Harrisburg, PA — Gov. Tom Wolf, as he promised earlier this month, has vetoed a coronavirus-related bill that would give a school district or private school sole authority to decide whether and how to conduct sports during the 2020-21 school year.
Wolf’s office said it was unnecessary since school districts already control decisions on school sports and suggested that it was irresponsible because it would allow districts to green-light big crowds at sporting events that help spread the virus. Wolf has ordered crowds at school sports kept to statewide gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.
It appears that a bill that could have been the final chance for schools to be able to open up their stands to fans will be vetoed by Governor Tom Wolf. The governor says its unnecessary to have this bill because schools already have the power to hold sports events if they wish, albeit at a smaller capacity.
To be clear, schools do have the ability to move forward with sports, but they’re still held to the statewide gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors. This bill would have given schools the ability to admit larger crowds that what is currently allowed.
Many schools throughout Pennsylvania say they cannot effectively have sports with fans in the stands because of the number of student athletes, referees, administrators, band members, and cheerleaders that already count toward the 250 total, and they would quickly hit that number even just allowing parents in the stands.
Read the press release from Governor Tom Wolf’s office:
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 2787, which would have mandated that school fall activities be under the sole jurisdiction of local school districts. This bill is superfluous given that local school governing bodies already have authority but it restricts state and local officials’ ability to respond to health concerns and potential outbreaks as we enter this year’s particularly risky flu season.
The bill would have done nothing more than create legislation for something that already exists. Instead of drafting bills such as this the legislature should be focused on bills that protect the health and safety of our children in their learning environments, minimize exposure to COVID-19 and prevent the spread of this deadly virus.
Gov. Wolf’s HB 2787 veto message:
“We have been confronting extraordinary challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue the fight against COVID-19, we need to continue to prioritize the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians and minimize public health risks. However, this bill does nothing to promote public health or ensure that our children have a safe learning environment. As we reopen our schools, we need to continue to be vigilant and take precautions to keep ourselves, our communities, and our children healthy. These mitigation efforts not only help keep our children, teachers, and staff healthy, they also help keep our schools open.
“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. Furthermore, to the extent COVID-19 cases may rise and spread during the fall and through the upcoming cold and flu season, the Department of Health must maintain the critical authority to limit exposure to COVID-19. Minimizing this exposure is paramount.
“This bill also has constitutional infirmities as it attempts to take away executive authority during the 2020-2021 school year. 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.”
Read the press release from the PA House of Representatives Republican group:
Harrisburg, PA – Republicans in the PA House of Representatives vow that they will override Wolf’s veto on the sports bill.
On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 2787, legislation that passed both the House and the Senate with a veto-proof bipartisan majority that would ensure decisions about the resumption of school sports and spectators can be made at the local level.
In response, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) made the following statement:
“House Bill 2787 represents the good bipartisan work that has been done by the General Assembly to represent the voice of the people during this difficult time, despite the efforts of Gov. Wolf to stand in our way.
“In vetoing this bill, Gov. Wolf stands directly opposed to children and families looking for some semblance of normalcy and to receive the numerous invaluable benefits of fully participating in school sports. In contradiction to his word, Gov. Wolf is once again going back on his self-proclaimed desire for educational decisions to be made at the local level.
“Over the last six months, Gov. Wolf has upended lives and livelihoods with confusing and inconsistent dictates refusing to work with us to combat this virus. To once again stand up for children and families, the House will vote to override this ridiculous veto.”