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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said local Stay Home-Work Safe orders include "unconstitutional and unlawful restrictions" and threatened litigation if Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt don't "correct" them in a May 12 letter to the elected officials.


Adler and Eckhardt extended their orders last week, despite being unable to enforce public masking and other safety measures per Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's orders. Both acknowledged that their recommendations are largely unenforceable and instead depend on residents choosing to comply voluntarily.

Paxton identified a number of conflicts between the local orders and state emergency rules, including what he characterized as the city's "Orwellian" recommendation that restaurants and other businesses keep activity logs of customers to aid in contact tracing effects.

The attorney general also wrote in the letter that he is concerned about the local orders' restrictions on businesses deemed essential by the state, including houses of worship and law offices, and the confusion they might cause to residents.

"A recommendation, by definition, is not a requirement," the letter reads. "Yet your orders seem to confuse the two."

Paxton "encouraged" Adler and Eckhardt to clarify that their orders are recommendations, not mandates, and the unenforceable nature of them as such.

His office issued similar letters to Dallas and Bexar counties and the mayor of San Antonio, according to a press release issued earlier today.

This is not the first coronavirus conflict to arise between state and local officials.

While Abbot initially deferred to city and county governments when it came to pandemic response, leaving it up to mayors and county judges to cancel events such as SXSW and the Houston Rodeo, on other issues, such as construction restrictions, he has made it clear that state law supersedes local ordinances.

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