MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (AP/KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed a bill that would have given school districts the sole ability to make decisions on sports, including whether and how many spectators to allow.
The Wolf administration’s gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors apply to youth sports, but legislation that cleared the state House and Senate would have empowered schools to make their own rules about the number of spectators permitted at games.
Gov. Wolf said in a statement announcing the veto that the bill is “entirely unnecessary.”
He said local governing bodies have always had the authority to decide how extracurricular activities proceed at a local level, but the bill would have restricted the Department of Health’s authority in responding to outbreaks.
Wolf, a Democrat, said at a news conference that statewide gathering limits need to be applied consistently to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Some families have chafed at the statewide limits, saying attendance could safely be expanded while still allowing for adequate physical distancing.
“We feel as if our school districts are the ones that know us and parents and students the best,” said Jamie Caputo, who has three children in the Montour School District.
Caputo told KDKA not being allowed in to all of his children’s games is a safety issue.
“As a minor, you have to be accompanied by a legal guardian or parent and we aren’t there. This becomes a safety manner. Everybody talks about safety when it comes to the virus and this is just as important, if not more important,” Caputo said.
In fact, Caputo said a Montour soccer player broke his arm in two places at a game against West Allegheny this past weekend. Visiting spectators were not allowed in the stadium.
“The game was actually ended right away because of the situation and how bad it was. The parent had received the phone call and had to scramble out there, their son had to wait 30 to 40 minutes before the parent arrived,” Caputo said.
That player’s mom told KDKA if she was allowed to be there, it would have saved her son hours of unnecessary pain.
- Wolf Administration Encourages Schools To ‘Voluntarily Enforce’ Gathering Limits
- Two Local School Districts Allowing Fans To Attend Football Games
- Lawmakers Urge Gov. Wolf To Sign Bill Focused On School Sports Decisions
- Allegheny County Considering Enforcement Options After Nearly 600 People Attend West Mifflin Football Game
- High School Football Kicks Off In Western Pa.
- Pa. State Senate Could Possibly Override Gov. Wolf’s Veto Of High School Sports Fan Attendance Bill
- High Schools Look For New Ways To Bring Friday Night Lights Experience To Fans
- Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill Allowing School Districts To Make Decision On Fans At Games
- Updated Guidance From Wolf Administration Allows Spectators At School Sports
Both chambers of the GOP-controlled General Assembly approved the bill by veto-proof two-thirds majorities.
“It’s disappointing that we’ve tried to reach out and have common sense solutions and accommodate students and do things safely to allow local decision makers to make the decisions,” said Rep. Josh Kail, who represents Beaver and Washington Counties.
Lawmakers were expected to hold votes to attempt to override Wolf’s veto.
“I’m not completely sure what our leadership has in store, but I’m hoping that we do try to do a veto override and I will be advocating for that,” Kail said.
Kail said the group is back in session next week so that would be the earliest a vote would happen.
But Wolf said the virus spreads in large groups of people.
“I’m always amazed at politicians thinking that they can somehow wave a magic wand and suspend, sort of, reality,” Wolf said. “There’s a virus out there, and that virus really likes it when you bring a lot of people together. That’s what we know, and so you ignore that at your peril.”
Meanwhile, the parents who spoke with KDKA said they will be attending each home and away game even if it means sitting in the parking lot.
The bill is the latest way that Republicans in the Legislature have tried to limit Wolf’s power under health and emergency disaster laws during the pandemic.
The legislation gives a school district or private school sole authority to decide whether to conduct sports during the 2020-21 school year, including games, scrimmages and other in-person extracurricular activities. It also gives them the power to determine safety protocol and crowd limits.
(TM and © Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)