Georgia Governor Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit last week to challenge face mask restrictions implemented by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, which mandated that all Atlanta residents wear the masks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The clash between Governor Kemp and Mayor Bottoms is due to the fact that the governor has the authority over local municipalities, which means that he is in control of exactly how the state of Georgia will deal with the ongoing pandemic efforts. In fact, an executive order banning municipalities from issuing ordinances requiring people wear masks was passed by Kemp earlier in the week.
Governor Kemp filed the lawsuit against both Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council which challenges Bottoms’ ability to require the people in the city to wear face masks. The suit argues that local state municipalities do not have the legal authority to issue orders that are more or less restrictive than those issued by the governor. The fact that this includes Atlanta does not sit well with the city’s mayor.
“As the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms does not have the legal authority to modify, change or ignore Governor Kemp’s executive orders,” the suit states. In addition, the lawsuit challenges Bottoms’ decision on July 10 to demote the city of Atlanta back from “Phase 2” of reopening to “Phase 1,” telling residents that they must stay home except for essential outings and allowing restaurants and businesses to only serve curbside and to-go meals with no onsite dining at all.
Currently, the feud for power in the state has been deescalated somewhat, with Kemp withdrawing his request for an emergency hearing in his lawsuit against Mayor Bottoms and the City Council, but not before two judges recused themselves from the case.
The second court date of July 28 was scheduled, but before the hearing could be held, the governor and mayor were ordered to mediation.
“Shortly after we filed suit against Mayor Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council, the Mayor retreated from misleading claims that the city was reverting to Phase One by shuttering specific businesses and penalizing law-abiding business owners,” Kemp said. “From the beginning, this overstep by the Mayor was our foremost concern and the primary impetus behind the litigation given the threat of economic harm and immediate backlash from Atlanta’s business community. Now, Mayor Bottoms has taken several opportunities to publicly explain that Phase One is purely voluntary, and we appreciate this concession.”