Gov. Wolf ve­toes bill to let Penn­syl­va­nia bars, restau­rants loosen coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions

The Morning Call - - State / Region - By Ford Turner Morn­ing Call Capi­tol correspond­ent Ford Turner can be reached at fturner@mcall.com

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf on Fri­day ve­toed a bill that would al­low restau­rants and bars in Penn­syl­va­nia to loosen some coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions, set­ting up the pos­si­bil­ity lead­ers in the leg­is­la­ture would seek an over­ride vote.

Wolf, whose ad­min­is­tra­tion this week de­scribed a “fall resur­gence” of the virus with es­ca­lat­ing case counts, said the bill jeop­ar­dized pub­lic health and safety.

“It per­mits eat­ing es­tab­lish­ments, in­clud­ing restau­rants, bars, clubs and ban­quet halls, to op­er­ate, up to 100% ca­pac­ity, with­out hav­ing to fol­low any mit­i­ga­tion guide­lines,” he wrote in his veto no­tice.

The prime spon­sor of the bill, Repub­li­can Rep. Garth Everett of Ly­coming County, dis­agreed.

He said restau­rants are not caus­ing the rise in cases. The hot spots right now, he said, are ar­eas with col­lege cam­puses where lots of young adults get to­gether in close prox­im­ity.

He said he has never been shown any ev­i­dence “that restau­rants are a con­trib­u­tor to spread­ing the virus.”

Among other things, the bill al­lows the use of bar seats dur­ing the pan­demic.

The mea­sure had strong bi­par­ti­san sup­port in the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Leg­is­la­ture. In late Septem­ber, it passed the House with 145 of 202 mem­bers vot­ing “yes” and the Senate with 43 of 50 mem­bers in sup­port.

A veto over­ride re­quires a vote of more than two-thirds of mem­bers in each cham­ber.

Last month, House Repub­li­cans tried to over­ride a Wolf veto of a bill that would have let school dis­tricts have fi­nal au­thor­ity in run­ning sport events dur­ing the pan­demic.

The over­ride failed when 24 Democrats who orig­i­nally sup­ported the bill changed po­si­tions dur­ing the over­ride vote.

A spokesman for House Repub­li­cans, Ja­son Gottes­man, called the restau­rant bill “an im­por­tant piece of re­cov­ery leg­is­la­tion de­signed to help the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try and work­ers.”

Any over­ride ac­tion would oc­cur first in the House, where the bill orig­i­nated. Gottes­man said House lead­ers would dis­cuss next week the next steps af­ter Wolf’s veto.

Senate Repub­li­can lead­er­ship spokesper­son Jen­nifer Kocher said they would con­sider op­tions, should an over­ride vote suc­ceed in the House.

Both the House and Senate are sched­uled to be in ses­sion for part of next week.

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