State Representative Helen Giddings was one of several Democratic lawmakers invited to the Governor's Mansion Monday afternoon for a reception hosted by the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. But she never showed up.
Giddings declined the invitation to protest the requirement that she undergo a background check before being admitted to the mansion. She wasn't the only one to object. Reps. Sylvester Turner, Dawnna Dukes and Harold Dutton all bristled at the requirement.
(Note: The original post incorrectly stated that Giddings arrived at the mansion for the event only to leave after learning of the security measures. Giddings' spokeswoman, Tamara Hobbs, said she knew about the background check beforehand, which was why she chose not to go. "She felt that those requirements were unnecessary. ... She wasn't offended nor turned away," Giddings said).
Their grievances were aired on Thursday at a House Appropriations Committee hearing featuring Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, the man ultimately responsible for setting security policy at the Capitol.
"Is this not enough to get into the governor's mansion?" the Austin American-Statesman quotes Turner as asking, holding up his Capitol ID badge, which was issued by -- you guessed it -- the DPS.
"It appears to make those of us who have been cleared to operate in this building," Giddings offered, according to the Texas Tribune. "It appears to make us suspect when we go into the governor's mansion."
McCraw told lawmakers that everyone except for Governor Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, are required to undergo criminal background checks on anyone entering the residence. A DPS spokesman told the Texas Tribune that the policy has been in place for 10 years.
Turner dismissed the suggestion that race played a factor in the security screenings, arguing instead that the policy is impractical and really doesn't make sense for legislators whom DPS has already screened.
It appears the legislators' complaints may have an effect. The Tribune reports that DPS officials will meet with representatives from Perry's office to revisit security measures.