Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Kamala Harris, D-California; and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, along with more than 30 House and Senate Democrats, called on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao and Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on May 23 to explain how the Donald Trump administration plans to comply with federal law following its hasty decision to include a question on citizenship to the upcoming 2020 Decennial Census.
Federal agencies seeking to collect information from the public must comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act. The law requires agencies to evaluate the need to collect information and the potential burden that collecting particular information will place on the public.
“The PRA requires the Office of Management and Budget to review proposed information collections and ensure that agencies are minimizing the burden on the public. It requires OMB to ensure that the information collection maximizes practical utility and public benefit and — critical in the case of the 2020 Census — protects the integrity, objectivity, impartiality, utility and confidentiality of collected statistical information,” wrote the senators.
The PRA also provides two opportunities for members of the public to review and comment on proposed information collections. However, the Trump administration has yet to initiate the first public comment period and has not committed to make comments it receives available to the public.
To evaluate the Trump administration’s adherence to the PRA, lawmakers asked Administrator Rao and Secretary Ross if the citizenship question was properly tested prior to the March 26 announcement, and, if not, how it intends to ensure its accuracy without testing; when the first public comment period will be opened for the public to express any concerns they may have; and what mechanisms will be utilized to ensure adding such a question will not tarnish the integrity of the 2020 Decennial Census.
The full text of the letter is available at bit.ly/2IHE7os.