HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) – The votes are in and Gov. Tom Wolf’s veto stands for the bill that would have given school districts the sole ability to make decisions on sports, including if there could be fans and how many.
It had passed the House earlier this month with 150 “yes” votes, but the override tally, 130-71, fell slightly short of the supermajority required.
“The hard fact is the capacity saved lives in Pennsylvania — thousands of lives — and it is not time to do away with it. To quote our late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it’s like throwing your umbrella away in a downpour because you are not getting wet,” said Rep. Mike Zabel, who represents the 163rd District.
During floor debate, Minority Leader Frank Dermody warned that acting like the coronavirus is going away “is folly.”
“This is about politics,” said Dermody, D-Allegheny. “This is not about the safety of our children. It’s not about the welfare of student-athletes.”
BREAKING: The Pa House has voted and the override of the Governor’s veto of House Bill 2787 did not pass. 130 representatives voted yes and 71 voted no. More to come on @KDKA pic.twitter.com/rIhAcervUW
— Nicole Ford (@NicoleFordTV) September 23, 2020
The sponsor, Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland, called the proposal a return to common sense.
“There is a lot more here than just watching a game or some type of sport activity. This is about the development of young people. We’ve seen people excel who may be quiet in the classroom, but do better in a group activity or a sport,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff.
Rep. Anita Kulik, D-Allegheny, said a high school athlete in her district suffered a broken arm last week, but the child’s parents were not at the game.
“We hold parents responsible for the well-being of their children,” Kulik said. “I wholeheartedly believe that parents have inherent rights to be where their children are.”
Although Democrats are in the minority in the House and Senate, Wolf has not lost an override vote since he became governor.
At a news conference Tuesday, Wolf said he monitored attendance at football games last weekend — days after the judge’s ruling — and said “there were very few schools, if any, that had big, big crowds at their events.” He surmised that people “self-regulated” and stayed away to avoid crowds.
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“It’s unfortunate, but not shocking. These things happen when a veto comes around so we will just continue to do our best for the people hurting during the pandemic,” said Representative Josh Kail, who represents the 15th District.
Local athletic directors told KDKA they can make the decisions that will best protect their communities and feel that is still possible without this bill.
“We have a plan in place here right now to try to open our facilities a little bit more to 15 percent capacity outdoors and about 5 percent indoors,” said Bob Bozzuto at North Allegheny School District.
In the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that tossed statewide pandemic limits on crowd size, some schools have been opening up their stadiums past the state’s 25-indoor, 250-outdoor limits.
Ellwood City Area School District is allowing up to 1,000 people at its homecoming game this Friday. And Pittsburgh Public Schools is opening Cupples Stadium, but says fan seating for varsity football, soccer and field hockey is “limited” and will follow Allegheny County’s guidelines, which were not overturned by the federal ruling.
Meanwhile lawmakers said they will still focus their attention on helping families when it comes to sports.
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