Mar 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas attorney general sues Austin officials over mask mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaking at 2021 CPAC in Orlando, Florida, in February.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaking at 2021 CPAC in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that he filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Austin authorities, seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent city and Travis County officials from enforcing a face mask mandate.

Why it matters: The lawsuit claims that Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Mark Escott, interim medical director and health authority for the city, are illegally defying an order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott last week that rescinded a statewide mask mandate.

Context: The suit alleges the governor's order "preempts more restrictive local emergency orders."

  • The executive order, which took effect Wednesday, does allow local governments to enforce mask mandates in regions where coronavirus hospitalizations rise above 15% of bed capacity for seven consecutive days.
  • It also allows businesses to require masks on their properties, and many large chain stores in the state have continued the practice.

What they're saying: Paxton threatened to sue local officials who maintain mask mandates on Wednesday, saying in a tweet that "City/county leaders must not be thinking clearly."

  • "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.

Judge Andy Brown's office told CNN that although the city's mask mandate is valid, it will "not pursue any enforcement actions of this order in deference to the Court."

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