The Lege shirked its duty, so this is what’s left.
Across the country, states are spending millions on making sure they get a better headcount of their residents. For example, California officials announced they are investing as much as $154 million in the 2020 census.
But not all states are making investments or even coming up with statewide plans to improve the count.
This year, Texas lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have created a statewide effort aimed at making sure all Texans are counted. Measures that would have ensured millions of dollars in funding for the census in Texas also failed.
“California is eating our lunch on the census,” says Ann Beeson, the CEO of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. “And what’s that going to mean is more representation and more dollars for California than Texas.”
Beeson said this is particularly concerning because the state’s population has continued to explode. In fact, many of the country’s fastest growing cities are in the Lone Star State.
By some estimates, Texas is set to gain three to four congressional seats after the census. But that’s only if there’s an accurate count, Beeson says.
“Texas is already at a high risk of an undercount,” she says. “That is because we have a higher percentage of what are considered hard to count populations.”
In the absence of state action, though, local officials in Texas say it’s up to them now to make sure people are getting counted.
“So much in the state of Texas relies on local government stepping up,” says Bruce Elfant, the tax assessor and voter registrar for Travis County here in Austin.
Elfant is a member of the city’s Complete Count Committee, which is a city-led group focused just on improving the census in Austin.
“This is a time where local government is going to have to step up again and I am really proud of what we have here in Travis County,” he says.
Elfant says school districts and other municipal government — as well as local businesses — plan to pitch in. In fact, he says he the city plans to create a fund for the census. He says that fund will largely rely on money from the private sector.
And nonprofits say they are also gearing up to fill the gap left by state inaction, says Stephanie Swanson with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Texas.
“We realized that basically is going to be up to us,” she says. “We will have to rely on our cities and it will also fall on the shoulders of nonprofits and the community to get out the count.”
See here for the background. You’d think with the way our state leaders hate California that they wouldn’t want to let the Golden State outshine us like this, but here we are. Don’t ask me to explain what Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are thinking, that way madness lies. The city of Houston is doing its part. I just hope this collective effort is enough. The Chron has more.