Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dewhurst: Airport-groping bill to get another chance

By Mike Ward | Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 09:13 PM

Defending himself against charges that he lobbied against passage of a controversial airport groping ban, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says he will give the bill another chance to be passed into law later tonight.

In his first public comments on the issue that exploded late last night, when Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, stopped debate on House Bill 1937 and then accused Dewhurst of lobbying to kill his bill while it was being debated — taboo in the upper chamber.

Dewhurst said Patrick was wrong, that he left the podium after debate on the bill began to talk to senators about another bill, the sanctuary-cities bill. Several senators then approached him, asking why he had allowed Patrick’s bill to be debated when it did not have the votes to pass.

He said Patrick misinterpreted his actions.

Earlier today, Patrick had ramped up the debate with this comment: “Someone who will not stand up to the federal government, you have to ask yourself, is that the kind of person we need in the U.S. Senate?”

Dewhurst is considering running for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Patrick said the bill was dead, and that Dewhurst had killed it.

Not so, said Dewhurst a few minutes ago.

He said he plans to let Patrick bring up the bill for a vote later tonight. “If it passes, it passes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t,” he said.

Several senators said earlier today they were wary of voting for the bill, after federal officials delivered a letter Tuesday to state officials saying that passage of a state law that could leave their airport-security facing possible criminal charges for touching the private parts of people during pat searches would probably be illegal.

The letter also warned that the federal Transportation Security Administration might be forced to cancel airline flights in Texas if the bill passed.

The failure of the bill to pass last night was the focus of boisterous protests at the state Capitol earlier today, who targeted Dewhurst for specific criticism. Placard-waving demonstrators at one point tried to storm into the Senate gallery but were blocked by state troopers.

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