State Watch

Texas AG demands Austin drop mask mandate or face legal action

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said Wednesday he will take legal action against the city of Austin if its Democratic mayor does not end the city's mask mandate and restrictions on businesses.

In a letter posted to Twitter, Paxton warned Mayor Steve Adler (D) that he had until 6 p.m. to rescind any orders regarding masks in the city or face a lawsuit.

"The decision to require masks or otherwise impose COVID-19-related operating limits is expressly reserved to private businesses on their own premises. It does not rest with jurisdictions like the city of Austin or Travis County or their local health authorities," said Paxton.

"We have already taken you to court under similar circumstances. You lost. If you continue to flout the law in this manner, we'll take you to court again and you will lose again," Paxton added.

Paxton's letter comes in response to Adler's own statement Wednesday vowing to continue enforcing a mask mandate and business restrictions in the city despite an order from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that aims to fully reopen the state. The governor's order took effect on Wednesday, though Austin has bucked the order.

Abbott's order restricted the power to impose COVID-19 restrictions to Texas's county judges, who serve the same role as county executives in other states. Those judges can impose new restrictions only if cases have been rising in their jurisdictions for a straight week.

"Make no mistake, COVID has not suddenly disappeared. COVID still exists in Texas, in the United States and across the globe," Abbott said last week.

"But it is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed," he added.

In an emailed statement, Adler vowed to fight Paxton's legal efforts "as long as we possibly can."

"Judge Brown and I will continue to do everything within our power, using every tool available to us to reduce the spread of the virus, to keep as many people as alive as possible, to safely open up schools to more in-person learning and safely more businesses. We will fight Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton's assault against doctors and data for as long as we possibly can," said Adler.

Outbrain