Texas Legislature Approves Anti-Pat-Down Bill

Jun 28, 2011

Today both the Texas House and Senate approved a bill that prohibits invasive airport security pat-downs. The version of the bill that passed in the Senate is watered-down to include changes that the Texas attorney general's office said should be made in order to ease the bill's constitutional issues.

As we reported, Texas lawmakers had dropped the bill back in May, after the federal government warned that if the bill became law it could be forced to shut down Texas airports. The stronger version of the bill made it illegal for a TSA agent to intrusively touch someone. It defined intrusive touching as "touching in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on the Senate version of the bill:

The revised bill has changes urged by the Texas attorney general's office to help counter possible constitutional hurdles. One key change allows agents to argue, as an element of defense, that they believed that they were acting within the scope of the Constitution.

Another major revision changes the proposed standard for conducting searches from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion" of wrongdoing. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas said a "probable cause" standard would unduly restrict law enforcement searches.

Earlier in the week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered that the bill be placed on the agenda for a special session that runs through June 29.

Austin's KXAN reports that after the bill passed, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued this statement:

"We all want our skies to be safe and we all want to fight terrorism. But airport security must focus on stopping terrorists, not harassing innocent travelers. With the passage of SB 29, the Texas Legislature is not only telling the TSA to change their policies − we're telling the Obama Administration we will not be intimidated and we will vigorously defend our Constitutional rights."

The watered-down version of the bill angered InfoWars radio host Alex Jones. The Texas Tribune reports that Jones rallied protestors to the Capitol:

He called the altered version of the bill a "monstrosity" and specifically blamed Perry for advancing the "pedophile protection program," his description of the TSA's searches. "What they've done is pass a bill that masquerades as freedom," Jones yelled, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

The bill now moves for a third reading vote in House, today. The Tribune says either the House or the Senate version of the bill must pass both houses before the end of the special session, tomorrow.

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