Associated Press reports: The Texas House has approved a bill that would criminalize intentional, inappropriate touching by an airport security screener.
Supporters of the bill complain, however, that the new version is too watered down and unenforceable.
Senate Passes (Weakened) TSA “Anti-Groping” Bill Out of Committee
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, laid out a new version of the TSA anti-groping bill in a Senate committee hearing this morning. One of the major changes: Federal officials would only need “reasonable suspicion,” rather than “probable cause,” to legally search an individual before granting access to a public building.
“If [federal officials] do not have effective consent from the person it would be against the Texas law to touch a person in those areas of their body unless they have reasonable suspicion to do so,” said Patrick, the author of the Senate version of the bill. To have effective consent, TSA officials would have to describe how they are going to search the person and receive verbal permission before they could conduct a search.
Rob Kepple with the Texas County and District Attorneys Association told lawmakers the new language could create “a huge vagueness problem.” Federal officials would have to decide whether the Supreme Court would deem each search constitutional, he said, and recommended the language be removed.
Many of those who registered in favor of the bill announced they were not in favor of the changes when it was their turn to testify. “What the substitute bill does has essentially gutted and compromised on the things that are essentially important,” said Heather Fazio, with Texans for Accountable Government. “My biggest problem is the reasonable suspicion aspect of it.”
House Members Plan To Pass “Tougher” Version Of Bill
Monday, June 27, 2011
AUSTIN – A Senate committee on Monday approved heavily revamped legislation to ban intrusive airport pat-downs on Monday as supporters rushed to salvage the beleaguered measure before the end of the Legislature’s special session on Wednesday.
Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, chief author of the Senate bill, acknowledged that proponents are racing the clock to get the measure passed out of both chambers of the Legislature before adjournment. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the Senate’s presiding officer, supports the legislation, but it faces a towering obstacle in the House after Straus declared late last week that the measure would not be brought to the floor in its current form.
The revised version included changes recommended by the Texas Attorney General’s Office to help counter possible constitutional challenges. One key change allows an agent to argue, as an element of his defense, that he believed he was acting within the scope of the U.S. Constitution.
This article was posted: Monday, June 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm