PA Lawmakers Target Antiquated “Blue Laws”

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HARRISBURG, PA (WSKG) — 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.

New York Yankees star Babe Ruth, left, poses with Jimmie Foxx of the Philadelphia Athletics before the season opener, April 17, 1934, at Shibe Park. Double X, as Foxx was known, was one of the few hitters who could challenge the Bambino homer for homer. Many call him the right-handed Babe Ruth. Foxx led the league in home runs four times and was a Triple Crown winner in 1933 and a three-time MVP. Ironically, Foxx finished his career the way Ruth started his: pitching. He joined Ruth in the Hall of Fame in 1951. (AP Photo)

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 did not confirm whether the administration supports Fritz’s bill.