Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday announced that he was withdrawing the suit he filed against Atlanta's mayor and city council in a bid to block it from enforcing a mask mandate—but not because he's admitting defeat. Far from it. In a statement, the Republican said he would be addressing the issue via executive order, and he faulted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' "refusal in mediation to further negotiate a compromise." Under her order, fines or jail time can result if a mask is not worn within city limits. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Kemp's order, expected Saturday, will likely bar local governments from forcing private businesses to require masks and may explicitly bar cities from mandating them. More from his statement:
- "For weeks, we have worked in good faith with Mayor Bottoms, and she agreed to abandon the city's Phase One roll-back plan, which included business closures and a shelter in place order. Unfortunately, the Mayor has made it clear that she will not agree to a settlement that safeguards the rights of private property owners in Georgia. Given this stalemate in negotiations, we will address this very issue in the next Executive Order."
Bottoms said in a statement of her own that's not at all the case, dubbing Kemp's words a "woefully inaccurate statement regarding our good faith negotiations and the City's reopening recommendations." CNN calls the latest move a "dramatic twist," and recaps the history of the clash between the two, in which Kemp argued her order does not adhere to his own emergency order, which states local actions cannot be more prohibitive or permissible than what the state is requiring. Bottoms told CNN that she saw the lawsuit as "personal retaliation," pointing out that Kemp "did not sue the city of Atlanta. He filed suit against myself and our city council personally." The Journal-Constitution notes Atlanta is one of about 15 cities that have instituted mask mandates; the paper reached out to those locations' law enforcement agencies and found that not a single one of them had issued a citation over an absent mask. (Read more Brian Kemp stories.)