The Texas House and Senate passed a version of the notorious “anti-groping bill”on Monday that would criminalize TSA pat-down procedures, but the language may make it impossible for the legislation to be enforced.
The revised version of the legislation criminalizes inappropriate touching, making it a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in jail if a TSA agent touches a person’s sexual organs. But agents will not be charged if they act with “reasonable suspicion” that a search is necessary.
Prior formulations of the bill called for “probable cause,” which is a more stringent standard than suspicion. For example, opting out of a body scan is now considered a cause of reasonable suspicion.
Many argue that the loose standards of reasonable suspicion make the penalties unenforceable. Additionally, agents can not be prosecuted if their actions are “pursuant to and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.”
Meanwhile, the law itself appears to be redundant. Texas already has a policy that bans public servants from intentionally carrying out an unlawful search.
Conservative activists gathered at the state capital on Monday to protest the reformation of the bill, arguing that the current language is worse than no bill at all.
Surprisingly, Texas State Representative David Simpson, who was one of the original champions of the bill, has remained relatively quiet about the passing.
Simpson, who was looking for the bill to defend against “federal government tyranny,” released a measured statement regarding cooperation with the state’s attorney’s office to guarantee that it has “language that will withstand public scrutiny.”
The controversial bill has appeared dead in the water several times.
In response to an original formulation of the bill, the TSA threatened to cancel all flights to Texas. The bill was taken off the agenda during the regular session of the legislature and was put back on in the special session due to heavy lobbying from Tea Party and Libertarian sections of the Republican Party.
The Texas Senate and House are reviewing at additional amendments to change the bill back to the original formulation. They have until Wednesday to resolve several differences in the amendments before they will need to send the bill to Gov. Rick Perry to consider signing it into a law.
By Lily J. Kosner for PeterGreenberg.com.
Related Links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Texas Takes On The TSA: Anti-Groping Bill May Be Revived
- TSA Privacy Backlash Grows With Release Of Body Scan Images
- Check Your Attitude At The Airport, TSA Behavioral Officers May Be Watching
- Travel Safety & Security section