Written by: Michael Maharrey
cross-posted from the Texas Tenth Amendment Center
Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) introduced a package of bills into the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday that would challenge the TSA’s authority in a number of ways. The first bill, HB 1938, prohibits full body scanning equipment in any Texas airport and provides for criminal and civil penalties on any airport operator who installs the equipment. The second bill, HB 1937, criminalizes touching without consent and searches without probable cause.
HB 1938 reads in part:
(b) An airport operator may not allow body imaging scanning equipment to be installed or operated in any airport in this state.
(c) An airport operator commits an offense if the operator fails to comply with Subsection (b).
(d) An airport operator who commits an offense under Subsection (c) is subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for each day of the violation.
HB 1937 includes the following:
(3) as part of a search performed to grant access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly:
(A) searches another person without probable cause to believe the person committed an offense; and
(B) touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.
(f) …. An offense under Subsection (a)(3) is a state jail felony.
Both bills empower the Texas Attorney General to bring suit in court.
The TSA will likely challenge such a law, but the Texas legislature stands on solid ground. Local governments control airports and no enumerated power in the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to regulate them. Under the Tenth Amendment, airport operation falls under state jurisdiction.
TSA regulations allow for passengers to refuse the body scans, but they must instead submit to an intrusive full-body pat down. This package addresses both issues. The HB 1938 legislation addresses the physical installation of full-body scans, and HB 1937 addresses the problematic constitutional issues of TSA security screening procedures. Random full-body scans and pat downs in the absence of probable cause arguably violates the Fourth Amendment.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…