Georgia Governor Sues Atlanta Mayor For Requiring Face Masks In Her City

In the lawsuit, the state claims Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms does not have the power to implement stricter rules than the governor, including mandating face masks.

Left: Gov. Brian Kemp. Right: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms | Getty Images
Left: Gov. Brian Kemp. Right: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms | Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) for requiring masks in the state’s most populous city, which the governor says violates his executive order. 

The lawsuit filed Thursday comes a day after Kemp introduced guidelines that prevent cities and counties from issuing mask mandates. The suit said Bottoms’ decision to “roll back” the city to Phase I guidelines, as COVID-19 case numbers spike, violates the governor’s order.

After Bottoms, who has said she tested positive for COVID-19, issued the new guidance, Kemp tweeted that her action is just that: “merely guidance” and is “legally unenforceable.” 

Kemp’s executive order, which extends to August 11, states that local governments in Georgia cannot issue rules that are more or less restrictive than the governor’s order. Kemp introduced new guidelines to the executive order this week, explicitly saying that counties and cities were banned from requiring face masks. 

While the state’s order “strongly encourages” residents and visitors to wear masks, it does not require them to do so. 

The lawsuit states that Bottoms issued executive orders on July 8, 10 and 13 that “purport to impose more restrictive terms” than the governor’s orders. 

In a series of tweets, Kemp said the lawsuit is “on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times.” He also said local elected officials are “shuttering businesses” and “[undermining] economic growth” with their individual mandates.

Bottoms fired back Thursday after news of the lawsuit emerged, saying “A better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.”

She also added that Kemp is suing the city over recommended guidelines, saying “reading is fundamental.” 

On Wednesday, Savannah’s Mayor Van Johnson also fired back at Kemp’s executive order banning local governments from implementing mask mandates by saying the governor “doesn’t give a damn about us.” He doubled down on his frustrations during a CNN interview saying that the order “made absolutely no sense.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported more than 131,000 COVID-19 cases in the state on Friday. Cases have been increasing by the thousands each day for several weeks since early June.

Bottoms and Van Johnson have previously clashed with Kemp throughout the pandemic, including when he moved to reopen essential businesses in April.

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