In short, HB80 and SB20 seeks to amend what are called the “official oppression” statutes, which describe what state actors cannot do to citizens while under the color of their office. These critical statutes protect citizens from abuse by public officials, and citizens can seek remedies and prosecution of the officials whenever they encounter abuse. HB80 and SB20 amend the statutes to include non-probable cause searches amongst the list of prohibited activities.
Both bills are good, but there are a few reasons why HB80 is slightly better than SB20.
1. HB80 includes language that prohibits the removal of a child from a parent or guardian for a non-probable cause search. SB20, however, does not have such language. The TSA says they do not have a “separation” policy, but this language is important because it ensures they are legally bound not to do so.
2. HB80 does not include the “knowingly or recklessly” standard used in SB20. Retaining such a standard gives the state actor a potentially vague language to take advantage of in a suit. Clarifying that it is only intent that matters, as in HB80, is more important.
3. HB80 states clearly that travel cannot be prohibited if you refuse a non-probable cause search. Currently, if you were to refuse to be scanned or patted-down in an airport and wished to simply leave, you could not do so and you would be arrested if you tried. This insane policy has to stop, and HB80’s language not only stops the potential of citizens being arrested for refusal, but forces the state to acknowledge that you may travel even if you refuse the non-probable cause search.
4. HB80 defines both federal AND state employees in the definition of “public servant”. SB20 only applies to federal employees such as the TSA, but HB80 is actually applicable to ALL Texas employees as well, such as police officers or sheriffs. The Constitution needs to apply to EVERYONE.
5. HB80 includes a “severability clause”. What this clause does is makes each element of the enforcement of the statute separate from one another in a potential case. In other words, if a state actor is found not guilty for one part of the statute, such a verdict does not prevent him from being guilty of another part.
These differences are not trivial, and TTF would encourage Sen. Patrick to consider these differences carefully and to change SB20 accordingly. If you are in Sen. Patrick’s difference, please encourage him to continue progress with his bill and make it even better for the people of Texas.