Legislation that would prevent Transportation Security Administration employees from giving invasive pat-downs at Texas airports looked last week to be completely dead, but a letter of support from the state’s lieutenant governor could revive the effort.
It all depends on whether Gov. Rick Perry (R) has the stomach for it.
The bill, proposed by State Rep. David Simpson (R), would impose 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.”
After clearing the Texas House by unanimous vote, it looked almost certain to clear the Senate — until Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) put proceedings on hold to undermine its chances.
It was ultimately pulled by its Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Dan Patrick (R), who blamed Dewhurst for its failure.
But now, Dewhurst appears to have undergone a change of heart, penning a letter to Gov. Perry that recommends the bill be considered during an upcoming special legislative session.
“Please call the Governor and tell him you agree with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst!” Rep. Simpson wrote on his website.
Simpson has suggested the legislation only requires TSA agents to uphold the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment language pertaining to search and seizure. The arch-conservative Rep. insists that Texans should not undergo invasive pat-downs unless agents have “probable cause” to conduct one.
“The federal government is attempting to deprive the citizens of Texas of their constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution,” he wrote in an open letter to Texas legislators. “If we do not stand for our citizens in the face of this deprivation of their personal rights and dignity, who will?”
The legislation would be reconsidered only if Gov. Perry decides to place it on the schedule.
Texas is not alone in the effort: lawmakers in several other states, like New Hampshire, New Jersey and Hawaii, were also considering similar legislation to restrict the TSA in other ways, including: prohibiting the use of x-ray machines that capture images of passengers by looking underneath their clothes; or restricting the ways agents can touch passengers.
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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