Stop The TSA: Republicans And Democrats Unite To File Traveler Dignity Legislation

(Austin) - A broad coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Texas, led by State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), have introduced legislation to safeguard traveler dignity by restraining the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) use of abusive passenger screening procedures in Texas airports. House Bills 1937 and 1938 and Concurrent Resolution 80 are a response to new screening procedures that the TSA introduced last fall which subject citizens to unreasonable searches that restrict their right to travel freely and with dignity. The full text of the bills and commentary can be found at SupportDignity.com.

"Traveling is not a criminal act. Treating travelers as criminal suspects and forcing innocent citizens to submit to humiliating and unreasonable searches without probable cause as a condition of travel violates protections our forefathers envisioned in Section 9 of the Texas Bill of Rights and the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution," Rep. Simpson stated. “Contrary to what some TSA agents have claimed, we do not believe that you give up your rights when you travel in public."

The bills are joint-authored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), Rep. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), and co-authored by almost 30 other legislators from both parties. The following organizations have formally endorsed the effort: Texas Eagle Forum, the Travis County Republican Party, the Travis County Libertarian Party, Texans for Accountable Government (TAG), KeepAustinFree.org, and the Central Texas Republican Liberty Caucus.

As filed, the bills would prohibit the use of devices that use backscatter x-rays or millimeter waves to create a visual image of a person's unclothed body and prohibit the use of indecent pat-down techniques. Fines would be imposed against violators and state and local authorities would be given authority to enforce the law and to collect the fines.

"This is not a partisan issue. It's about preserving the fundamental right of personal privacy," stated Rep. Eddie Rodriguez. "And I'm glad to join my colleagues in both parties to defend the dignity of our fellow Texans."

“I support measures that make our nation‟s airways safer but we cannot sacrifice the dignity and rights of our citizens in the process,” added Rep. Jose Menendez. Rep. Simpson concurred: “The choice we must make is not between security and liberty. It is liberty with security. Reasonable means of protection are available.”

HB 1937, HB 1938, and HCR 80 follow similar movements in the city of Austin, in other states, and in Washington, D.C. that oppose oppressive TSA activity. On December 14, 2010 the Austin Airport Advisory Commission -- passed a unanimous resolution calling upon the Council to “oppose the installation of [Advance Imaging Technology scanners] at [Austin-Bergstrom International Airport] and further oppose the practice of invasive body searching.” “Texas has a long tradition of defending its constitutional rights when tyranny threatens,” noted Simpson. “Though times have changed, this much has not: Texans will not abide their liberties being violated. As Sam Houston said, Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may.”

Texas joins New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania in advancing major legislation that would ban the TSA's invasive new screening policies. New Jersey State Senator Michael Doherty introduced three bills last December 6 that would make certain offensive body searches a crime of sexual assault, prohibit unwarranted use of body imaging scanners, and specify that certain images generated by body scans violate New Jersey statutes which prohibit invasions of privacy, pornography, and endangerment of child welfare. New Hampshire's HB628- FN would accomplish similar ends.

U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (TX-14) has also introduced legislation in Congress to rein in the TSA's abuses. Paul‟s American Traveler Dignity Act seeks to establish that airport security screeners are not immune from any U.S. law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery.

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