(The Center Square) – Republican leaders vowed at a news conference held Wednesday they will challenge Gov. Tom Wolf if he vetoes a bill giving the school districts the authority to determine their own social distancing rules for school sports.
House Bill 2787 passed the Senate, 39-11, and the House of Representatives, 155-47, which is enough votes in each chamber to override a veto.
“The premise of House bill 2787 is meant to empower our local school boards and the folks that they represent because they are in the best position to make decisions about school sports and activities as well as who can attend those events safely,” said the bill’s sponsor, Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland. “Most of us understand that Pennsylvania is a very diverse state and that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work.”
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto the bill. Earlier this month, he reversed a policy that banned all spectators at sports but limited sports events to 25 people indoors and 250 people at outdoor events.
The limitations are too stringent and sometimes even keep the players from participating in the games, Reese said. The restrictions will keep some indoor volleyball players in the hall or in the parking lot for their turn to play at the net to meet the 25-person limit before they ride the bus home together, he said.
Local officials know their facilities and have no less commitment to public safety than Wolf, Reese added.
“The big question is this: ‘Who is Gov. Wolf, who is [Health] Secretary [Rachel] Levine. or anyone else in Harrisburg to dictate that moms, dad, grandmas, grandpaps, brothers and sisters can’t be at events to watch their loved ones compete?’” Reese asked.
Republican leaders asked Wolf to not veto the bill and join them in allowing parents to see their children play sports citing the importance extra-curricular activities for students.
“Lifelong friendships and lessons are learned and valuable mentorships occur between coaches and senior members in these activities," said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff. “The opportunity for scholarships and future academic growth also occur.”
Benninghoff quoted U.S. District Court Judge William Stickman, who earlier this week ruled some of Wolf’s shutdown executive orders are unconstitutional, in making his point.
“The liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms in place when times are good but able to be cast aside in times of trouble,” Benninghoff said. “It is truly time to give the people their voice back and ensure children and have their best, and in my opinion complete educational outcomes.”