Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has filed suit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in the Superior Court of Fulton County over her ordinance mandating residents wear masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The lawsuit also names members of Atlanta’s city council.
On July 10, Mayor Bottoms issued an order that rolled back the city’s five-phase reopening plan from Phase II to Phase I. Phase I of the reopening plan requires residents to stay home except for essential trips, wear a mask when in public and to practice social distancing while out. Restaurants and retail businesses will be able to continue to-go and curbside pickups, while designated non-essential businesses are to remain closed. The mandate also prohibits large gatherings.
The ordinance is in response to the “alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the state of Georgia,” the press release from the Mayors’ Office of Communication states.
Following the announcement of Mayor Bottoms’ mandate for the city of Atlanta, Governor Kemp took to Twitter to denounce the decree the same day.
Atlanta Mayor @KeishaBottoms' action today is merely guidance - both non-binding and legally unenforceable. As clearly stated in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide. (1/3) https://t.co/3pQdB0pI70— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 10, 2020
“Atlanta Mayor @KeishaBottoms’ action today is merely guidance - both non-binding and legally unenforceable,” he tweeted. “As clearly stated in my executive orders, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide. If the Mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do.”
Governor Kemp points residents to another executive order he signed in June which “bans gatherings of more than fifty people unless there is six feet between each person, outlines mandatory criteria for businesses, and requires sheltering in place for those living in long-term care facilities and the medically fragile.”
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday (July 16), calls Mayor Bottoms instructions more “restrictive” than Governor Kemp’s executive order and points out that a city is not allowed to have directives that are more or less prohibitive than the state’s orders. The lawsuit also says that Mayor Bottoms acknowledges this notion and accuses her of not doing anything to enforce Governor Kemp’s proclamation.
“Mayor Bottoms tied the hands of the Atlanta Police Department by instructing them to not enforce Governor Kemp’s Executive Order, including but not limited to, the restriction on gatherings of more than 50 people,” the lawsuit further states.
On Wednesday (July 15), Gov. Kemp passed an executive order banning municipalities from issuing ordinances requiring people to wear masks.
Although several other cities in Georgia have issued mask ordinances as well, such as Savannah and Athens, the suit only addresses Atlanta.
“It is officially official,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson tweeted on Wednesday (July 15) in response. “Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us.”
Governor Kemp is asking that the Superior Court of Fulton County declare that Mayor Bottoms exceeded her authority and are asking them to suspend her new mandate for Atlanta.
In response to the lawsuit, Mayor Bottoms, who recently recovered from having the Coronavirus, expressed her concerns on Twitter.
“3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19,” she tweeted. “Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing.”
Peep Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ reaction to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s lawsuit below.
3104 Georgians have died and I and my family are amongst the 106k who have tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, I have been sued by @GovKemp for a mask mandate. A better use of tax payer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing. #ATLStrong pic.twitter.com/z4hpTrCS1B— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 16, 2020