AUSTIN, Texas (June 29) – Last ditch efforts to save a bill that would restrict the TSA’s ability to conduct invasive pat-downs in the Lone Star State failed Wednesday afternoon.
The Texas Senate passed its own version of the anti-groping legislation (SB29) 19-11 Tuesday evening and promptly adjourned, leaving representatives just one day to consider the bill.
The House passed the second reading of the Senate bill 106-27, with 16 representatives absent.
But with the end of the special session looming, House members had to vote to suspend the Texas Constitution’s three day reading rule and allow a second vote on SB29 later Wednesday. Several representatives left after the second reading, and the vote to suspend the rules fell short of the 4/5 majority needed on a 96-26 vote.
Earlier in the day, lawmakers passed the second reading of an amended version of the original House bill (HB41) 100-23. It allowed pat-downs based on “reasonable suspicion” instead of “probable cause.” House leaders ultimately substituted the Senate version, since that body had already adjourned and couldn’t consider the House bill if passed.
The Senate never did vote on that HB41, instead passing its stricter version of the legislation, angering some in the House. The watered down House bill was vetted by the state attorney general’s office and was more politically palatable.
Original bill author David Simpson (R-Longwood) delivered a stinging speech once it became apparent the bill was dead, calling the Texas legislature “Washington here in Austin.”
“Our greatest enemy is not terrorists, our greatest enemy is ourselves. The seeds of anarchy and tyranny reside in our own hearts,” he said. “I’m not only fed up with the TSA, I’m fed up with phonies.”
Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey expressed frustration at the failure to get the bill passed.
“I am extremely disappointed that some Texas lawmakers thought it more important to play political games rather than protect Texans from federal gropers,” he said.
TAC founder and executive director Michael Boldin added that lawmakers failed in their obligation to interpose and protect Texas citizens from federal overreach.
“It’s a state’s duty to stop the TSA, because the TSA is never going to stop itself.”
Still, Maharrey expressed optimism.
“This bill jumpstarted the debate and thrust it into the national spotlight. We may have lost this battle, but it’s just the first salvo in the war,” he said. “The American people are sick to death of standing around in their socks at the airport while blue-shirted agents grope their children and grandmothers. These people aren’t making us safer. They are stealing our dignity, along with our constitutional rights. This isn’t the last you will hear on this issue.”
In fact, Utah and Pennsylvania recently introduced bills similar to the Texas legislation, and sources close to the TAC indicate 10 more states will likely join the cause in the next year.
Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center state chapter coordinator Steve Palmer said the failure in Texas ups the ante in the Keystone State.
“The defeat of the TSA legislation in Texas makes passage of Pennsylvania’s HB852 all the more critical,” He said. “It would be nice if we could stand on the sidelines and let Texas and the other states defend us, but it is now clear that Pennsylvania must act to preserve our own Liberty and dignity — or else lose them.”
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