AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is asking the state Supreme Court to jump into his highly charged campaign to smack down county officials who defied his ban on public mask requirements.
The governor and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton decided to escalate the fight to the state’s highest court after two mid-level appeals courts sided with renegade local officials in Dallas and Bexar counties.
“We have taken this mask mandate to the Texas Supreme Court,” Paxton tweeted shortly before midnight Friday. “The rule of law will decide.”
The county officials said surging COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations required the drastic step of ignoring the governor’s edict and instituting mandatory mask rules for all public schools, municipal facilities and public transportation.
Hospitals in most Texas cities are overflowing with COVID-19 patients, to the point where Abbott has asked them to delay non-emergency medical procedures to free up more beds. When the counties that include Dallas and San Antonio won temporary approval from judges earlier in the week to defy Abbott’s order, multiple other counties and school districts rushed to implement their own mask requirements.
The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court hasn’t set a timetable for acting on Abbott’s request. The mask-ban fight reprises last year’s battles between the governor and local officials over COVID-19-related restrictions, which went to the state’s highest court on multiple issues. Abbott won those fights, but often in sharply divided opinions that questioned how far a governor’s authority goes during an emergency.
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