Wolf predicts sports veto will survive; Y-A officials pause for politics

Central York vs Northeastern during football action at Northeastern Senior High School in Manchester, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. Central York would win the game 44-7. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday that he's confident lawmakers won't muster the votes to override his expected veto of a bill that would grant local school districts the authority to decide if spectators are allowed at sporting events.

Meanwhile, York-Adams League officials canceled a vote Friday about whether to allow spectators at games and implored member schools to abide by Wolf's mandates until the political process had played out. 

"I'm not concerned," Wolf said Thursday at Buchart Horn Inc. while pushing for additional aid to small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "I don't think it'll be overridden."

The governor's confidence Thursday came despite the fact that both chambers approved the legislation with a veto-proof majority. The state House passed the bill 155-47 on Sept. 2, and the Senate passed it Wednesday 39-11.

The GOP-written legislation had significant support from Democrats in both chambers. It was delivered to Wolf's desk Friday, which triggered a 10-day clock for Wolf to either veto or sign the bill. 

When initially asked Thursday about the bipartisan support, Wolf was not aware that the bill had a veto-proof majority during its passage. The Democrat then shook off any concerns.

The legislation would give school districts the sole authority to set safety protocols and make local decisions about crowd sizes.

The governor, however, has set limits on gatherings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, permitting 25 people at indoor gatherings and 250 people at outdoor events.

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Central York at Red Lion football, Friday, September 13, 2019
John A. Pavoncello photo

For now at least, the first week of Y-A League football games scheduled for Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 will be subject to 250-person limit, which includes the participants on the field.

PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi sent an email to the PIAA board of directors that urged member schools to comply with Wolf's order until the political standoff between the governor and state lawmakers had been resolved.

"If schools violate this, it will cause, us as an organization, a huge problem to keep our support in the General Assembly who expect us to play by the rules and work through the process for change,"  Lombardi wrote in an email to member school districts. 

Wolf's argument in opposition to the legislation is that it would give schools the authority to bring in large crowds, which he says would aid the spread of COVID-19. 

Democrats in the Legislature, though, have been hesitant to take a stance on Wolf's veto despite their own members supporting the bill.

Bill Patton, spokesperson for the House Democratic Caucus, acknowledged there was "broad support" for the bill but said the party is waiting for what Wolf has to say if he were to veto the bill.

It was unclear when Wolf would issue his veto.

"It's too soon to say," Patton said. "We'll have to look at his veto message when, and if, that comes."

Brittany Crampsie, spokesperson for Senate Democrats, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Republicans are pressuring Democrats to stick by their earlier votes and assist in overriding Wolf's veto. 

"When we receive the bill from the House, we will call for a veto override vote," tweeted Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, on Thursday. "We will see how committed the Democrats who overwhelmingly voted for the bill are to allowing local schools to have the final say extracurricular activities & spectators."