this action, when was the last time our state government did something that didn’t directly benefit one or more of Perry’s bug supporters? Anyway, the Chron story is here, and it includes an email address – [email protected] – to which you may address any input you may have regarding this. Texas Vox has more.