HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation Monday that would have allowed local school districts to set their own rules regarding crowd sizes at scholastic sporting events.
Wolf had reiterated his plan to veto House Bill 2787 earlier in the day.
“I’m always amazed at politicians thinking they can wave a magic wand and suspend reality,” he said. “School districts are going to do what they do, but there is a virus out there and that virus really likes it when you bring a lot of people together, that’s what we know. You can ignore that at your peril.”
House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Center County said that based on the bipartisan support for the legislation, the House will attempt to override Wolf’s veto.
“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,” Benninghoff said. “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,” he said.
Wolf said the legislation would needlessly limit his authority.
“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,”Wolf said.
“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,” the governor said.
Senate leaders have said they too will attempt to override Wolf’s veto, but the Senate must allow the House to move first because the legislation originated in that chamber.
House leaders are discussing when to attempt to override the veto, said Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for the House Republican caucus. The state House isn’t in session again until next Tuesday, he said.
The crowd-size limits of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors have remained one of the most controversial aspects of the governor’s strategy for slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the crowd-size limits were unconstitutional because the Wolf Administration hadn’t included clear explanations for what was exempt from the crowd-size limits.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, acting on behalf of the governor, asked the federal court to keep the crowd size limits in place while the state appeals. Friday, the Department of Education released guidance to schools indicating that despite the judge’s ruling, state officials still hope schools will voluntarily follow the crowd-size limits.
Both chambers of the General Assembly must vote to override a veto by a two-thirds supermajority. House Bill 2787 passed the Senate, 39-11, and the House of Representatives, 155-47, more than two-thirds in each chamber. Forty-six Democrats broke ranks to support the legislation in the House and 10 Democrats in the Senate did so.
Senate Republican leaders said that an override would need 135 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate.
If the General Assembly tries to override Wolf’s veto, it will be the second time in a month that the chamber has sought to undo a veto by Wolf. An effort to override Wolf’s veto of a legislative resolution that would have ended Wolf’s emergency declaration failed to get the two-thirds supermajority needed.
The last time the General Assembly successfully voted to override a governor’s veto was in 2011 on the last day of session at the end of former Gov. Ed Rendell’s term in office.