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