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Gov. Wolf vows to veto bill that would give schools final say on sports, spectators

MARC LEVY
The Associated Press
Gov. Tom Wolf

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf will veto another coronavirus-related bill, this time one that would give a school district or private school sole authority to decide whether and how to conduct sports during the 2020-21 school year, his office said Wednesday.

The bill passed the state Senate on Wednesday, 39-11, a week after it passed the House, the latest way that the Republican-controlled Legislature has tried to limit powers Wolf has used under health and emergency disaster laws during the pandemic to limit crowds and activities.

The bill gives a school district or private school sole authority to decide whether to conduct sports during the 2020-21 school year, including games, scrimmages and other in-person extracurricular activities. It also gives them the power to determine safety protocol and crowd limits.

Both chambers approved it by veto-proof two-thirds majorities.

But Wolf’s office said it was unnecessary since “school districts already have local control on decisions on school sports” and suggested that it was irresponsible because it would allow districts to green-light big crowds at sporting events that help spread the virus.

“This bill would allow for the potential gathering of thousands in close proximity, a widely-reported, well-known public health risk,” Wolf’s office said. “We should focus on preventing the spread and creating a safe environment for children students back to learning and, if possible, in the classroom. Minimizing exposure to COVID-19 is paramount.”

Wolf has ordered crowds at school sports kept to statewide gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.

Majority Republicans introduced the legislation last month after Wolf issued a “ strong recommendation ” that all youth athletics be canceled until 2021 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Some districts and leagues have already canceled fall sports, saying the risk of spreading the virus is too great, while others are still planning to play. A number of Pennsylvania high schools have already reported virus cases among athletes, prompting temporary shutdowns of sports programs.