Georgia and Atlanta government to continue mediating in mask order

ATLANTA (AP) – The Governor of Georgia withdrew a request for an emergency order to prevent the state’s largest city from ordering people to wear masks in public or imposing other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic while a lawsuit over the issues.

Governor Brian Kemp earlier this month sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the City Council. The Republican governor argues that local leaders cannot impose measures that are more or less restrictive than those of their executive orders.

The two sides met for court-ordered mediation on Monday. Kemp spokesman Cody Hall announced Monday night that the governor wanted “to continue the productive and good faith negotiations.” In a court filing Tuesday morning, state attorneys withdrew the request for an emergency order that was due for a hearing that day.

In response, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick canceled the hearing but ordered both parties to continue mediation.

Hall claimed a partial victory on Monday as part of the justification to withdraw from the emergency hearing, saying Bottoms had cleared up previous confusing statements.

“The mayor withdrew from misleading claims that the city was returning to phase one by closing specific businesses and penalizing business owners who respect the law,” Hall said in a statement. “From the beginning, this over-passing by the mayor was our primary concern and the main impetus behind the litigation, given the threat of economic harm and the immediate reaction of the Atlanta business community.”

Bottoms, a Democrat, said those statements are recommendations, not legal orders, and that Kemp did not understand what he was doing.

Atlanta is one of more than a dozen local jurisdictions in the state that has ordered people to cover their faces in some public places in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Last week, Barwick ordered the two sides to attend a mediation overseen by Chief Justice Cynthia Wright to try to resolve the issues in the case before the hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

In an executive order earlier this month, Kemp strongly encouraged people to cover their faces to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but did not order the use of masks. The order also suspends any local law or rule that is more restrictive than your order, including local rules or ordinances that require people to wear masks, including on public property or in public buildings.

The lawsuit filed on July 16 asks the judge to revoke Bottoms ‘orders that are more restrictive than Kemp’s, prevent it from issuing more such orders, instruct the City Council not to ratify Bottoms’ actions, or adopt any incompatible ordinance. with Kemp’s orders, to prohibit The Bottom from making public statements asserting that she has an authority that exceeds that of Kemp, and to require city officials to enforce “all provisions” of Kemp’s existing orders.

The governor filed an emergency interlocutory motion the next day, essentially asking the judge to order all of those requests take immediate effect while the lawsuit is pending. Tuesday’s hearing was for her to hear arguments on that motion.

In a court filing Monday, city attorneys argued that the lawsuit is prohibited by sovereign immunity, which says state and local governments cannot be sued without their consent. The city has the right to take steps to protect the public, and its mask mandate is not inconsistent with or ahead of the governor’s order, the city’s filing argues.

“In the absence of state leadership on this issue, local governments have stepped in to protect their citizens,” says the city’s presentation.

The Georgia Municipal Association, which represents municipal governments across the state, as well as Democratic state legislators and various unions have filed reports saying the governor has overstepped his authority in trying to limit additional measures taken by local governments to combat the spread of the coronavirus. .


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