Tuesday, 07 February 2012

Texas State Rep., if Reelected, Will Reintroduce Popular Anti-TSA Bill

Written by  Kelly Holt

Though the Republican presidential debates have garnered much of the media spotlight of late, controversies such as those surrounding the Transportation Safety Administration are still very much alive. And one man who is determined to keep up the battle against the TSA's unconstitutional overreach is Texas State Rep. David Simpson (left), who has just filed for reelection. If elected to the 2013 biennial legislature, he has promised to reintroduce his signature bill from the 2011 session, the anti-groping Traveler Dignity Act.

Simpson, who nearly brought down the TSA's authority in the Lone Star State last year, has never let go of the issue. His 2011 bill enjoyed wildly popular support among Texans, and initially, 100-percent approval in both houses of the legislature. However, as reported at the time by The New American's Alex Newman:

[the act], which would have made TSA agents liable for sexual assault when groping passengers without probable cause, was pulled from the Senate floor after the Department of Justice sent a letter threatening to create what critics called a "no-fly zone" over the state by preventing flights to or from Texas airports. The legislation ... sailed through the Texas House earlier ... with a unanimous vote. It was then sent to the state Senate.

But before Texas senators had a chance to vote on the legislation, U.S. Attorney John Murphy sent high-ranking state officials a stark warning: Kill the bill or else.

The bill eventually failed in the Senate through the use of a procedural maneuver.

Simpson has emphasized that his legislation is about much more than TSA abuses:

The fundamental issue, a bigger issue is that it’s about the constitution. Are we going to allow the agency to just implement procedures on its own say-so? It was freedom, not force that built this country. ...

The abandonment of constitutional protections is all around us. ... The TSA is trying to appear reasonable, but they want to get us used to being treated like criminals. Instead of protecting liberty and freedom of movement, they are restricting it.

He has also noted that it is necessary for more states to pass laws against the TSA's policies, explaining:

People thought it was a federal, instead of a state, issue; therefore, they thought they had no recourse. But these issues are really state issues. Consequently, some states are enabling this unconstitutional overreach. ...

We’ve given up voluntarily, and need to be responsible for our own self-government... If feds won’t prosecute violations, states should.

Americans around the country are fed up with the TSA's policies. Washington State Sen. Val Stevens told The New American that she is spearheading legislation similar to Simpson's Traveler Dignity Act. In April of 2011, she wrote U.S. Rep John Mica of Florida, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, voicing her concern over TSA practices. Mica’s response revealed a disturbing turn of events:

The SPP (Screening Partnership Program) was established in the Aviation Transportation Security Act (ATSA) after [9/11] to allow airport authorities to choose the best security model for their facility by providing an option to utilize qualified privatized screeners for security screening instead of TSA screeners. Since that communication, numerous airport authorities across the Nation have been considering using this option.

On January 28th, [2011] without proper consultation with Congress, TSA abruptly and arbitrarily called a halt to the SPP. This action temporarily removed the lawful right of airport authorities to determine the best security model for their airport, clearly violating the intent and spirit of the law. Unfortunately, TSA also denied pending SPP applications from six airports since its announcement at the end of January. However, be advised TSA’s action is currently being challenged in Congress, not only by me but by other members of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. You should also know that a number of airports are considering legal action against TSA, which I hope can be avoided.

Mica also noted he had initiated a full investigation of the matter.

Stevens didn’t stop with her bill and the letter to Mica. She and Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna founded — and serve as co-chairs of — United States for Travel Freedom (USTF), a caucus of elected state officials committed to reversing the invasive and unconstitutional policies of the TSA. Stevens commented:

When David Simpson’s bill was receiving so much attention, many members of USTF around the country called Governor Perry and asked him to make sure the bill was listed in Texas’ special session. We had a conference call and made the decision to call Perry and ask for this because we are so concerned and thought Texas had a chance at victory.

Stevens says that while she has little support for her bill from fellow legislators, there is a great deal of popular backing. She acknowledges that she doesn't expect the degree of support Simpson had, but is using the legislation as an "educational tool."

Last year Stevens' USTF co-chair Alaska State Rep. Cissna endured a traumatic search at the hands of the TSA, prompting her to introduce a bill similar to Simpson's into the Alaska State House. Lawmakers of Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New Hampshire have also introduced anti-TSA legislation. General concern is growing, and becoming organized. In 2011, USTF joined with a private organization of non-elected people to oppose the TSA.

Texan David Simpson also noted, “This topic should be a subject of debate in the presidential race, but we don’t hear much.” Not, that is, until GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul launched a money bomb asking supporters to "help me win this race and fight back for our civil liberties." The Texas Congressman initiated the effort after his son Senator Rand Paul’s recent ordeal with the TSA. Ron Paul’s National Press Secretary Gary Howard says donations will be used to forward Paul’s campaign, but the real significance is the attention it brings to the issue. “Dr. Paul is the only candidate talking about this. In 2010 he introduced legislation [the American Traveler Dignity Act] to hold TSA employees accountable to the same standards as regular citizens. In other words, anything a citizen can’t legally do to another, TSA employees can’t do either, such as assault.”

On Jan. 29, CNN's Candy Crowley asked Rep. Paul what would replace the TSA if it were abolished. He replied:

It shouldn’t be government. The people who protect very dangerous chemical plants have private sources. They have their police guards, they have their fences, they have their security and do a very good job.

The assumption that government has to do this is a wrong assumption. It totally voids the concept of the Fourth Amendment. It doesn’t make us safe and totally undermines our liberties.

David Simpson observed of the prospects for passage of his bill in Texas the next time around: "The success that my bill had really came from the people, the grassroots. If we get started early enough next time ... we’ll have a better chance of passage.”

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