AUSTIN, Texas — Did the federal government really just threaten a “no-fly zone” around Texas? Or is this a high-stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em?
A group of local activists are calling the bluff of federal agents who threatened to shut-down airports within the Lone Star State if the Legislature takes action to rein-in the pat-down tactics used by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA).
There was no turbulence as HB 1937, designed to criminalize the “groping” method being used by TSA agents in airports, sailed through the legislative process. The bill, authored by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) and co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), passed the Texas House by a large margin, and federal critics were nowhere to be found.
But, at the very last minute, the Texas Senate folded, following pressure from the feds. Thirty supporters in the Senate dwindled down to just 10 the evening of May 25. This came after a letter (signed by a federal judge) was circulated by two TSA representatives lobbying in the back hallways of the Senate chamber — and at the last possible minute, too, as May 25 was the deadline for new bills.
Activists at the Texas Capitol that evening to support HB 1937 were shocked to hear that the national government not only warned of a conflict with federal law but threatened to shut down Texas airports if the bill were passed. Surely it was a last-minute scare tactic — but it was one that 20 state senators took seriously.
An energized crowd descended upon the Captiol the next day in hopes that something could be done during the last few days of the 82nd Legislature. Their hopes were boosted by two unexpected events: 1) a filibuster on school finance led to a special session beginning Tuesday, and 2) Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst requested that Gov. Rick Perry include HB 1937 into the special session agenda.
With this possibility now on the legislative radar, a coalition of conservative groups, civil liberties advocates, and libertarians are preparing to rally at the Texas Capitol on Saturday to encourage Governor Perry to include HB 1937 as part of the special session.
“Rick Perry is strong on his states’ rights rhetoric, but where does he really stand?” said John Bush, Executive Director of Texans for Accountable Government (TAG). “For the past couple of years Governor Perry, who recently announced his interest to run for President, has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of overreaching and unconstitutional federal actions.
“We are ‘Fed Up’ with the TSA and are confident that Governor Perry will do the right thing,” Bush continued, referencing the title of Perry’s latest book, which lambastes the increase in federal power in recent decades.
Texans are hoping Governor Perry will stand by his strong states’ rights rhetoric, Bush added.
“All the media coverage about Perry’s possible presidential run makes him out to be the candidate of personal rights and the Texan ideal of rugged individualism,” said Heather Fazio, Legislative Coordinator for TAG. “We believe this is our Governor’s chance to prove — not just to the U.S. but to the world, and with bold, prominent headlines — that he is a friend of freedom, and not a tool of federal bureaucracy.”
Coalition members for the Come and Take It Rally consist of conservative groups, civil liberties advocates, and libertarian organizations. Those groups include: Texans for Accountable Government (TAG), Central Texas Republican Liberty Caucus, Austin Tea Party, Texas 25th Conservatives, New Revolution Now, Texans United for Reform and Freedom (TURF), Texas Republican Freedom Coalition, The Austin Tea Party, Articles of Freedom – TX, We Are Change Austin, Operation Defuse, Liberty Restoration Project, the Tenth Amendment Center, Tyler TEA Party, TSA Tyranny, Texas Campaign for Liberty, and the Libertarian Party of Texas.
For more information on the rally, or to schedule an interview, contact John Bush at JohnBush512@gmail.comor (512)773-6102.
- Text of HB 1937: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/history.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=HB1937
- The Come and Take It Rally coalition T-shirts: http://www.comeandtakeitshirt.com
- DOJ Threat: WeTouch your Privates or You Don’t Fly (link to DOJ letter at bottom): http://www.tagtexas.org/189-doj-threat-we-touch-your-privates-or-you-dont-fly
- Open Letter Response from bill’s author, Rep. David Simpson: http://davidsimpson.com/blog/?postid=70
The Lone Star Report (with links to text of U.S. DOJ letter):
Tenth Amendment Center blog:
… And numerous stories about HB 1937 itself, searchable via Google News and
other online services. This story has reached an international audience and was also
featured on The Drudge Report and many cable television and talk radio shows.