Updated Jul 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Georgia governor sues Atlanta mayor to block city's mask mandate

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to members of the media

Photo: Austin McAfee/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's (R) office filed a lawsuit Thursday in an effort to block Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms from enforcing a citywide mask mandate.

The big picture: The lawsuit comes a day after Kemp banned cities and counties from implementing mask mandates, voiding such orders implemented by at least 15 local governments. Kemp argues that the state's policy, which recommends but does not require masks in public, should override local policies.

  • Kemp's decision to file a lawsuit will likely set up a legal battle between the state and local governments as they confront a surge in infections.
  • The lawsuit, which names Bottoms and the City Council as defendants, argues Kemp has the power to "suspend municipal orders that are contradictory" to state laws or executive orders.

The state of play: The lawsuit challenges Bottom's decision to take Atlanta back to "phase one" guidelines on July 10, forcing restaurants to close dining rooms and other restrictions — including the new mask mandate.

  • Georgia has reported over 127,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The state reported over 3,400 new infections on Thursday.
  • Half of all new Georgia cases are being reported in Atlanta, where Mayor Bottoms herself has tested positive for the virus.

What they're saying: “This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Kemp said in a statement. "These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth.”

The other side: Bottoms said at a virtual town hall Thursday that she's “not concerned" at all about Kemp's threat to sue: “I love to quote Audre Lorde. She says, ‘I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.’ I am not afraid of the city being sued and I will put our policies up against anyone’s, any day of the week."

  • Bottoms tweeted after the news of the lawsuit broke: "3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. #ATLStrong"

Read the full lawsuit via DocumentCloud.

Go deeper ... Map: The states where face coverings are mandatory

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