Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the City of Austin for refusing to lift the state’s mask law.
''I told Travis County & The City of Austin to comply with state mask law,'' he tweeted alongside a Fox News article of the lawsuit.
''They blew me off. So, once again, I’m dragging them to court. [Austin Mayor Steve] Adler will never do the right thing on his own. His obstruction won’t stop me from keeping TX free & open!''
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week rolled back state mandates and reopened businesses. He also did away with limits on the number of diners that businesses can serve indoors. The order does allow local governments to enforce mask mandates in areas where COVID hospitalizations rise above 15 percent of bed capacity for seven consecutive days.
It also allows businesses to mandate masks on their properties.
Most of the country has lived under mask mandates during the pandemic, with at least 37 states requiring face coverings to some degree.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told Fox Business he would keep the mask mandate in place to shield businesses from blame for requiring customers to wear masks.
"Wearing a mask doesn't slow down opening up businesses. It doesn't slow down getting more and more children in school in person. The health folks here in Texas seem to be pretty unanimous that wearing masks helps minimize the risk that we're not going to be able to open up schools or open up businesses," Adler told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on Saturday.
Paxton threatened a lawsuit in a letter Wednesday night to Adler and Austin Judge Andy Brown.
''The decision to require masks or otherwise impose COVID-19 related operating limits is expressly reserved to private businesses on their own premises,'' the letter said.
''It does not rest with jurisdictions like the city of Austin or Travis County or their local health authorities. Nor do they have the authority to threaten fines for non-compliance.
"Maybe it’s oxygen deprivation from quintuple-masking. Whatever the case, they’ve tried this before. They lost. Travis County and Austin have a few hours to comply with state law or I’ll sue them. And they’ll lose again," he added in a tweet.
Brown’s office told CNN the city would not ''pursue any enforcement actions of this order in deference to the Court.''
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