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Texas Attorney General Paxton sues City of Austin and county for not lifting virus mask mandates

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton SUES the City of Austin and Travis County for not lifting local coronavirus mask mandates

  • Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit accuses city and county leaders of not dropping requirements for public mask use
  •  Republican Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back the existing mask rules statewide and said he was reopening businesses ‘100 percent’ beginning Wednesday
  • Paxton gave the city and county a deadline of 6pm Wednesday to rescind local mask mandates or business restrictions 
  •  Austin is known as a Democratic stronghold in the majority Republican state

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against the state’s capital city and the county where it is located for not lifting coronavirus mask mandates.

Paxton’s lawsuit filed Thursday accused the City of Austin and Travis County of maintaining requirements for mask use in public after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott rolled back the mask regulation and all other pandemic-related controls over business operations statewide, Fox News reported.

The lawsuit came a day after Paxton threatened to file the action in a letter Wednesday over the refusal of city and county leaders to drop local mask mandates. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a panel discussion during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 27 in Orlando, Florida

Paxton’s letter said state law ‘supercedes’ local ordinances and has the full force of the state’s authority.

The top law enforcement officer in Texas gave the city and county a deadline of 6pm Wednesday to ‘rescind any local mask mandates or business-operating restrictions.’ 

The right to impose COVID-19 business restrictions in Texas is ‘expressly reserved to private businesses on their own premises,’ Paxton said. 

Under the governor’s order lifting mask restrictions, which took effect Wednesday, local officials cannot impose restrictions related to the coronavirus, Paxton said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his lawsuit against Austin and Travis County in a Twitter post

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his lawsuit against Austin and Travis County in a Twitter post

Paxton sent a letter to the mayor of Austin and a Travis County judge to warn them of the impending lawsuit if they did not rescind local mask mandates by 6 p.m. on March 10

Paxton sent a letter to the mayor of Austin and a Travis County judge to warn them of the impending lawsuit if they did not rescind local mask mandates by 6 p.m. on March 10

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, in May 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, in May 2020

Paxton’s letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown reminded them the state previously brought a similar lawsuit against the city and county and prevailed against them.

Austin is known as a Democratic stronghold in the majority Republican state. 

Adler said in an interview Thursday he expected Paxton to file the lawsuit, but he did not plan to back down.

Austin businesses asked Adler to keep the mask mandate in place to shield them from blame for requiring customers to wear masks, he said.

Gail Diberardinis walks past an Austin Motel sign encouraging people to 'March On and Mask Up' on March 10 in Austin, Texas

Gail Diberardinis walks past an Austin Motel sign encouraging people to ‘March On and Mask Up’ on March 10 in Austin, Texas

Austin Mayor Steve Adler speaks during a press conference in Austin, Texas, on March 6

Austin Mayor Steve Adler speaks during a press conference in Austin, Texas, on March 6

Adler, a Democrat, previously criticized Abbott’s plans to reopen the state.

‘Wearing a mask doesn’t slow down opening up businesses. It doesn’t slow down getting more and more children in school in person,’ Adler said in an interview Saturday.

‘The health folks here in Texas seem to be pretty unanimous that wearing masks helps minimize the risk that we’re not going to be able to open up schools or open up businesses,’ Adler said.

Hemline Austin employee Farrah Graham, left, helps Katherine Kemin of Kansas City with her merchandise on March 10 in Austin, Texas

Hemline Austin employee Farrah Graham, left, helps Katherine Kemin of Kansas City with her merchandise on March 10 in Austin, Texas

Jon Murphy works out at Hyde Park Gym on March 10 in Austin, Texas. The Austin City Council announced its order Tuesday to maintain the city's mask mandate in public places

Jon Murphy works out at Hyde Park Gym on March 10 in Austin, Texas. The Austin City Council announced its order Tuesday to maintain the city’s mask mandate in public places

The Austin City Council announced its order Tuesday to maintain the city’s mask mandate despite the governor’s order to lift the statewide rule.

City officials said the decision stemmed from recommendations by Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.

‘In Austin, we’re committed to saving lives. Period,’ Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar said. ‘If state officials don’t want to do their jobs protecting people from the virus, then we will.’

‘This action is both legal and the right thing to do,’ Casar said. ‘If state officials choose to sue, they’ll be going out of their way to harm the health of Texans.’

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