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Feds threaten to ground Texas airplanes if anti-groping bill becomes law

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 14:01 EDT
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A bill that would criminalize TSA agents who conduct airport patdown searches was scuttled Tuesday night after the federal government threatened to ground all flights out of Texas.

The proposed law would have levied misdemeanor charges against security agents who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly [touch] the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touching the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.”

An earlier version of House Bill 1937 would have made such action a felony.

“If [the legislation] passes, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” a letter from the Department of Justice explained (PDF). “Unless or until a such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.”

As a result, the bill’s co-sponsor in the Texas Senate withdrew the legislation. It had cleared the Texas House by unanimous vote.

“All that HB 1937 does is require that the TSA abide by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution,” State Rep. David Simpson, the bill’s author, fired back in an advisory. “We aren‘t even prohibiting the pat-downs, per se. We’re just saying you can’t go straight to third base. You have to have a reason — you have to have probable cause — before groping someone‘s sexual organs.”

Simpson was unavailable for comment at time of this story’s publication. He’d previously told Raw Story that if states do not stand up to the TSA on airport security, similar security measures would start appearing at sporting events and even in the general public.

State Sen. Dan Patrick (R) ultimately gave in and withdrew the bill, but only after insisting that he would not “cave” to “heavy handed threats by the federal government.”

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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