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Texas governor revives TSA anti-groping bill

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  June 21, 2011 10:18 AM

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Texas Governor Rick Perry on Monday gave new life to a measure that would make intrusive patdowns by TSA agents a criminal offense, adding the bill for consideration at a special session of the Texas Legislature.

The bill was passed in the Texas House in May but failed in the Senate last month after US Attorney John E. Murphy sent a letter to state officials citing constitutional primacy of federal laws over state restrictions and threatening to shut down air travel in the Lone Star State.

Concerns and calls for action have arise in a number of states in the wake of the introduction of full-body scan technologies and more invasive body search procedures by TSA. Consumer ire has been fueled by a handful of high-profile cases, which include viral videos of the patdown of a young girl by TSA officials and a denouncement by a teary former Miss USA alleging that airport screeners touched her genitals multiple times

The Texas restrictions sought to make TSA pat-downs of breasts, buttocks, or genitals that "would be offensive to a reasonable person'' a misdemeanor. Convicted suspects would face a $4,000 fine and one year in jail.

After the measure died in the Senate, Texas officials reported a deluge of criticism from consitutents, angry over what they viewed as an overreach by federal authorities.

When Perry recently called a special legislative session for other matters, supporters of the bill -- at least some of whom are Tea Party activists -- saw an opportunity to resurrect it and began calls for the governor to add the measure to items for consideration.

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