Who’s in charge? Austin’s squabble with Texas leaders causes confusion over COVID-19 orders

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid a tug of war between Texas state leaders and Austin Mayor Steve Adler over recent coronavirus orders, a legal expert said local orders stand until the governor or courts take further action.

Andres Correa, an attorney for Lynn Pinker Hurst & Schwegmann in Dallas, said Austinites should follow local orders until told otherwise.

Governor Greg Abbott allowed Texas’ stay at home order to expire at the end of April, though Austin’s was extended through May 30. Mayor Steve Adler recommended businesses maintain an activity log of customers and employees and required everyone over the age of six to wear a mask in public.

Under the governor’s order, wearing a mask is recommended not mandated.

“Until a court or the governor, in an order says, nope, that order is unconstitutional or that order contravenes the governor’s order, (the city’s) order seems to be in place,” Correa said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday sent letters to Dallas, Bexar, and Travis counties, as well as the mayors of Austin and San Antonio, criticizing “unlawful and unenforceable” health orders while threatening legal action if local leaders don’t fall in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the state.

Paxton hasn’t set a deadline for when changes need to be made but he says the state will act, if necessary.

“Likely, we would file an action to enjoin their action so that it fell in line with what the governor required under his executive orders,” Paxton said.

Adler isn’t rushing to make any changes.

“We’re going to respond to the attorney general’s letter explaining why we think that what we’ve done is complementary and consistent to what the governor has ordered,” he said.

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