AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s office says the new COVID-19 business orders put in place by Austin and Travis County Thursday are preempted by executive orders signed by the governor last year and do not need to be followed.
“Any business would be within its legal rights to ignore this municipal order,” said Nan Tolson, a spokesperson for Abbott.
Abbott signed into law an executive order that does not allow local government-issued mask mandates or business restrictions. That executive order has been in place since July 2021.
“The Governor’s executive orders, again having the full force and effect of law, are enforceable by state and local law enforcement, and our office continues working with the Office of the Attorney General to protect the rights and freedoms of all Texans,” Tolson said. “The best defense against this virus is the COVID vaccines, and we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Texans to get vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, the order signed by Austin Mayor Steve Adler says businesses that do not comply could face a $1,000 fine every day that the Austin order is not followed. It says police officers, the Austin Code Department and the Austin Fire Marshal have the authority to enforce the new rules.
“It’s a shame that public safety measures throughout this whole process have become kind of political fodder and we’re trying to stay focused on the science and the data,” Adler said. “Even if there was a conflict, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, who just last week let the local orders take precedents over the governor’s order as [it] concerns local health questions, so I don’t see a conflict.”
To read more about what the orders mean for businesses, check out KXAN’s report.