Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introdued the 2020 Census IDEA Act (S. 2578, H.R. 5359), similar (but not identical) bills designed to head off the addition of a citizenship question to the decennial census. 

The Act would prohibit the Secretary of Commerce from: (1) implementing “any major operational design that has not been researched, studied, and tested” within three years of the next decennial census; and (2) including in the questionnaire for the next decennial census any subject or type of information that has not been submitted to Congress within three years of the next decennial census and any question that has not been submitted to Congress within 2 years of the next decennial census. The bills would also require the Secretary to publish online and share with Congress a report on the status of research and testing, as well as the operational plan for the next decennial within 90 days after the passage of the 2020 Census IDEA Act and twice a year thereafter.

The Comptroller General would also be required to report or certify to Congress whether the subjects, types of information, and questions for the next decennial census have been “adequately researched, studied, and tested to the same degree as in previous decennial censuses.”

Finally, the bills would remove the existing power in 13 U.S. Code § 141 for the Secretary of Commerce, anytime “before the appropriate census date,” to submit a report to Congress explaining that the Secretary “finds new circumstances exist which necessitate that the subjects, types of information, or questions contained in reports so submitted be modified.”

There is a key difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Based on the drafting language, H.R. 5359 would likely apply to the American Community Survey (ACS) as well as the decennial headcount, while S. 2578 specifically excludes the ACS.

The Insights Association is considering whether or not to support this legislation and welcomes member feedback.