Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) says he's suing the city of Austin over a mask mandate the AG says violates an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
In a letter addressed to Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) and Travis County Judge Andy Brown (D) on Wednesday, Paxton issued an ultimatum threatening legal action if the mandate wasn't lifted by 6 p.m.
Paxton said the city's order is null because of Abbott's GA-34, which stated that "no person may be required by any jurisdiction to wear a face covering." Paxton added that there are currently no operating limits for any business due to COVID-19 and that local officials may not impose any such limits unless certain conditions are met under guidelines established by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
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Paxton said GA-34 has the force and effect of state law and that it supersedes local rules and regulations.
"The decision to wear masks or otherwise impose COVID-19-related operating limits is expressly reserved to private businesses on their own premises. It does not rest with jurisdictions like the City of Austin or Travis County or their local health authorities," Paxton wrote. "We've already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost. If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we'll take you to court again and you will lose again."
According to KXAN-TV in Austin, Austin leaders and Brown said Wednesday they had no plans to rescind their orders for the area and 6 p.m. came and went with no change in the city's guidance.
Paxton hopped on Twitter Thursday afternoon to say Adler and Brown blew him off and that he'd be "dragging them to court."
Also on Twitter Thursday, Adler responded to the AG saying he and Brown "will fight to defend and enforce public health guidance" and that "Masks save lives."
Adler's tweet included a link to a longer statement where his office said the attorney general, "filed a lawsuit against Austin area leadership for trying to maintain the practices which are working to open schools and businesses, to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations and to keep Austin and Travis County residents safe."
“Judge Brown and I will fight to defend and enforce our local health officials’ rules for as long as possible using all the power and tools available to us. We promised to be guided by the doctors, science and data as concerns the pandemic and we do everything we can to keep that promise," Adler said. "Wearing masks is perhaps the most important thing we can do to slow the spread of the virus. We are not aware of any Texas court that has allowed state leadership to overrule the health protection rules of a local health authority.”
“Masks work! The Attorney General is simply wrong,” Adler said.