Texas AG files lawsuit against Austin over mask mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has filed a lawsuit against the city of Austin for keeping a local order requiring the use of face masks after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) eliminated the state-wide mask mandate.

The lawsuit has been filed against Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Mark Escott, the the interim Medical Director and Health Authority for Austin, CNN reported.

"I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law. They blew me off. So, once again, I’m dragging them to court," Paxton tweeted.

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Abbott announced March 2 that he would lift Texas' mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions, though Austin officials signaled this week they would push to keep a mask mandate in the city.

The lawsuit filed Thursday states that individual businesses can decide if they want customers to wear masks, but asserts that Abbott’s executive order bans local government’s from enforcing mask mandates.

Paxton asked the court for a temporary restraining order so Austin cannot enforce its mask order, according to CNN.

"The Attorney General's office has filed suit against the City of Austin and Travis County. Travis County has not had to rely on enforcement of its orders to get our community to be responsible. Although the Commissioners Court's order is valid, Travis County will not pursue any enforcement actions of this order in deference to the Court," Brown’s office said in a statement to CNN.

Paxton warned Adler on Wednesday that he was going to sue if the mask mandate wasn’t lifted.

"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.

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However, Adler said after the threat that he will fight back if there is a lawsuit.

"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," Adler said.

Brown, in a statement to The Hill, said that the Texas attorney general was "failing" to make community health a priority. 

“I will continue to listen to our public health authority, medical professionals, and the CDC who have consistently said masks save lives. It’s unfortunate the attorney general is once again failing to make the health of our community his priority,” Brown said. 

The Hill has reached out to Paxton and Adler for further comment.

Updated 7:39 p.m.