Texas Legislature passes appropriations bill, denies anti-groping law

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TSA Anti-Groping Bill

The House of Representatives did not pass the controversial Transportation Security Administration Anti-Groping bill after parliamentary failures to suspend the rules for a third and final reading Wednesday morning. The bill would have criminalized intentional, inappropriate touching by an airport security screener.

The House needed 120 members to vote to suspend the rules for the final reading, but stood at 96-26, effectively killing the bill.

Representatives against the bill said they would rather have freedom over safety, claiming the legislation was against the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, said the new version of the bill would have allowed TSA workers to continue with pat-downs while avoiding prosecution unless they intentionally touch someone inappropriately.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who supported the bill, said that despite the bill being weakened from its original form, the bill would still tell TSA workers to keep their wandering hands off Texans.

“We want our airports safe, but we want our liberties protected too,” Patrick said.

Texas Windstorm Insurance Bill

After lengthy negotiations between both chambers, Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, came to an agreement on language and passed Gov. Rick Perry’s must-pass legislation, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association bill on Tuesday afternoon.

Until the of last minute negotiations, Smithee said the bill would not pass because of important differences between the House and Senate’s version.

Under the legislation, the quasi-governmental agency will be able to limit the amount of damages recovered by homeowners to double the costs plus court fees, and limits the number of lawsuits brought against the insurance association, saving them money in court and lawyer fees.

General Appropriations Bill

The general appropriations bill passed the House and Senate and awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s final approval. The House originally shot down the legislation on Tuesday, the second to last day of special session, then reconsidered their vote and passed the bill 80-71 the same night.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, said that this bill was necessary to pass to avoid a second special session, despite the many protests from public school officials.

The bills were passed without an amendment by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, that would appropriate $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to school districts.

Sanctuary Cities

Despite passing in the House and Senate earlier in the session, sanctuary cities legislation failed Tuesday.

Perry and Speaker Joe Strauss, R-San Antonio, scrutinized Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, for not including sanctuary cities in his general appropriations bill, claiming they were disappointed the Senate removed the language from the bill.

“Unfortunately, Robert Duncan ultimately refused to allow language related to the ban of sanctuary cities into the final version of SB 1,” Perry said in a press release. “Because of this action, the special session will not provide our peace officers with the discretion they need to adequately keep Texans safe from those that would do them harm.”

Duncan responded with a press release that said the primary purpose of SB 1 was to certify the budget and provide funding for our public schools.

“Combining school finance issues in SB 1 with sanctuary cities issues would have placed both of these important measures in jeopardy,” Duncan said.