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Importance of submitting Census by September 30, 2020, being promoted on state highway’s dynamic boards system, announces Rep. Canales - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured, from left: McAllen Mayor Jim Darling prepares to interview Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Thursday, August 20, 2020, during the City of McAllen’s Census Telethon, hosted by the mayor and the McAllen City Commissioners at McAllen City Hall.

Photograph Courtesy CITY OF MCALLEN

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Importance of submitting Census by September 30, 2020, being promoted on state highway’s dynamic boards system, announces Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Helping get the message to Texans of the vital importance of completing the U.S. Census has been getting a helping hand from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), through the use of its dynamic boards system, said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

Canales is Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission, which administers and distributes billions of dollars every two years for projects statewide, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, Transportation, and the Texas Transportation Commission.

In a related matter, Canales, a member of the Texas Legislative Study Group, an official caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, is calling on the Texas congressional delegation to extend the current deadline for all U.S. residents to respond the census until Friday, April 30, 2021.

The current deadline for what is known as field data collection – which includes the U.S. Census contacting residents in-person, by mail, by phone, and online – is Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

“This would halt the census count one month earlier than had been previously scheduled, despite the delays and difficulties getting an accurate count during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Canales stated in the group’s letter, which also included Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville, as one of the authors of the correspondence.

“Simply put, among all 50 states, Texas has the most to lose from a census undercount and Texans will be poorly served unless we work across party lines to get a complete and accurate count,” Canales emphasized. “This is a Texas issue, not a partisan issue. In the past, even in divisive political times, Texans have put such differences aside to do what’s best for the people we represent, and they will be the ones who pay the price if the census shortchanges Texans.”

In the meantime, two key messages are being featured on the familiar electronic billboards, which are part of TxDOT’s highway communication system for motorists across the state, according to the Dallas Morning News.

All of the state’s highway signs(dynamic boards system) are controlled at the department’s headquarters in Austin. Most of the time the signs display information about accident-related traffic or Amber alerts….that promote safety.

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/curious-texas/2019/12/24/who-writes-the-holiday-messages-on-the-highway-info-boards-curious-texas-takes-a-ride/’

The following two public messages were added to the list of key information that is using the dynamic boards system throughout state highways, for the benefit of Texans.

DO YOUR PART
DRIVE SMART
AND CENSUS 2020

and

SAFE DRIVING
AND THE CENSUS
BOTH COUNT

“So much is at stake for the Valley and Texas in making sure all residents fill out and complete the U.S. Census,” the House District 40 state lawmaker said. “The 2020 Census will determine congressional representation for every state, which regions of Texas have more state senators and state representatives, and where hundreds of billions of dollars each year will go the states for almost every major federal program.” 

The first message, “Do Your Part, Drive Smart, and Census 2020” was shown during key drive times on TxDOT’s dynamic billboard system from Friday, August 14, 2020, through Monday, August 17, 2020.

The second message, “Safe Driving and the Census Both Count” was scheduled to be shown during key drive times basis from Thursday, August 20, 2020, through Monday, August 24, 2020.

In early August 2020, Canales asked Jim Bass, Executive Director for TxDOT, to consider using the dynamic billboard system because of the impact the Census will have on securing federal funds for the state highway system.

The state lawmaker’s correspondence, dated Thursday, August 6, 2020, follows:

Dear Mr. Bass,

As you know, the 2020 U.S. Census is incredibly important in determining the amount of future federal highway funding our state receives, as well as determining how the state allocates transportation dollars among its 254 counties. Additionally, this same data will also inform local governments on where to spend their transportation dollars as well. 

Because of how census data directly impacts transportation on the federal, state, and local levels, I believe TxDOT should display messages on its digital highway signs that remind Texans to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census. The state of Mississippi is currently displaying the following messages on their digital highway signs and capitalizing on this opportunity: “YOUR MISSION FILL OUT THE CENSUS AND BUCKLE UP” and “ROAD AND BRIDGE FUNDS COUNT ON YOU #CENSUS2020.” 

This type of messaging is certainly transportation-related, and I believe we should also capitalize on this opportunity to remind citizens. I appreciate your taking the time to consider my request, and please know that I am available to you if you need to contact me. 

Very Truly Yours,

Terry Canales

Bass responded on Friday, August 14, 2020, accordingly:

The Honorable Terry Canales
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768

Dear Chairman Canales:

Thank you for your August 6, 2020, letter requesting that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) use its dynamic message boards system to display United States Census 2020 related messages.

TxDOT will display census-related messages that include safety messages on its dynamic message boards system. TxDOT is aware of the importance of the U.S. Census, as it will establish
congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding every year and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade.

If you or your staff have any questions, please contact Terry Martinez in our State Legislative Affairs Section at (512) 463-8665 or via email at [email protected].

Sincerely,

James M. Bass
Executive Director

In other action related to the U.S. Census, the Texas Legislative Study Group, which is an official caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, released a letter signed by 24 of its members – which includes Canales and Domínguez – the Texas congressional delegation in Congress.

That letter follows:

August 18, 2020

Dear Members of the Texas Congressional Delegation,

As you are aware, the Census Bureau announced last week it will stop its 2020 census count – including contacting residents in-person, by mail, by phone, and online – on September 30, 2020. This would halt the census count one month earlier than had been previously scheduled, despite the delays and difficulties getting an accurate count during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simply put, among all 50 states, Texas has the most to lose from a census undercount and Texans will be poorly served unless we work across party lines to get a complete and accurate count. This is a Texas issue, not a partisan issue. In the past, even in divisive political times, Texans have put such differences aside to do what’s best for the people we represent, and they will be the ones who pay the price if the census shortchanges Texans.

As outlined in detail below, the 2020 Census will be the basis for federal funding and support that will affect every aspect of our lives for the next decade, including:

• Apportionment and representation in Congress;
• Federal funding for healthcare, education, housing, and infrastructure; and
• Private-sector investment in our economy and infrastructure.

Right now, roughly four out of 10 households nationwide have not been counted yet. The remaining households are what the Census Bureau considers the hardest to count. These are populations that have been historically undercounted and include people in every one of your districts who are not likely to fill out a form on their own.

A George Washington University reports estimates that a one (1) percent undercount in Texas could cause a minimum $300 million annual federal funding loss for the next 10 (ten) years that would require Texas taxpayers to fill in the funding gaps or leave millions of Texans without essential supports and services. As of August 16, 2020, Texas as a whole remains 5.5 (five point five) points behind its 210 census self-response rate – 58.9 percent in 2020 vs. 64.4 percent in 2010, which means the (President Trump) administration’s plan would result in a much larger undercount and even less annual federal funding.

In addition to the loss of critical funding, an undercount could leave Texas with one less congressional seat that would be apportioned by a complete count, according to an analyst by the Pew Research Center. Instead of three additional congressional seats, Texas could get only two. Furthermore, the loss of representation could have a significant effect on the most rapidly growing regions and segments of our population, including the rapidly growing Latino, Black and Asian population statewide and in our suburban communities.

The Enumeration Clause (or Census Clause) found in Article 1, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, vests Congress with the responsibility to conduct an “actual enumeration” of all people living in the United States every 10 years for the purpose of apportionment of congressional seats among the states. That responsibility has been delegated to the Secretary of Commerce, but Congress has the constitutional authority to require an “actual enumeration”.

(The enumeration clause exists for knowing how many members of Congress (the members of the United States House of Representatives) each state may elect, based on the population of that state.)

We, the undersigned, call on our Texas congressional delegation to join four former census directors, who have collectively helped, planned, executed, and led five decennial censuses and served nine Presidents from both parties, in calling on the President to ensure a complete census count by delaying the deadline to respond to the census until April 30, 2021. In addition, we urge you to support their request that Congress assign an independent, apolitical institution to develop metrics for judging whether the final census numbers are reasonably accurate and, if not, determine the next necessary steps to meet that important constitutional responsibility. Failure to extend the census will result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country, and that would be especially harmful to Texas.

GOV. ABBOTT REQUEST USDA DISASTER DESIGNATION FOR RIO GRANDE VALLEY AS A RESULT OF AGRICULTURAL DAMAGES RESULTING FOR HURRICANE HANNA 

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday, August 14, 2020, announced that he had sent a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting a disaster designation for eight counties in the Rio Grande Valley directly impacted by Hurricane Hanna. 

A USDA disaster designation would make federal assistance, such as emergency loans, available to agricultural producers who have suffered losses in designated counties, as well as in counties that are contiguous to a designated county. 

The governor’s request includes the counties of Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Starr, Willacy, and Zapata. 

“Texas agricultural producers continue to be greatly affected by the severe weather and flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna, which made landfall on July 25, 2020, and caused severe flooding, which presently continues,” reads the letter. “Hurricane Hanna produced damaging weather conditions which substantially affected producers and caused severe flooding, which presently continues,” reads the letter. 

“Hurricane Hanna produced damaging weather conditions which substantially affected producers and caused severe production losses. These producers are in need of this assistance to return to normal operations,” Abbott further stated.

The governor’s request for USDA disaster designation follows:

August 10, 2020

The Honorable Sonny Perdue Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue:

Under the provisions of 7 C.F.R. Part 759, I request a disaster designation for Texas counties impacted by Hurricane Hanna and for their contiguous counties. Texas agricultural producers continue to be greatly affected by the severe weather and flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna, which made landfall on July 25, 2020, and caused severe flooding, which presently continues. Hurricane Hanna produced damaging weather conditions which substantially affected producers and caused severe production losses. These producers are in need of this assistance to return to normal operations.

For example, early estimates made by Texas Citrus Mutual show Texas citrus sustained a minimum average of a 30 percent loss to the crop in Cameron, Hidalgo, and Willacy counties; Texas Citrus Mutual also reports cotton acres lost to Hurricane Hanna are estimated to be 138,680 acres in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties. Total damage assessments are still being calculated, but daily agriculture operations have been slowed by both the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and by the severe flooding caused by Hurricane Hanna.

I declared a disaster in 32 Texas counties on July 25, 2020. I also requested that President Trump issue an emergency declaration under Section 501 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5191. The President promptly granted Texas’s request on July 26, 2020.

The State of Texas is requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expeditiously issue a disaster designation for the following counties: Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Kenedy, Starr, Willacy, Zapata, and any other county that demonstrates a significant production loss as a result of Hurricane Hanna. A USDA disaster designation would make federal assistance, such as emergency loans, available to producers who have suffered losses in the above counties as well as in counties that are contiguous to a designated county.

As we continue to assess production losses or losses to quality in the other affected counties, I reserve the right to request that USDA extend its disaster designation to additional counties in Texas.

Thank you for your continuous support of the Texas agriculture industry and your consideration of this request for a disaster designation.

Sincerely,

Greg Abbott
Governor

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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