AAG Response to Proposed Geospatial Racial Disparities Restrictions
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
We at the AAG want to bring to your attention two proposed federal bills (S. 103 & H.R. 482) that would prohibit the use of federal funding "to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing." This language is found in Section 3 of the bills, which are still early in the legislative process.
The AAG responded to these proposals in the attached letter of January 27, 2017 to the bill's Senate sponsor, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, expressing our concerns. (A similar letter has been sent to the House sponsor, Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona). In our letters, we noted that the language in Section 3 "could have far-reaching consequences on research and programs involving geospatial information and racial disparities, including on federal human health programs; census issues; education programs; services for children; Department of Justice programs; and other critical programs. Geographers and related scientists often conduct research – some of which is federally funded – using geospatial information related to disparities, and we fear that the enactment of §3 could have a damaging effect on a wide range of Americans and their communities."
We have been in touch with Congressional staff to discuss these issues with them directly and have been working diligently through our networks to build coalitions that share our concerns about the bills.
The AAG's Executive Director, Doug Richardson, has been in touch with geographers and the state GIS office in Utah, and has also been working with association leaders in Washington to gather information and discuss shared approaches to dealing with these proposed geospatial data restrictions. And we have been working through the Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) and other organizations to encourage a broad-based stance on this issue.
We greatly appreciate the many AAG members who have contacted us to highlight the importance of this legislation. AAG President Glen MacDonald wrote an excellent column (http://news.aag.org/2017/01/creating-and-preserving-actionable-and-policy-relevant-geography/) that specifically references these proposed geospatial racial disparities restrictions and also discusses general engagement on policy issues.
We always encourage AAG members to contact their members of Congress to share their own perspectives with them. You can find your member of the House using this link: Find Your Representative · House.gov. And all Senators are listed here: U.S. Senate: _Senators of the 115th Congress.
We will keep you informed on relevant development related to this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any specific questions or concerns.
John A. Wertman
Senior Program Manager for Government Relations
American Association of Geographers