Wolf vetoes bill that would give school districts final say over youth sports, attendance

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed legislation that would have given more say to school districts in how they handle youth sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill would have ensured school districts not only had the last word but also given them more say in how many people could attend games.

Wolf said the bill is redundant because schools already the final say in whether they can play or not.

As far as attendance, he emphasizes that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and the coronavirus spreads when large groups of people get together. His attendance limits are set to prevent that from happening.

“I’m always amazed at politicians thinking they can somehow wave a magic wand and suspend reality,” he said.

Outdoor sports in Pennsylvania are currently limited to 250 people, including players, coaches, officials and other staff. Indoor sports are limited to 25 people.

“The virus is out to get us, and as much as I hate that fact, as much as I’m sure everyone hates that fact, it’s a fact,” Wolf continued.

State Sen. Tom Killion, from Chester and Delaware counties, and state Rep. Todd Stephens call the veto disappointing.

The legislation passed with enough votes to override a veto, so Killion said it shows him Wolf is not interested in working with the state Legislature.

Stephens said local boards should be able to evaluate their particular situations and be allowed to come up with their own safety plans. Some stadiums can only hold 100 people, he noted, whereas others seat 2,500 — and they’re expected to follow the same attendance protocols set by Wolf.

“I don’t think this is a place where a one-size-fits-all works very well,” he said. “Local officials ought to be able to rely on local data, local metrics in their particular counties and communities.”

Wolf issued a statement on the veto late Monday afternoon:

“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.”