A bill that would restrict Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers from conducting pat-down searches at airport security checkpoints will return in the Texas legislature’s next special session thanks to Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry, the latest Republican to flirt with a possible presidential run in 2012, selected the bill for the special session after being lobbied by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) and numerous Republicans in the legislature — and does so in the face of a federal threat to shut down all air traffic in the state if the measure becomes law.
In his proclamation, Perry said the bill pertained to “the offense of official oppression of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation.”
That framing would seem to fit how supporters have characterized the bill — that they’re merely seeking to uphold the Fourth Amendment by requiring TSA agents to have “probable cause” for a search — implying Perry’s favor toward the bill.
The proposal, drafted by state Rep. David Simpson (R), would require misdemeanor charges for 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.”
Though passed by the Texas House, the bill stalled in the Senate and was ultimately removed from consideration at Dewhurst’s urging. He’s since experienced a change of heart and recommended it be reconsidered in the special session.
Simpson, an arch-conservative and newcomer to the legislature, told Raw Story in March that if the TSA is not stopped it would extend its security measures to other forms of transportation, sporting events and even sidewalks.
The Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with the TSA, recently began conducting random bus stop raids, sending armed agents onto mass transit vehicles to check identifications and question passengers.
Speaking to Raw Story on Tuesday, Simpson said the bill would apply to all forms of mass transit and public buildings, but it would not stop agents from checking luggage, using x-ray machines to see beneath clothing or using metal detector wands to search for weapons.
“What they’re doing now, police officers can’t get away with,” he said. “This is just a reasonable measure. It’s sad that we have to do this, but the federal government is not reining this bureaucracy.”
Simpson added that he was grateful for this reporter and the free press in general because, in his view, it keeps citizens from having to “use the Second Amendment” to fight government abuses.
Sen. Dan Patrick (R), who co-sponsored the bill in the Texas Senate, said recently that he has secured enough votes for it to pass.
A press officer for Gov. Perry had not responded to a request for comment at time of this story’s publication.
Updated from a prior version with quotes from Rep. Simpson.