Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pressed charges against the city of Austin and its mayor, Steve Adler, over the city’s strict lockdown orders.
“My team and I are preparing decisive action against @austintexasgov and @TravisCountyTX,” the official Twitter account of the Texas attorney general’s office wrote. “They issued their illegal shutdown orders late last night, right before a holiday in a shameless attempt to game the system and run the clock. We won’t let them.”
The charges come hours after Paxton initially threatened to sue the mayor. The attorney general first voiced his concerns about Adler’s restrictions on Wednesday afternoon.
“The City of Austin and Travis County orders enacting a four-day shutdown of dine-in food and beverage services violate @GovAbbott’s Exec Order GA-32,” he said. “They must rescind or modify their local orders immediately.”
The City of Austin and Travis County orders enacting a four-day shutdown of dine-in food and beverage services violate @GovAbbott’s Exec Order GA-32.
They must rescind or modify their local orders immediately.
— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) December 30, 2020
Paxton’s litigation is a direct response to the new limitations Adler implemented one day prior. In a statement released on Tuesday, the mayor announced a curfew prohibiting dine-in service between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3. Officials said the move was an effort to counteract the anticipated rise in virus transmission associated with residents congregating to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
“The situation is critical,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim Austin-Travis County health authority. “We are asking the public to stay home as much as possible and not gather with people outside their households for New Year’s Eve. … We are now experiencing uncontrolled, widespread community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in circumstances where masking and distancing are not possible, making bars and similar establishments extremely concerning over this holiday weekend.”
Paxton isn’t alone in his criticism of the order. Gov. Greg Abbott, whose executive order Paxton says Adler is violating, condemned the new restrictions on Twitter.
“This shutdown order by Austin isn’t allowed. Period,” Abbott said. “My executive order stops cities like Austin from arbitrarily shutting down businesses. The city has a responsibility to enforce existing orders, not make new ones.”
This shutdown order by Austin isn't allowed. Period.
My executive order stops cities like Austin from arbitrarily shutting down businesses.
The city has a responsibility to enforce existing orders, not make new ones. https://t.co/rm00K1bQQl
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) December 30, 2020
The new limits come as Texas continues to suffer from rapid spread of the coronavirus throughout the state. According to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus tracker, the Lone Star State has suffered more than 1.7 million diagnosed cases.