Airport Anti-Groping Law Appears Dead - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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Airport Anti-Groping Law Appears Dead

House Speaker calls bill a "publicity stunt"



    The Texas House adjourned Friday without debating a statewide ban of so-called "intrusive" airport security pat-downs.

    The Austin-American Statesman quoted House Speaker Joe Straus as saying passage of the bill would embarrass the State of Texas.

    “The bill — without some serious revisions — appears to me to be nothing more than an ill-advised publicity stunt. Unenforceable. Ill-advised. Misdirected to uniform security personnel. And not where it appropriately should be aimed, which is in Washington, to the bosses of these people,” Straus said. “I have some other thoughts on how to send a message without actually harming commercial aviation in Texas and without making the Texas Legislature a laughing stock."

    The bill would punish public servants who perform pat-downs considered excessive, making performing them a misdemeanor.

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    The state representative pushing the law said he has made certain changes to the measure, including allowing the Transportation Security Administration 90 days to change its policies.

    "They’ll have time to rewrite their procedures," said Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview. "There’s no federal statute requiring that they grope our private parts as a condition of travel."

    The House approved the measure during the Legislature's regular session, but it died in the Senate after federal officials threatened to ground flights in Texas.

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    The measure was revived by Gov. Rick Perry, who is still deliberating whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He added it to the Legislature's special session agenda under pressure from tea party supporters. But with time running out, the bill may not pass by Wednesday's deadline.

    Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he is trying to change the bill to avoid a confrontation with federal authorities.

    If the bill passes, many legal experts predict a court fight.

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    "I think, very quickly, you would see the federal government step in," said Dallas aviation attorney Will Angelley, a former Navy pilot.

    He predicted Texas would ultimately lose the battle.

    "When a state law conflicts with a federal law, generally the federal law will prevail," Angelley said.

    In a statement, TSA said it is closely monitoring the developments in Austin and threatened to cancel flights in Texas if screeners are not allowed to use security procedures currently in place.

    "Americans rely on TSA to put in place effective procedures to resolve security threats," the agency said.

    Previous Coverage:

     NBCDFW reporter Scott Gordon contributed to an earlier version of this article.