Politics

Texas AG Ken Paxton sues city of Austin for maintaining local mask-mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin for maintaining the local order requiring the use of face masks following Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) elimination of the state-wide mask mandate.

Gov. Abbott issued Executive Order No. GA-34 relating to the opening of Texas in response to the pandemic. This executive order repeals most of the Governor’s earlier executive orders related to COVID-19. Effective as of Friday, the state-imposed mask mandate has been lifted. Additionally, all businesses and facilities can increase their capacity to 100%. The county judge may use COVID-19 related mitigation strategies; however, no jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face-covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear a face-covering (GA-34).

Despite announcing the lift of the mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions, Austin officials indicated that they would fight to keep a mask mandate in the city. The lawsuit has been filed against Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), Travis County Judge Andy Brown, and Mark Escott, the interim Medical Director and Health Authority for Austin. The lawsuit filed Thursday states that individual businesses can determine to require masks or impose COVID-19-related operating limits. This is reserved for private businesses on their premises. Executive Order GA-34 bans local government’s from requiring the wearing of face masks.

AG Paxton asked the court for a temporary restraining order, prohibiting Austin from enforcing its mask order. AG Paxton notified Mayor Adler on Wednesday that he would sue if the mask mandate wasn’t lifted. As of last Thursday, the Attorney General’s office has filed suit against the City of Austin and Travis County. With the ongoing, nationwide debate over public health rules enforced due to COVID-19, this lawsuit sets a precedent. Mayor Adler expressed that “Judge Brown and I will continue to do everything within our power, using every tool available to us to reduce the spread of the virus, to keep as many people as alive as possible, to safely open up schools to more in-person learning and safely more businesses.”

Furthermore, Judge Brown stated that the attorney general was “failing” to prioritize the health of the community. As of now, Austin will continue to enforce health regulations that were initially adopted in July of 2020 and will remain in place through April 15 of this year. Under these regulations, businesses and facilities must require individuals to wear face-masks along with taking safety precautions which includes social distancing. Failure to comply could lead to a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000.

ARTICLE: GABRIELLA ANTOS

POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

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