Wolf vetoes bill giving local control over high school sports decisions

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed legislation giving local jurisdictions more control over decisions to resume high school sports and the power to decide whether to allow spectators at games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

State lawmakers passed House Bill 2787 with a veto-proof bipartisan majority, setting up a potential showdown over the measure, as state House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, said the state House will vote to override the veto.

“Schools already have the ability to decide whether they’re going to do sports,” Wolf said during a Monday morning news conference. “School districts (are) going to do what they do, but there’s a virus out there, and that virus really likes it when you bring a lot of people together. That’s what we know, and so you ignore that at your peril.

“…The virus is out to get us, and as much as I hate that fact, as much as … everybody hates that fact, it’s a fact, and instead of ignoring it, we ought to try to figure out what we do to keep that virus from infecting too many people,” Wolf added.

The state Senate passed the bill by a 39-11 margin, while the state House passed the measure by a 155-47 margin. Wolf had until Monday to veto the legislation, or it would become law.

In a Monday afternoon statement, Benninghoff said the bill “represents the good bipartisan work that has been done by the General Assembly to represent the voice of the people during this difficult time.” Wolf’s veto “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 charged.

“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,” Benninghoff said. “To once again stand up for children and families, the House will vote to override this ridiculous veto.”

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said the state Senate plans to act once the House does.

“Once the House takes action, we are ready to bring a veto override up for a vote immediately in the Senate,” Corman said in a statement. “I remain hopeful that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will have the courage and conviction to do what is best for Pennsylvania, and not what is in the best political interests of the governor.

“We remain willing to work with the governor to respond to the virus and strengthen our communities, but that is not going to happen if he continues to ignore the will of the people,” Corman added.

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