Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a piece of legislation Monday that would have given local school districts the liberty to set their own attendance limits for Fall sports events.
Under Wolf’s coronavirus response plan, outdoor functions are limited to 250 people. Indoor events can only have 25 people at them.
Despite a federal judge ruling that these limits, among others, are unconstitutional, Wolf is preparing to fight that judgement. And the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education urged local school districts to keep those attendance limits in place despite the federal ruling.
In Schuylkill County, schools followed along with the Dept. of Education’s suggestion. And some have gone a bit further. Schools like Pottsville Area and North Schuylkill didn’t allow any fans – not even parents – in stadiums this past week.
Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Vetoes HB 2787 on School Sports Attendance
Weeks before the start of the Fall high school sports season in Pennsylvania, Wolf gave the decision-making power to local schools on whether they would allow Fall sports or not. He put that ball in their court and the PIAA. After much hand wringing, the PIAA eventually decided to sponsor the Fall sports season. And for the most part, it’s gone off without a hitch.
No local teams opted out of a season in any sport and while a few student-athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, there have been no reports of outbreaks at any schools.
On Sept. 2, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill that would go a step further than just allowing schools to have sports. HB 2787 would give local school districts the ability to set their own attendance limits at these events.
The bill passed the House by a 155-47 margin. All 3 of Schuylkill County’s Representatives in Harrisburg supported the bill, Reps. Neal Goodman, Jerry Knowles, and Mike Tobash.
A week later, the Pennsylvania Senate approved the same measure with a 39-11 vote.
That’s known as a veto-proof majority.
On Monday, however, on the last day he could before the legislation automatically became law with or without the Governor’s approval, Wolf vetoed it after days of saying he would. Clearly, Wolf is banking on some Democrats who favored HB 2787 to defect on a vote to override his veto.
State Sen. Dave Argall (R-29) issued a statement after Wolf’s veto hammering away at the Governor’s continued grip on power. Argall says the Governor is out of touch.
“I voted in favor of this bill because local people know their communities better than our Governor, who prefers a one-size-fits all approach. I doubt he could find most of the communities I represent without GPS assistance,” Argall said in his statement. “If every member of the legislature votes the same way they did when the bill initially passed – we will have more than enough votes to override the Governor’s veto and to send him a message that he cannot continue to ignore the opinion of local people, every day.”
Argall says he’ll vote to override the veto if it passes through the House once again.
Since the bill started in the House, it must go there first for an override vote. That could happen as soon as early next week.
And Then Came Another Lecture from Pennsylvania’s Governor
Wolf scolded the members of the General Assembly for voting for this legislation in the first place.
“I’m always amazed at politicians thinking they can somehow wave a magic wand and suspend reality,” Wolf, a man who’s waved a magic wand and suspended reality in Pennsylvania for the last 6 months, said Monday at a press conference.
In a statement issued later in the day announcing his veto, Wolf continued to lecture the General Assembly and Pennsylvanians he accused of continuing to downplay the virus. His comments come across more as fearmongering than anything based in the current reality of the virus and its impact on Pennsylvania.
“This bill does nothing to promote public health or ensure that our children have a safe learning environment,” Wolf said. “This bill is entirely unnecessary. While I recommended against holding school sports before January 2021, it was a recommendation and neither an order nor a mandate. Local school governing bodies have maintained the authority to decide how extracurricular activities, including school sports, proceed at the local level.”
He also says HB 2787 contains “constitutional infirmities” that undermines “executive authority” during the ongoing school term. That’s rich coming from someone whose orders were deemed unconstitutional and has continually reminded the media and public that he’s “not a lawyer” when challenged on his authority during the pandemic response.
Wolf also used the veto statement to once again push his own political agenda and pander to the small businesses he forced into perilous circumstances through his unconstitutional orders and mandates.
“Instead of unnecessary legislation, we need to focus on providing schools the tools and resources they need to be successful in educating our children and we need to help people impacted by the pandemic with legislation such as funding for small businesses and child care, and paid sick leave for employees,” Wolf said.
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Image: Office of the Governor