House Republicans fail to override Gov. Wolf’s veto of sports bill

Karns City schools opens up stadium bleachers, but doesn't want large groups of fans

HARRISBURG, Pa. — House Republicans lost an override vote Wednesday about Wolf’s veto of a bill that would have given school boards the ability to make decisions on sports and extracurricular activities, including whether and how many spectators to allow.

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.

During floor debate, Minority Leader Frank Dermody warned that acting like the coronavirus is going away “is folly.”

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“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.”

The sponsor, Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland, called the proposal a return to common sense.

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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.

Some Pennsylvania school districts are permitting more fans in the stands in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that tossed statewide pandemic limits on crowd size.

The state Department of Education has asked schools to voluntarily comply with Democractic Gov. Tom Wolf’s since-invalidated gathering restrictions, which had been set at 25 indoors and 250 outdoors until last week’s court ruling that such limits were unconstitutional.

The Wolf administration is appealing that ruling, but a number of districts have already opted to go their own way, including the Altoona Area School District, which will allow up to 3,400 spectators at Mansion Park Stadium -- 33% of its capacity -- for Friday’s game against Cumberland Valley. The Eastern Lancaster School District will allow up to 1,000 people into its stadium, and up to 148 for indoor events like girls volleyball.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for school sports, told member schools that Wolf’s caps aren’t mandatory, “at least for the moment,” and that each school can make its own decision on crowds at games.

“If schools decide to increase the 25/250 limits, they should exercise caution and good judgment in setting numbers for attendance at indoor and outdoor sports,” wrote the PIAA’s executive director, Robert Lombardi.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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