Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday threatened to sue the city of Austin for choosing to keep its COVID-19 mask mandate for businesses in place.
The AG accused Austin of not complying with Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent executive order, which ended his statewide mask mandate and banned coronavirus restrictions on businesses.
The governor’s order “has the force and effect of state law and supersedes local rules and regulations,” Paxton said in a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown.
“You and local health authorities have until 6:00pm today to rescind any mask mandates or business-operating restrictions and come into full compliance with GA-34,” Paxton wrote on Twitter. “Otherwise, on behalf of the State of Texas, I will sue you.”
He followed the threat with a taunt, writing, “City/county leaders must not be thinking clearly. Maybe it’s oxygen deprivation from quintuple-masking.”
The letter came after Adler and Brown on Tuesday said that masks would still be required inside Austin businesses, with violators subject to a fine of up to $2,000, under local rules set in July and expiring next month, the Austin-American Statesman reported.
“There’s two state laws in the health and safety code of the state, that specifically gives cities the ability to enforce laws reasonably necessary to protect the public health,” Adler told local outlet KXAN Tuesday.
Paxton argued that the governor’s order specifically states that 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 face coverings.”
But when asked Wednesday whether he planned to do away with the city rules, Adler said “No.”
This isn’t the first time that city and state leaders have scrapped over pandemic-related rules.
Paxton previously challenged a 10:30 p.m. curfew on food and beverage services that Adler and Brown had tried to adopt for three nights around New Year’s Eve. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately stepped in to block the service limits.