Despite overwhelming support, ”restrain-the-TSA” anti-groping legislation (HB 41/SB 29) died this morning by parliamentary procedure when it failed to get sufficient votes to suspend the Texas Constitution to allow 2nd and 3rd readings of the bill in the House on the same day.
The Senate version SB 29, considered the stronger bill by its original author State Representative David Simpson (HD-7), was inserted in lieu of the House bill HB 41, and passed its 2nd reading in the Texas House by a supermajority 106 ayes/27 nays.
Unfortunately, and deliberately, today was the last day of the special session, and to become law it would have had to be read for its 2nd and 3rd times. The Texas Constitution prohibits multiple readings of a bill on the same day unless 4/5ths of the 150 member body consents to suspend the Constitution to pass the bill.
This would not have happened if the state’s two most powerful Republican leaders had not worked in concert to defeat the profound popular will of Texans. Governor Rick Perry waited to call the bill into the special legislative until it was virtually too late. Perry continually claimed a need for a “consensus” when strong majority votes were there all the time and the Executive Committee of the State Republican Party had urged him to do so soon after the start of the special session.
The Governor must have developed a case of political tone deafness. An open records request by the Longview News Journal has uncovered that his office received over 10,000 pieces of correspondence from the public urging Gov. Perry to support the passage of Representative Simpson’s legislation between May 16th and June 20th, with only 13 messages opposed to the measures. Yet, throughout that time period “Mr. Fed Up” continually claimed there was not enough ”consensus” to warrant calling the bill into special session.
House Speaker Joe Straus violated House rules by not bringing HB 41 for a vote in its 1st reading last Friday, June 24th as scheduled by the House Calendars committee. Rather, after declaring a quorum, Speaker Straus quickly adjourned the House on Friday without doing any business, which was a great disappointment to many state representatives who specifically flew into Austin to ensure the quorum. No other business but HB 41 was scheduled before the body that day.
Late Friday afternoon, Speaker Straus characterized HB 41 as nothing more than a “publicity stunt” to the media. HB 41 subsequently passed its 1st reading in the House by unanimous voice vote on Monday afternoon (June 27th), at a point in time when it was no longer eligible to become law by passage through the Senate.
Sensing the deliberate derailing of the legislation, Republican Senator Dan Patrick secured the support of two (2) Democrat Senators to change the Senate rules, which allowed the Senate to draft and pass SB 29 through committee and on the Senate floor before the body adjorned for the session. The Senate version had the support of the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Texas County and District Attorney Association. SB29 ensured that Texas would have standing if the bill were ever challenged in federal court when enacted into law.
Speaker Straus refused to acknowledge the Senate messenger’s delivery of SB 29 after it was passed Monday night. This set up the need to suspend the Texas Constitution on the last day of the special legislative session to allow 2nd and 3rd readings of the Senate version of the bill. The Speaker’s deliberate obfuscations had rendered the House version, (made weaker at the Speaker’s own insistence), ineligible for passage since the Senate had already adjourned before it could be considered.
Had Straus allowed the Senate messenger to deliver SB 29 at the time it was presented, the bill’s 2nd reading could have been completed yesterday (Tuesday, June 28th), leaving today open for a constitutionally proper 3rd reading. Instead, in a politically vulgar move, the Speaker violated House rules (and the law) and manipulated the proceedings to force Representative Simpson to have to suspend the State Constitution to achieve final passage of SB 29.
Both Perry and Straus professed support and publicly took credit for protecting your 4th amendment rights by passing a severely compromised bill in the House Monday afternoon, knowing full well that time had run out on the bill before it could be entered into law. At the Speaker’s insistence, floor amendments gutted the House version of the bill by exempting the TSA from any prosecution. Although the Senate did accommodate another key demand of the Speaker by permitting TSA to grope private parts if it established “reasonable suspicion” instead of the higher threshold of “probable cause”, it seems the Republican leadership (Governor Perry and Speaker Straus) are four square in support of seeing your IV amendment rights violated by federal bureaucrats that have no proper law enforcement training.
In an unusual twist, Democrats cited “national security” as grounds for “taking down the bill” in their floor speaches. In conversations in the halls of the state capitol, it was clear the Democrats were withdrawing the support necessary to suspend the constitution because they did not want the popular disgust for TSA to become another issue for their already embattled and unpopular president. In the floor debate it was pointed out to the Democrats that their national security arguments were moot because the bill did NOT prevent a TSA search, it only established the requirement of reasonable suspicion to perform one on your genitals, breast and rear end, but rational arguments held no sway.
The vote to suspend the constitution fell short of the 120 votes needed and failed by a vote 96 ayes/26 nays. Although we are certain Governor Perry’s disengenuous political reflex will be to blame the Democrats for not agreeing to suspend the Constitution to allow a 3rd House reading of the bill, his failure to call the bill in a timely manner despite numerous requests to do so, his total lack of stewardship in the process, and Speaker Joe Straus’ willful misconduct are the principal reasons why the legislation was derailed.
This citizen sees Mr. “Fed Up” as little more than Bill Clinton adorned in Republican clothing. It is our sincere hope that Republican primary voters will see past the media glitz and deal a blow to the party establishment’s favorite son and Bilderberg attendee.
Over the weeks to come StopAustinScanners will be writing an Autopsy of Liberty to provide you an historical accounting including detailed first-hand information on what happened today from the key players involved in this miscarriage of justice.