Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dan Patrick crawfishes on TSA anti-groping bill

Austin - When TSA representatives came to the back rooms of the Texas Senate yesterday, they brought a threat.

Pass HB 1937 – a measure that would have criminalized pat-down searches of airline passengers who refuse back scatter screening - and watch us turn Texas into a no-fly zone. The bill passed the House of Representatives with no dissent.

Without the invasive search and seizures, they told Senators, the TSA could not guarantee the safety of passengers on commercial aircraft. Ergo, no commercial flights could enter or depart from the state, effectively shutting down air transport.

Senator Dan Patrick, R-Houston, quickly withdrew the bill from consideration when he realized he no longer had the necessary 21 votes to secure its passage. He blamed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for swaying the bill's supporters, an allegation Mr. Dewhurst quickly denied.

Mike Walz, the lieutenant governor's communications director, said a number of Senators had approached his boss with concerns about a letter generated by U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy that threatened closure of all Texas airports serving commercial airlines.

Mr. Walz said many of the members may have changed their mind "after receiving new information."

An estimated 2% of air travelers receive the pat-down treatment after refusing electronic scanning, according to TSA spokesmen.

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