Ken Paxton Sues the City of Austin for Keeping Illegal Mask Mandate and Restrictions in Place
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has sued the City of Austin for refusing to lift its mask mandate and other restrictions.
Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s lifting of the statewide mask mandate and capacity limits on businesses, Austin and Travis County authorities announced on Tuesday that they would maintain their “health authority rules” requiring masks, social distancing in groups of ten or fewer people, and other protocols for at least another month.
“In advance of GA-34 going into effect across the State of Texas tomorrow, March 10, Austin-Travis County is emphasizing that the health authority rules initially adopted in July 2020, remain in place through April 15, 2021, unless modified or extended,” the city said in a press release. “Under the existing health authority rules, businesses and other sites must require individuals to wear a face covering, with some exceptions. Businesses should also clean and disinfect high touch items, require at least six feet between groups of ten or less, and post face covering and hygiene signage.”
“In the City of Austin, an individual must also wear a face covering when outside of their residence,” it added.
Then on Wednesday Attorney General Paxton wrote a letter to Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Austin mayor Steve Adler. He stated that the continued imposition of these restrictions is illegal and added that he would sue them if they didn’t comply with the state.
“GA-34 has the force and effect of state law and supersedes local rules and regulations,” Paxton said. “The decision to require 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. Nor do they have the authority to threaten fines for non-compliance.”
In a real banger of a line, Paxton also wrote that “we have 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.” He was referring to the Texas Supreme Court blocking Brown and Adler’s attempt to ban both indoor and outdoor dining and drinking over New Year’s Eve weekend.
Paxton followed through on his promise Thursday afternoon, tweeting that “I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law. They blew me off. So once again, I am dragging them to court.”