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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As widespread protests against police violence continue in Austin and around the country, local activist groups are pushing for what they've wanted for years but didn't feel they could successfully demand: defunding the Austin Police Department. And people seem to be paying attention.
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- The hacker group Anonymous briefly took down the city of Austin website this morning.
- The Texas Tribune looks at the history of racism and discrimination in Austin.
- The Austin Police Department has its own history with bias, the Statesman recounts.
- More protests are planned for this weekend.
- One of the things back on under the new phase of reopening: July 4 celebrations.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced today he is moving the state to Phase III of reopening the economy after the coronavirus shutdown.
From the release:
University of Texas at Austin will limit class size to 40% capacity this fall, offer 2,100 classes online
About 20% of classes at the University of Texas at Austin will be taught exclusively online this fall, The Texas Tribune reports, and in-person classes will be limited to 40% of classroom capacity.
A member of the security team who was temporarily assigned to guard the Texas State Capitol has tested positive for COVID-19, the Austin American-Statesman reports:
Travis County reports two suspected cases in children of inflammatory disease associated with COVID-19
There are two suspected cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children—a rare but serious condition believed to be associated with COVID-19—in Travis County, Austin Public Health Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette said during a virtual press conference earlier today.
- Despite the governor's statements about outside agitators, most people arrested in the protests here were from here, KUT reports.
- Protests continued peacefully in Austin last night.
- KXAN speaks to black police officers in Austin about what it's been like to patrol the protests.
- A GoFundMe campaign was set up to help black-owned businesses in Austin affected by COVID-19 and the recent protests.
- Masks, reservations, deep cleaning: Barton Springs has a reopening plan.