Cries of “Traitor!” and “Treason!” echoed through the Texas state Capitol in Austin as lawmakers passed a watered-down bill against intentional, inappropriate touching during airport security pat-downs.
In a controversy that seems to have more chapters than the old “Dallas” television series, the House and Senate, both Republican dominated, enacted a bill that would make it a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in jail to touch a person’s sexual organs and other sensitive areas. But in a significant change, the bill now gives security officials a defense to prosecution if they act with “reasonable suspicion” that the search is necessary.”
That wrinkle sparked fury among those Texans who want to go to war, figuratively speaking, with the federal government over the pat-down issue, as the Associated Press recounted.
Gov. Rick Perry (R) is expected to sign the bill shortly after the legislators iron out differences between the House and Senate versions. It was Perry who put the issue on the agenda for the special session of the Legislature, as Main Justice reported recently.
Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) said the bill still sends a strong message to Transportation Security Administration screeners not to get too frisky.
Since airport security remains a federal responsibility, there would seem to be a possibility, at least in theory, of a constitutional showdown over the whole issue, as we reported in May. But last we heard, no one is seriously speculating that the airports in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and other Lone Star cities are going idle.