Co-authored by Steve Baysinger and Brian Roberts
This week after a little time to reflect, Texans are wondering what happened to the TSA bill last week. A month ago it looked like shoe-in, then it looked dead, then it was reborn, then it was delayed in creative ways only to find the dustbin at the end of the special session. Barring reintroduction in a second special session, the bill is dead for the immediate future. But what happened? Why are Texas leaders refusing to step between the TSA agents’ fondling fingers and citizen’s dignity? Why are Texas leaders allowing the TSA to run around the clear limitations set forth in the Fourth Amendment?
Lots of questions. Very few answers.
But there is one answer that remains clear… the Texas leadership completely failed Texans!
Less than a month ago, the confidence level in passing the TSA bill was high. The Texas House had just passed the bill with a vote of 138-0. The Senate was next and was widely reported to have near unanimous support for the bill as well. Then it would be off to Gov. Perry’s office. This was a strongly worded piece of legislation that rejected outright invasive searches without probable cause. Few state representatives at the time were willing to side with a federal agency that groped innocent citizens and denied Texans their Fourth Amendment rights. At this point in time, passing the legislation looked like a sure thing.
Suddenly, without warning, the Department of Justice engaged head-on the Texas legislative process, threatening Texas with a no-fly zone should this legislation pass. From then on everything changed. Never mind, the DOJ letter was laughably inaccurate in its suggestion that the Supremacy Clause could be used to deny Fourth Amendment protections. Never mind, the TSA is acting as a rouge agency without laws authorizing its behavior. Never mind, that an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be required to negate the Fourth Amendment so that such authority might be given to the TSA. Never mind, the wide range of confirmed incidence of overzealous TSA gropers of babies, pre-teens, grandmothers and even a Miss USA contestant. Never mind, the exact purpose of this bill was to say “NO” to the federal government!
Regardless, everything changed.
Motivated by cowardice and/or federal collaboration, Texas state leadership worked diligently to kill this bill.
Lt. Gov. Dewhurst Flip-Flops; Engineers the General Session Failure
- Lt. Gov. Dewhurst immediately folded when the DOJ letter was presented.
- Senator Kirk Watson, key to holding sway over a significant group of previous supporters, follows Dewhurst’s orders and works to convince Senate members to recant their support for SB 29.
- Lt. Gov. Dewhurst pulled the rug out from under the Senate’s bill sponsor, Senator Dan Patrick –during the time Patrick was busy laying out the bill on the floor. Lack of courage to face Dan Patrick, while directing Democrat minions to sabotage the process, ensured the death of the TSA anti-grope bill.
Gov. Perry Does Nothing
- Perry called for a special session, but no mention of TSA bill. Only after grassroots activists flooded the governor’s office with emails, phone calls and faxes (not to mention two protest rallies on the south steps of the state capitol) did Perry concede to putting SB 29 back onto the legislative docket.
- Dewhurst requested the TSA bill be added to the special session (for the same reason Perry decided to return it to the 82nd Legislative docket).
- Weeks passed in the special session with no word from Perry. Meanwhile, the citizens of Texas became increasingly fed up with Mr. “FED UP!”
- Perry is caught on video verbalizing his intentions to leave the bill out of the special session
- Perry finally adds the bill with only a few days left in the special session, no doubt ensuring its defeat.
The Anti-Grope Bill is Neutered
Late in the special session, amendments were added to the original TSA bill. Two versions emerged, one in the House that was weak enough to lose the support of many; and a second in the Senate which was consider stronger than the new House bill. Both bills replaced the constitutional barrier of “probable cause” with the less stringent “reasonable suspicion”. Constitutional experts insisted “probable cause” was the proper wording due to the personally invasive nature of the searches, but moderation of the bill was the goal or the Texas leadership, if it was to pass at all.
A famous Barry Goldwater quote comes to mind:
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Speaker Straus runs out the clock in the Special Session
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus deserves special attention in his role as the final nail in the coffin of the TSA bill. As the water-down bill entered the special session, it was met with aggressive resistance from Speaker Straus.
- Straus called the bill a “publicity stunt”. Remember, this is a bill that only a few weeks before had passed the Texas house unanimously.
- By not allowing the second reading and vote on the previous day, Straus forced the second and third reading to happen on the same day. By Texas House rules, the third reading then required a 4/5th vote to pass. An unnecessary, yet convenient barrier, engineering by the Speaker.
Supporting Straus’ betrayal and failing to vote for the final reading of the anti-grope bill were the following state representatives in the Texas House:
- Bohac (Houston)
- Geren (Ft. Worth)
- Shelton (Ft. Worth)
- Woolley (Houston)
- Driver (Garland)
- Solomons (Carrollton)
- Taylor (Plano)
Something good in all this comes: Representative Simpson and Senator Patrick
Throughout the painful process two Texas leaders stood out above the rest. Texas State Representative David Simpson, a freshman with firm backing from grassroots organizations; and Texas Senator Dan Patrick, the senate sponsor of the Senate version of the TSA anti-grope bill and someone with the experience needed to move the bill through the process in that chamber. Rumors abound that Dan Patrick will seek the office of Texas governor once Perry’s term expires. Patrick’s performance in the 82nd legislative session assures strong grassroots activist support for his gubernatorial campaign should he seek the office.
David Simpson’s heartfelt speech (video here) on the day the TSA bill was finally killed, summed up the challenges with Texas leadership perfectly:
“Rarely in the history of this legislature has the State’s leadership so masterfully worked against the will of its members and the people they represent. Leadership managed to arrange it so that every member could cast a vote in support of a bill which they ensured would not pass. No doubt, this deception will confound many Texans.” Simpson continued, “But, the people of Texas should not be confused. The explanation is simple and clear. The defeat of this bill can only be laid at the feet of the leadership of this state. However, this is a victory speech. The people in support of this bill have succeeded in shining the light on those who collaborate with the growing tyranny of our federal government.”
Texas leadership blinked; and therefore the state of Texas appeared to blink; however, the will of the people was not served.
The citizens of Texas will never forget the sorry performance of Dewhurst, Straus and, yes, Mr. Perry himself; and are lining up to engage and eject those who betrayed them in the upcoming 2012 Primary elections. It’s not over!