The Texas bill aimed at criminalizing TSA groping of airline passengers, which was unanimously approved by the state House last month but dropped by its chief Senate sponsor in response to federal threats, has been revived in a special legislative session by Gov. Rick Perry. Today the House passed a revised version of the bill, which applies to a public servant who, "while acting under color of the person's office or employment, without probable cause to believe the other person committed an offense, performs a search without effective consent for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation" and "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through the clothing." In a press release that just arrived in my inbox, the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), says:
We've been working with the Attorney General's office from the very beginning to ensure that the bill will accomplish our goal of stopping the humiliation of travelers while also maintaining language that will withstand judicial scrutiny. Texas citizens deserve to be protected under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution and Article 1 Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. Today the Texas House took a positive step toward protecting those rights.
The bill passed despite resistance from House Speaker Joe Straus, who dismissed it as "an ill-advised publicity stunt," saying he wanted to "send a message without actually harming commercial aviation in Texas" (a reference to U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy's warning that the TSA might be forced to shut down Texas airports) and "without making the Texas Legislature a laughingstock." The ball is now back in the state Senate's court, with two more days to go in the special legislative session.
Earlier today Mike Riggs reviewed some of the incidents that have made this sort of legislation appealing.