Friday, June 24, 2011

TSA-groping bill stymied over lack of quorum

House Speaker Joe Straus: “ill-advised” publicity stunt

Austin – The difference between getting groped or being allowed to board a commercial aircraft in Texas with all the dignity accorded a human being will hinge on two legal concepts.

They are “probable cause” and “reasonable suspicion.”

Without addressing the latter, said the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joe Straus, Texas will become the “laughingstock” of the nation, the bill as drafted by freshman Rep. David Simpson will be the subject of a federal court challenge, and – in any case – the law is a “not well-researched publicity stunt.”

Representative Simpson said the proposed changes are not acceptable to him.

Following a morning session in which there was no quorum to open a discussion, he told newsmen, “The Speaker asked me to remove the language that specifically described the private parts, and I told him that would gut the bill.”

At present, if a traveler opts out of a full body irradiated scan which makes the person so examined appear to be naked on the screen of the scanner, they are detained and an extensive “pat-down” is given to the body, including the area of the groin, inner thighs, under the breasts and in the declivity of the derriere.

Most people – especially women who wear underwire bras which trigger metal detectors, and see their children subjected to such hands-on searches.

They, along with many men feel that the practice is utterly invasive and uncalled for, prompting HB 41, which would make it illegal for anyone to require a traveler at a Texas airport to submit to such a search on the grounds that it is in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

The amendment guarantees that people will be secure in their property, papers and persons against “unreasonable search and seizure” unless first an affidavit of probable cause is submitted to a magistrate and a warrant of search is obtained specifically stating that for which the officers will be searching and its whereabouts.

Law dictionaries define the concept of probable cause as one that “warrant a person of reasonable caution in the belief that certain items may be contraband...” though it does not demand that the belief is correct or “more likely true than it is false.”
When first proposed to the House on May 13, the bill sailed through with no discussion and no opposition, only to be stymied by reluctant Senators who responded to threats from representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation who told them that if the law passed, they would shut down every passenger terminal at every airport in the state.

“I think the philosophy is right, I think it's the challengeability in court that's the issue, said House Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi.

Mr. Hunter said that in discussions held over the past few days during the special session, he and his colleagues concluded that Mr. Simpson's bill needs to allow for “reasonable suspicion” for legal purposes.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he will proceed with the Senate version SB 29, on Monday. He told reporters that the federal objections to bill and the policies of the TSA stem from “the Obama Administration.

Senator Dan Patrick, R-Houston, author of the Senate version of the bill, issued this statement.

“The TSA anti-groping bill is important legislation that sends an important message to the federal government. This is evidenced by the fact that it has more than 100 coauthors in the House and enough votes to pass in the Seante. Even before passage, this legislation has already yielded results in that the TSA recently changed their pat down policies on children. I am greatly disappointed that negotiations on this bill have broken down so badly in the House at this critical point in the special session. If the House can resolve their differences, there is still time if they can pass it to the Senate before Monday.”

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