TSA Airport Screenings Still Under Fire in Texas


A new law under which TSA agents could face $4,000 in fines and a year in prison for "invasive" airport searches is alive and well in Texas thanks to budget wrangling in the Lonestar State.

Though the Texas House passed the "no touching" bill in May, the state senate failed to vote on the issue during the legislative term, which should have ended last month but didn't because of a budget fight. Now Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is urging Governor Rick Perry to call the don't mess with Texans law to a vote during the ongoing special session.

In a letter sent at the end of May, Dewhurst urged the Governor--a potential 2012 presidential hopeful--to consider calling HB 1937 to a vote and State Senator Dan Patrick hit CNN Monday morning to call for the swift passage of the bill, which he claimed would prevent illegal and humiliating groping.

Senator Patrick was dismissive of the federal reaction to the proposed anti-TSA bill. In a letter last month, U.S. Attorney John Murphy said that "If the bill were enacted... TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew."

"This is just the Federal Government bullying states," said Senator Patrick.

TSA screenings have become something of a wedge issue thanks to a series of incidents involving a beauty queen, a woman in a bunny suit, a baby, and, last week, a violation that a camera operator failed to capture on film not to mention the infamous "Don't Touch My Junk" moment.

Protesters have already stormed the Texas capital demanding that action be taken and waving signs like "TSA: Get out of my pants."

The main source of ire seems to be the TSA's random screening policy, which even angry pols admit is not totally random: Only passengers who set off metal detectors or refuse to enter an AIT full body scanner are patted down.

But the TSA has made enemies outside of Texas. Alaska, Washington, New Jersey and Utah are all considering legislation that would tie the TSA's hands so to speak. New Hampshire has also considered passing a law banning patdowns. And the revolution is also being twitterized: @TSAagent has been tweeting mocking dispatches from his "war on clothing."

More seriously, John Mica, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee released a study on Friday claiming that the government-paid screeners at Los Angeles International cost $39 million more a year than private contractors would.

The TSA agent's union called the report partisan, which is politician for saying this issue isn't going anywhere any time soon.

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