Texas AG admits he cannot enforce governor’s mask mandate prohibition

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee

HOUSTON – Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee, who has sued the Texas governor and attorney general over the ban on mask mandates, addressed Ken Paxton’s statements that neither he nor Greg Abbott can enforce the prohibition of mask mandates (GA-38), a press release states.  

These statements, made in several court filings, contradict public statements he has made in the media and threats of enforcement he has issued to school districts and local officials. 

Menefee stated:

“The Attorney General is telling one story to the public and another to the courts, creating confusion for the school districts, superintendents, and local officials who are trying to keep students and residents safe as the Delta variant worsens. Texans deserve the truth. If the Governor and the Attorney General cannot enforce the Governor’s mask mandate ban, the folks making tough decisions for our schools and communities have the right to know that. They shouldn’t have to fear retribution for doing the right thing—especially when our state leaders quietly concede that their threats are nothing but bluster.” 

According to the press release, in GA-38, the Governor banned school districts and local officials from mandating masks, and stated local officials who issue such safety measures would be subject to a “fine up to $1,000.” In response to recent mask mandates imposed by local officials, Attorney General Ken Paxton has stated publicly—and repeatedly—that his office will enforce Governor Abbott’s mask mandate ban. He and Governor Abbott joined together in stating that “any school district, public university, or local government official that decides to defy [the Governor’s mask mandate ban] will be taken to court.”[1] His office has compiled a list of “government entities unlawfully imposing mask mandates,” designed to intimidate those entities into compliance.[2] He has sent letters to many on that list, threatening them with enforcement.[3]  He has tweeted several times he intends to sue these entities, most recently saying “I will defend TX Law & sue every entity that violates it. We will win!”[4]

Despite these public statements, the Attorney General admitted to the courts hearing the lawsuits brought by local officials and school districts that his office does not and cannot enforce GA-38, nor can he seek the $1,000 fine provided in the order. His office has stated plainly that “[n]either Governor Abbott nor Attorney General Paxton will be enforcing GA-38.”[5] Instead, the Attorney General acknowledges that only local district attorneys can enforce GA-38—he has claimed that entities like Harris County, other counties/cities, and certain independent school districts cannot sue the Governor and the Attorney General because they have “alleged no credible threat of prosecution by local district attorneys, who would be the ones enforcing GA-38.”[6]

Menefee added: “I presume the Attorney General is telling the truth in his court filings.  He should be telling everyone else the same thing and letting local governments and school districts continue doing what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19, especially among our children.”

Written by David Yates 

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