State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Lawmakers are spring-cleaning old laws on Sunday baseball, public music

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 16, 2019 4:45 PM
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In the 1930s, Pennsylvania made it illegal to play baseball and other sports at certain times on Sundays. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- As the weather warms, some state lawmakers are attempting their own brand of spring cleaning: wiping a bunch of defunct laws off Pennsylvania's books, plus getting rid of boards, committees, and other groups that no longer do anything.

In 1933, some long-gone group of lawmakers decided to ban people from playing football and baseball before 2 p.m. and after 6 p.m. on Sundays. Around the same time, they also regulated the hours when people could watch concerts and movies.

These are prime examples of the so-called blue laws that once aimed to control how people spent Sundays.

On Tuesday, the House State Government Committee moved to get rid of them. It wasn't a controversial decision.

"We'll now be able to have concerts on Sunday afternoons," chairman Garth Everett quipped, to laughter. "Any negative votes?"

There were none.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court declared most of the old blue laws unenforceable in 1978. But Wayne County Republican Jonathan Fritz, who's involved in the repeal process, pointed out that they're still on the books.

"The idea just came from, really, an overall intent of just cleaning up government," he said.

Fritz is also pushing a bill that would get rid of nine state boards and other groups that, he said, have all been defunct for at least a few years.

"We reached out to each one of these committees to say, explain to us what you do and why you should still be on the books and why you should still exist, and they didn't get back to us," he noted.

The groups range from a Small Business Advocacy Council, to something called the Weather Modification Board.

Fritz said he initially presented Democratic Governor Tom Wolf's administration with a list of sixteen groups he wanted to cut, and they agreed on 8. It was the administration's decision to add the weather board to the mix.

However, the Democrats on the House State Government Committee said they hadn't been notified of the administration's support for the bill, and told the GOP sponsors they had reservations.

They all voted no, leaving the bill to pass on party lines.

A spokesman for Wolf said the governor is still reviewing the most recent amendment to the bill, but will continue to work on it with Fritz. 

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