To the dismay of many Texans and of civil libertarians nationwide, after a dramatic struggle this week, the Texas legislature's special session ended on a sour note with the defeat of Rep. David Simpson's bill opposing invasive TSA searches of airline passengers.
The failure of the bill was made considerably more bitter by the underhanded tactics by which a tiny faction of the House leadership scuttled the bill against overwhelming support from both parties and the public. With all of the hard work put into promoting the bill by grassroots groups, its defeat under questionable circumstances has redirected anger originally aimed only at the TSA to political leaders in Texas, particularly House Speaker Joe Straus.
The story of how such a widely supported bill could end up not being passed is an object lesson of how easily the will of the people can be subverted by those who value power over principle.
During the regular legislative session Rep. Simpson's anti-groping bill made it through the House of Representatives by unanimous acclamation . It was passed out of committee and onto to the floor of the Senate where it was set to pass when the TSA stepped in and lobbied against it and the Department of Justice issued a letter threatening to close Texas airports if it passed. This lead Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to apply his influence to get the bill which was minutes from passing pulled from the floor.
As the inevitable special session approached, Senator Dan Patrick and other supporters convinced the governor to come on board and support the bill and agree to sign it if they could get a pledge from a majority of the members of the House and Senate to support it. This would let them fast-track the bill through both houses and to the governor for his signature quickly without unduly delaying other legislation.
They got the votes. They notified the Governor's office that they had the votes and they asked the Governor to call the bill for the special session. Governor Perry was out of town doing a pre-presidential tour and when confronted by a citizen journalist and asked about the bill he said that he was not aware that the necessary votes had been pledged, but when he returned to Austin on Sunday the 19th of June he did put the bill on the call for Monday the 20th.