HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-sponsored bill Friday that would have let restaurants and bars reopen at up to full capacity, saying it would have jeopardized public health and safety.
It was the latest in a string of coronavirus-related vetoes from the Democratic governor, as GOP state lawmakers have continually pressed for looser social distancing restrictions and to revoke or modify other Wolf policies.
“Instead of removing mitigation guidelines and encouraging behaviors that increase the spread of COVID-19, we need to be focused on getting our children back to school, keeping our schools and businesses open, and taking precautions to keep our communities healthy,” Wolf said in a message issued with the veto.
Wolf also argued the legislation has constitutionality problems because it would have taken away authority from the governor during the global health emergency.
“This bill represents another meaningless attempt to change a necessary tool for fighting the pandemic,” Wolf wrote in the veto message. “These bills that do nothing more than seek to distract from our focus on helping Pennsylvanians cope and recover from this emergency must stop.”
House Republican spokesman Jason Gottesman said shutdowns and economic restrictions are not the way to fight the pandemic.
“People have had seven months to learn social distancing, mask wearing and proper precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Gottesman said. “We have faith in the ability of not only individual Pennsylvanians, but in family-owned businesses, job creators and their workers to make the right decisions to keep people safe.”
The bill, which passed both chambers by wide margins last month, would have ended a requirement that Pennsylvania customers buy food when they purchase alcohol and would have let people be served drinks at the bar.
It also would have let taverns and restaurants operate at 50% capacity, or more if they were able to meet state and federal social distancing standards or erect appropriate barriers.
The Wolf administration currently allows restaurants to run at 50% capacity if they have certified they meet state and federal standards for mask wearing, social distancing and hours of operation.
Gottesman said House Republicans will consider whether to attempt an override when they return to session next week.