San Antonio and Bexar Leaders Blast AG Ken Paxton's Threat Over Coronavirus Restrictions

click to enlarge Texas AG Ken Paxton has picked a series of legal fights with big Texas cities. - TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
Texas Attorney General's Office
Texas AG Ken Paxton has picked a series of legal fights with big Texas cities.
San Antonio and Bexar County leaders are firing back at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's threat of legal action against cities that don't scale back coronavirus-related regulations, calling his move political grandstanding.

During a Tuesday night briefing, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff sarcastically referred to correspondence the Republican AG sent to local leaders as a "love letter." Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Paxton is "seeking a cheap political headline."

“He’s laid out a number of specific things which we think he’s wrong about, but he’s attorney general and he certainly has the ability to file a lawsuit, and in some cases, to try to put a local official in jail," Wolff said. "He’s already threatened to do that. Sorry, sorry way to do businesses."

Paxton sent similar letters to Austin and Dallas, arguing that municipal rules such as those requiring people to wear masks in public overstep the state's authority and confuse residents. The letter included a not-so-veiled threat to sue if cities don't roll them back.

"We trust you will act quickly to correct these mistakes to avoid further confusion and litigation challenging these unconstitutional and unlawful restrictions," states the letter, signed by Ryan Vassar, a deputy in Paxton's office.

Paxton, who faced a narrow reelection in 2018, has increasingly picked political fights with big Texas cities, which are largely under Democratic leadership.

Last year, the AG sued San Antonio as part of his investigation into whether the city violated Chick-fil-A's religious liberties when rejecting the fast food chain as an airport vendor. His office has also battled municipal efforts to institute paid sick time rules.

In a joint letter sent to Paxton on Tuesday, Nirenberg and Wolff said city and county rules to contain the coronavirus are consistent with orders issued by Gov. Greg Abbott. Those local efforts to contain the virus have saved 8,000 lives, according to a study by the Big Cities Coalition, they added.

"In order to facilitate our work for the common good through common goals, please call our offices directly," the letter concludes. "There is no need for a press release to discuss concerns you may have."

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