AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A bill seeking to ban invasive pat-downs by airport security officials failed to get final approval by the Texas legislature before lawmakers ended their special session on Wednesday.
“This is not the last effort to stop unreasonable searches,” bill sponsor Representative David Simpson said in a speech on the House floor. “I am not giving up.”
The Texas legislature only meets every two years.
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who is thinking of running for president, added the measure to the agenda for the special session after conservative and Tea Party activists pushed for him to do so.
But the bill -- which would have made it a crime for a Transportation Security Administration agent to “touch the anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breast of another person” -- prompted opposition from the federal government.
U.S. Attorney John Murphy circulated a letter to senators warning that TSA has the authority to prevent airplanes from taking off from Texas airports if the agency cannot certify that they are safe.
During the special session, versions of the measure passed out of the House and Senate, both of which have Republican majorities. But the Senate adjourned on Tuesday without passing the House version of the pat-down bill.
TSA pat-downs have drawn some high-profile criticism, including from former Miss USA Susie Castillo, who said in a widely-viewed online video. that she felt “molested” by a pat-down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in April.
More recently, the daughter of a 95-year-old woman criticized the agency after she said TSA agents at a Florida airport refused to clear her mother through security because her adult diaper had a wet substance. TSA said its officers acted professionally and that they did not require the woman to remove the diaper.
“We wish we lived in a world where you could just walk on a plane with no security screening, but that just isn’t the case unfortunately,” the agency said in a blog post this week in response to the Texas legislation. “Aviation security agencies worldwide have been using pat-downs long before TSA was created to prevent dangerous items from getting onto airplanes.”
(Editing by Greg McCune)
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