Georgia governor withdraws request for emergency hearing to block Atlanta mask order

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) withdrew a request for an emergency hearing in a lawsuit that aims to block his state’s largest city from ordering people to wear masks in public or imposing other pandemic-related restrictions.

Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall told The Hill Tuesday morning that the governor was heartened by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms's (D) recent decision to impose economic restrictions on restaurants on a voluntary basis.

The governor’s office did not withdraw the suit, but said that having the hearing at a later date instead of Tuesday afternoon would make for “productive, good faith negotiations with city officials.”

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“Given the threat of economic harm and immediate backlash from Atlanta’s business community, this overreach by the Mayor was our top concern and the primary reason behind the litigation,” Hall said. “Now, Mayor Bottoms has taken several opportunities to publicly explain that the Phase One rollback is purely voluntary, and we appreciate this concession.”

Kemp issued an order this month prohibiting localities from issuing face mask mandates as the state continues to experience a surge in coronavirus cases. Instead of issuing an order, Kemp has said he is “encouraging all Georgians” to wear face coverings.

The lawsuit is asking a judge to overturn Bottoms’s orders that are more restrictive than Kemp’s and to block her from issuing any more such orders. 

It would also prohibit Bottoms from making public statements asserting she has authority that exceeds Kemp’s, and to require city officials to enforce “all provisions” of Kemp’s existing orders.