Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry reintroduced a bill that would make it a felony in his state for employees of the federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to conduct pre-flight pat down searches at security check points.
It looks like Idaho might follow Perry’s lead when lawmakers meet in Boise next year.
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, told IdahoReporter.com said he may address search methods in the next legislative session, set to begin in January. “I do plan on revisiting the issue,” said Hart, who unsuccessfully pushed a bill to limit the use of full body scanners at public airports in Idaho in 2010.
Hart says he is looking into the problem, but isn’t certain if the bill he crafts will mirror the Texas legislation. “Whether it will be like the Texas bill, I don’t know,” he explained.
Hart could likely count on support from his seatmate and political ally, Rep. Vito Barbieri, a Republican from Dalton Gardens. Barbieri, co-author of a bill to prevent certain parts of the 2010 federal health reform bill from being implemented in Idaho, told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday that he would support a Texas-like bill if the details are right. “I would, of course, want to see the details,” Barbieri said.
Barbieri said the TSA is perfect evidence of a federal government agency that has run amok. “The TSA is a prime example of the federal government intruding needlessly,” he said. “The way they have set this bureaucracy up is mind-boggling.”
Perry added the bill to a list of legislation Texas lawmakers will address in an upcoming special session. The first version of the legislation was scrapped after U.S. attorney John Murphy sent a letter to state lawmakers saying that the legislation would criminalize a practice mandated by federal regulations.
Murphy also warned that the state had no authority to essentially cancel out the pat down process and threatened that “TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of the passengers and crew.”
Hart wants to examine if TSA really has the authority to conduct pat down searches. “I don’t know if they have that authority,” he said. But, even if the agency does have the ability to pat down travelers, Hart said, the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment may prohibit it. “I think pat downs for everybody or scans of their naked bodies are unreasonable searches and not allowed by the Fourth Amendment. I prefer that we follow the Constitution.”
Barbieri said he wouldn’t back down if the Idaho Legislature was threatened by TSA over an anti-pat down bill. “I would follow through with the state sovereignty issue on behalf of the citizens of Idaho,” he stated.
If Gem State lawmakers decide to follow Texas, it wouldn’t be the first time the Idaho Legislature has pursued a measure to clamp down on TSA pre-flight screening methods.
The bill Hart brought in 2010 would have banned full body scanners from airports and some other public buildings. Hart told his colleagues in the House that the science behind the machines, which provide a picture of a traveler essentially without clothes, is spotty and that they might pose a cancer risk.
Hart’s legislation would have used the state’s police power to prohibit the machines from being installed or used in public airports or city, county, or state buildings.
The measure passed the Idaho House on a 58-9 vote, enjoying bipartisan support from legislators. It died, however, when it failed to receive a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
Hart’s bill may not have mattered anyway, or so said Idaho deputy attorney general James Carlson. In a legal opinion about the measure, Carlson wrote that even if the Senate and the governor had gone along with the plan, the law would have been preempted by federal regulation.
Carlson’s legal opinion didn’t stop Hart from pushing the bill. The Athol Republican gained bill approval from a House committee 11 days after receiving the legal opinion.