TX House Approves Airport Pat-Down Bill - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

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TX House Approves Airport Pat-Down Bill

Bill bans "offensive" security pat-downs



    The Texas House passed a bill late Thursday night that would make it a criminal offense for public servants to inappropriately touch travelers during airport security pat-downs, but experts say the measure is unlikely to become law.

    The legislation would make it illegal for anyone conducting searches to touch "the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person" including through clothing.

    It also prohibits searches "that would be offensive to a reasonable person."

    But experts say the bill is unlikely to become law. It must also pass the Texas Senate, and it appears unlikely to do so as the legislative session enters its final days.

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    Even if it is enacted into law, it likely will not be enforced. Airport security is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and federal laws usually win out if there's a conflict with state laws.

    "The first principle is, if the federal government has gotten into an area of law and passed laws that is comprehensive, it weeds out -- preempts -- all other state laws," Dallas attorney Jim Harris said.

    The bill's chief sponsor is Republican Rep. David Simpson, who said, "this has to do with dignity and travel, and prohibiting indecent, groping searches."

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    "We do need to search, and we do need to scan, but there are measures that we can do that without loosing people's dignity and freedom," he said earlier this month.

    Simpson said believes it will keep Transportation Security Administration officials from treating travelers like criminals.

    Harris said the legislation would invite confusion if other states began passing their own laws about airport security.

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    "If Texas can do this, then every other state in the country could do the same thing," he said. "And you've got TSA agents who don't know what standard they're supposed to follow, and the public itself is going to be confused about how they're treated from airport to airport."

    A TSA spokesman declined to comment on the bill earlier this month but said that airport security is a federal matter.

    After a brief but raucous debate, lawmakers approved the measure with little opposition -- drawing applause from supporters.

    NBC DFW's Scott Gordon contributed to this report.

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