AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to sue the City of Austin, after the city decided to keep its mask mandate and COVID-19 orders in place despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to lift those protocols Wednesday statewide.
“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 Wednesday. “Otherwise, on behalf of the State of Texas, I will sue you.”
He called out Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown in the tweet.
In a letter to Adler and Brown, Paxton said it’s not up to local jurisdictions to decide how businesses will operate. Under the new order, businesses are able to decide for themselves whether to require masks or capacity restrictions.
In an interview with KXAN Tuesday, Adler said, “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.”
This past July, Adler said they passed an ordinance that the local health authority will have the force of law in Austin and Travis County. You can watch the full interview with Adler below.
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar responded to Paxton’s tweet, saying, “while El Paso rolled out makeshift morgues, you sued them for protecting residents. While Texans froze in the dark, you fled the state for warmer weather. Now, you’re going out of your way (again) to win political points, even if it costs lives. We’ll see you in court.”
The City of Austin said right now, it has no plans to rescind the mask mandate, and Travis County officials said Judge Brown is in agreement with that. Additionally, rescinding the orders would require a vote from Travis County Commissioners Court.
IN-DEPTH: Paxton very successful at suing City of Austin
Over the past five years, Paxton has sued the City of Austin at least five times in high profile cases and won each of them:
- December 2020 – Paxton won a lawsuit against Austin after Austin tried to enforce city COVID-19 guidelines and enforce a curfew on New Year’s Eve.
- January 2019 – Paxton won a lawsuit which required the City of Austin to allow licensed gun owners to openly carry their firearms at City Hall.
- May 2018 – Paxton joined a lawsuit that overturned the city’s restrictions on short-term rentals.
- April 2018 – Paxton joined a lawsuit against Austin over the city’s paid sick leave ordinance, which never actually went into effect.
- June 2017 – Paxton sued 10 cities, including Austin, over plastic bag bans. Paxton won and the bag bans ended.