Accusing Austin and Travis County officials of violating Gov. Greg Abbott’s pandemic-related orders, the Texas attorney general’s office said Wednesday that its lawyers will work to overturn a local mask mandate for businesses.
“We’re looking at every avenue available to stop them. More to come,” the agency said in a late-morning message on Twitter.
Abbott’s order lifting a statewide mask mandate took effect Wednesday. The same order also bars local officials from fining, jailing or penalizing those who do not wear a mask in public.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown, however, said Tuesday that masks are still required to be worn inside area businesses, with violators subject to a fine of up to $2,000, under local rules adopted in July and set to expire next month.
“The statewide mask mandate is lifted today. Yet once again, (Adler and Brown) are trying to figure out how they can buck state law and resist” the governor’s orders, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s agency said on Twitter.
According to Abbott’s order, issued last week and taking effect Wednesday: “No jurisdiction may impose a penalty of any kind for failure to wear a face covering or failure to mandate that customers or employees wear face coverings.”
Businesses are free to adopt safety rules, including mandatory face coverings for customers and employees, Abbott’s order said, adding that local authorities can still enforce trespassing laws and remove violators if requested by a business or property owner.
Adler and Brown said the local mask mandate was enforceable because it was not developed by the City Council or Travis County Commissioners Court but by Dr. Mark Escott, the interim Austin-Travis County health authority, to protect residents from exposure to a deadly virus during worldwide pandemic.
“The public health authority is responsible for the control of disease outbreak in Austin-Travis county and will continue to utilize the rules he has set forth in helping to further mitigate the risk of spread,” Adler said Tuesday. “The rules issued by Dr. Escott will serve to not only decrease the spread of disease but to also increase public confidence in the safety of local businesses.”
This is a developing story.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas attorney general’s office threatens action against Austin, Travis County mask mandate
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