Texas tries to stay TSA’s touching

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Opinion Zone,Cheryl K. Chumley

Texas, apparently fed up with the frisking of babies and the molesting of women at its airports by federal government security officers, tried to put a halt to the practice using the proper channels – legislation and law.  State legislators introduced a bill banning the “intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation.”  In essence, HB 1937 sought to prevent Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials from feeling up the frequent-fliers.  TSA agents who didn’t comply would face fines of $4,000, as well as jail time.

Good bill – especially for little girls.

But the federal government, apparently unaccustomed to the Tenth Amendment, responded to the state’s legislation with a tone that has become none-too-uncommon these past couple years: "I am zee law!"  The U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to Texas threatening to bar all air travel to and from the state.

“As you are no doubt aware, the bill makes it a crime for a federal transportation official to perform the security screening that he or she is authorized and required by federal law to perform,” U.S. Attorney John Murphy wrote in his May 24 letter to state Senate leaders in Texas.  “If HR 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute. Unless or until such a stay were granted, 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.”

The letter then goes on to cite the Constitution’s supremacy clause – that states cannot pass laws that conflict with federal authorities.

The supremacy clause, however, only applies when the federal government is acting within its constitutional limits, and Texas finds TSA agents go beyond those limits and infringe upon travelers’ Fourth Amendment rights to be “secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  Thus, HB 1937.

But in the end, the federal pressure was too much. Several in the Texas Senate caved, and on May 25, the bill was withdrawn for lack of support.  Obama Administration 1; women and children, 0.

Cheryl Chumley is online editor of Tea Party Review Magazine.

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