Conflict over Augusta mask mandate could go to court

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Mask requirements are causing a tug of war, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis are on opposite ends. And the end to the madness lies in a lawsuit.

Kemp just renewed his executive order until the end of July, and it still only suggests Georgians wear a mask. And technically, its making Mayor Davis’s mask requirement unenforceable.

In his recent mandate, Davis wanted a mask on every person in public, but the governor’s latest order says local governments cannot make changes that are more or less restrictive than his.

“It is a strict executive order by the governor, and it’s really surprising as well coming from a conservative that generally goes against state power, governmental, centralization,” said Craig Albert, a political scientist at Augusta University.

Albert says Kemp’s executive order might seem unusual in a normal case, but we’re not living in normal times.

“The enormity and the pandemic nature of COVID-19 both political parties, and mayors, and governors throughout the United States to enact, or try and do the things that they haven’t done before,” he said.

You probably won't see state troopers escorting people without a mask into government buildings, because if the governor really wants to stop mask enforcement -- he'd have to file a lawsuit.

“Mayor Davis is thinking, ‘If you put all this together, there’s a low probability that Gov. Kemp actually enforces the state law to outwear or take away the city law,‘” Albert said.

Likewise, he says, if cities say Kemp’s order goes too far, that would be also be settled in court.

When News 12 reached out to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the agency said deputies are treating calls about masks as “educational contacts.”

Albert says if those warnings turn into fines, Kemp could file a lawsuit against the city of Augusta.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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