Texas should create a committee to promote participation in the 2010 U.S. Census, state Rep. Mike Villarreal told Gov. Rick Perry in a letter Tuesday.
"The stakes are high," Villarreal, D-San Antonio, wrote. "Promoting participation in the census will improve our state's chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves."
Like more than a dozen other states have done, Villarreal said Texas should establish a Complete Count Committee.
Villarreal, who is vice chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, also urged Perry to use state agencies to reach minorities, the poor, the elderly and others who might not otherwise be counted.
Many state agencies already work with those populations and send them materials about public benefits. Villarreal said those agencies should use their contacts to let people know that the census is safe and that participating is important.
Billions in federal aid for health care, schools and roads depend on Texas residents being accurately counted, he said.
The census count also has huge political ramifications.
Texas expects to grab three or four more congressional seats because of population growth, which has largely been fueled by Hispanic Texans.
Whether those new districts are drawn in a way that accurately reflects the state's population is tied to who gets counted in the census and where they are.
Villarreal said Perry hadn't responded to his letter yet (or even sent him flowers recently, he joked).
Perry spokesman Chris Cutrone said via e-mail that the governor appreciated Villarreal's letter.
"We understand this is an important issue, and we're looking into how best to serve the state on this issue," he said.