A Utah lawmaker is looking to follow the Texas State Legislature in proposing a law that bans searches by airport security officials on airline passengers.
Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, has opened a bill file that states Transportation Security Administration agents would not be exempt from the same requirements that a law enforcement official has when trying to perform a search on a person.
"It is a work in progress," Wimmer said. "What it would do right now is simply say TSA agents are not exempt from the requirement of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pat down a citizen."
Wimmer's bill initially is being modeled after a bill that was being considered in the Texas Legislature, House Bill 1937. That bill states it would be an offense to search a person without probable cause and if the person performing the search touches the sexual organs of the other person receiving the search.
The bill caused some controversy in Texas, as a U.S. attorney from San Antonio reportedly sent a letter to Texas lawmakers claiming the state had no authority to regulate federal agents and employees. The letter went on to say the federal government would seek to block the law if passed and that TSA would likely shut down any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of the passengers and crew.
The bill passed the House of Representatives in the Lone Star State but appears to have died on its Senate floor.
Wimmer says that the U.S. attorney is wrong in saying the federal government has supremacy in the matter.
"The absolute overbearing audacity of the federal government in threatening Texas while Texas is trying to protect their citizens should really offend any red-blooded American," he said.
Wimmer says the issue has morphed from being a 4th Amendment issue -- the amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures -- and has become a 10th Amendment issue in protecting states' rights.
Wimmer did say he is not opposed to a search of a person by a TSA agent as long as they fall under the same standards as a search by a law enforcement officer. Wimmer, who once was a full-time police officer, said that he had to follow a certain criteria before searching a person, and said the same should be expected of the airport agents. He went on to say that as he travels he has seen many law-abiding citizens subjected to a search for no reason and says it is time to look at changing that process.
"It does not feel like America when you are going through a TSA checkpoint at the airport," he said.
The bill is still being drafted and won't be up for consideration until the 2012 legislative session begins in January.