Featured News

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

(Dec 19, 2019)

Check out my 2020 Capitol Scenes calendar! Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $420,000 in tax credits to fund regional food bank

(Dec 18, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 18 – Tax credits of $420,563 under the state Neighborhood Assistance Program will boost the efforts of Erie-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania to alleviate food insecurity throughout the region, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. “Second Harvest has been playing a huge role in addressing hunger in our region for more than three decades,” Bizzarro said. “Keeping their operations running strong is essential because the issue of food insecurity undergirds so many critical life issues, from staving off sickness and disease to enabling parents to provide for their children. “No family should ever have to choose between keeping food on the table and affording other essentials, such as housing, utilities or medications. Securing this help is going to help eliminate those devastating choices for families.” Harkins agreed, adding, “Widescale food distribution by organizations such as Second Harvest is more complicated than many people realize. From cultivating partnerships and securing donations from retailers, restaurants, growers, packers and government agencies to coordinating the distribution of food to area pantries and shelters, it’s a complex operation. I’m thankful that this help will help keep this vital regional provider running strong.” Merski said that he was especially glad that the funding Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski encourage Erie residents, businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans

(Dec 12, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 12 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are urging residents and business owners who suffered property damage from area storms Oct. 31-Nov. 1 to apply for a low-interest Small Business Association loan. Federal assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program is now available after the agency approved Gov. Tom Wolf’s request to declare a disaster based on the severe storms, high winds and flooding that damaged numerous buildings and businesses. “Unexpected storm damage can wreak havoc with residents’ lives and cause interruptions that impact a small business’s bottom line,” Bizzarro said. “I strongly encourage residents and business owners who suffered property damage from these storms to take advantage of this program, which can provide access to critical resources for rebuilding – especially when that damage is not covered by insurance.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000, and owners and renters may be eligible for up to $40,000, to repair or replace personal property. In addition, businesses and nonprofits that suffered damage to their buildings, equipment or inventory can apply for up to $2 million in assistance. This is funding that can help residents put their affairs back in order and help businesses get back on their feet.” Merski added that the SBA will be establishing a help center at the North Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse

(Dec 11, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 11 – Grants totaling $460,735 will expand protection and advocacy services for children throughout Pennsylvania and enhance those supports and services for Erie-area children and families, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – includes $400,000 to an Erie-based organization that trains support professionals on best practices and adherence to national standards in investigating and treating child abuse. “We’ve worked hard to secure this funding, which will allow us to broaden the reach of child protection and advocacy services throughout Pennsylvania – especially to unserved and underserved areas,” Bizzarro said. “I saw the effects of abuse while working as a witness coordinator and victims’ advocate, and I know how important access to those services can be. They need to be available to all children, regardless of where they live.” Harkins added that some of the funding will go to promote best practices in the Erie region. “Investigating and prosecuting abuse can place huge stresses on children who have already suffered unthinkable trauma,” Harkins said. “This funding will help ensure that children have a safe, supportive environment for evaluation and counseling and that professionals are trained on best Read more

 

‘Telepresence’ grant of nearly $18,000 will bring classroom to home for Erie students unable to attend school

(Dec 11, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 11 – A $ 17,894 state grant will give Erie students who are unable to be present in the classroom a chance to participate in real time from home, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the state Department of Education will fund telepresence systems – equipment that provides nearly life-like, interactive audio and video between class and a student’s home. “In the past, students with serious illnesses or other conditions that kept them out of the classroom simply missed that time, often with lasting consequences to their academic records,” Harkins said. “Those absences also created an extra burden on teachers to develop additional assignments and lesson plans. Access to this technology will be a game changer for these students and their teachers.” Merski agreed, saying, “Learning is a dynamic process that goes well beyond the curriculum. It involves interacting with the teacher and peers and the chance to actively participate in the lesson. It means inclusion. I know based on my years teaching how important this is, and I’m so glad we’ll be able to make this technology available to students in our community.” The funding is part of a $300,000 package of Keystone Telepresence grants to educational service agencies across the state, which will purchase the equipment and lend it out to school districts. The Read more

 

Merski to host Holiday Open House on Dec. 10

(Dec 06, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 6 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, will host a Holiday Open House from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at his district office located at 3901 Liberty St. Merski, who is approaching his first full year as state representative, said he is looking forward to chatting one-on-one with residents about the issues most important to them. “Events like my Holiday Open House are the perfect opportunity for our community to come together in a relaxed atmosphere, share what’s on everyone’s minds and discuss our priorities for the year ahead,” Merski said. “My talented staff will also be on-hand to help residents with state-related tasks they may have been putting off, such as applying for a property tax or rent rebate before the Dec. 31 deadline. “And of course, staff will available to help residents search the Pennsylvania Treasury for unclaimed property – a popular activity that sometimes leads to pleasant surprises.” Light refreshments will be served. Although not required, residents planning to attend are encouraged to RSVP by calling the district office at (814) 455-6319. Read more

 

Erie lawmakers urge MLB not to cut ties to SeaWolves

(Dec 05, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 5 – Erie lawmakers are fighting a possible move by Major League Baseball to sever ties with the city’s popular minor league franchise, the SeaWolves. The team was listed among 42 clubs that could lose their MLB affiliation as part of a proposed reorganization in 2021. In a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem , state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, and state Rep. Curt Sonney, R-Erie, urged the officials to reconsider a move that they say will permanently injure the region. “Our community’s 25-year ties to the SeaWolves run deep, and so does our commitment to preserving this incredibly popular Double-A list team,” said Harkins, who cited the city’s recent multimillion-dollar investment in a project to renovate UPMC Park. “We want Major League Baseball to understand what’s at stake for our region in cutting those ties, from losing a key source of jobs and revenue to ending an affordable, well-loved form of entertainment that keeps younger generations in our area interested in baseball.” Merski said he agreed, noting, “There are 42 teams on the MLB’s proposed cut list. Only a handful are AA-list teams like the SeaWolves, and very few have newly renovated, multimillion-dollar stadiums. This is the wrong move by the MLB, and we plan to make sure they recognize that now, Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $1.5 million in tax credits to strengthen education, address blight, assist working families and crime victims

(Nov 15, 2019)

ERIE, Nov. 15 – Tax credits totaling about $1.51 million approved through the Neighborhood Assistance Program will benefit numerous community redevelopment projects in the First and Second Legislative Districts, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. “These tax credits are going to fund projects that address real-world needs for low-income residents by improving access to health care, expanding resources for crime victims and addressing blighted, vacant properties, among other things,” Harkins said. “New programs funded by these grants will help transform the landscape -- and peoples’ lives.” Merski agreed, noting, “In addition to improving life for working families, these tax credits will be used to renovate school facilities, fund academic programs and bring the arts and culture to our residents. Research shows creative programs in the arts improve students’ critical thinking and other skills needed to succeed. It will be truly exciting to see our community flourish with assistance from this funding.” Merski and Harkins said the entities and amounts receiving the tax credits by district are as follows: First Legislative District $82,000 to the Erie Center for Art and Technology to add a pharmacy as part of the Wayne School project. $33,000 to Erie Arts and Culture to provide access to cultural experiences for low-income youth. Read more

 

Merski to host Sportsman’s Expo Nov. 21

(Nov 14, 2019)

ERIE, Nov. 14 – Residents can learn more about the upcoming 2019 Rifle Deer Season – and stay current on other hunting and fishing topics – by visiting a Sportsman’s Expo next Thursday, Nov. 21, hosted by state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie. The informational event be held from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Summit Township Municipal Building at 1230 Townhall Road West. “With the 2019 rifle deer season right around the corner, area hunters will want to make sure they’re up-to-date on the latest regulations and news regarding issues such as chronic wasting disease,” said Merski, a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee. “There are also some potentially exciting changes on the horizon, including a bill under consideration that would permit hunting on three Sundays annually. With representatives from both the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission attending, the expo promises to be a great source of information on hunting and fishing alike.” Merski said residents wishing to learn more about the event should call his office at (814) 455-6319. Residents can also visit the state Game Commission and Fish and Boat Commission for more information on regulations, permits, schedules and other news. Read more

 

Merski/Harkins bills would strengthen regs to prevent repeat of deadly fire

(Nov 07, 2019)

ERIE, Nov. 7 – By strengthening inspection and equipment requirements governing smoke detectors in child care facilities, a two-bill package introduced by state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, would help prevent a repeat of the tragic fire that claimed the lives of five Erie children at a day care center earlier this year. One bill would require the state Department of Human Services to check all smoke detectors during its annual inspections of child care facilities and ensure that written emergency plans, fire log drills and posted evacuation notices are in place. A second bill would require child care facilities throughout the state to maintain smoke detectors on every floor that are interconnected via hardwire, Bluetooth or any other means that would allow for communications between the devices. “Although state law requires that child care facilities have smoke detectors on every floor, the law does not go far enough – either in terms of inspections or equipment,” Merski said. “While DHS inspects child care facilities for various health and safety issues, state law has not previously mandated that the agency inspect for working smoke detectors. Our bill would change that. It also would require facilities to maintain interconnected smoke detectors so that, regardless of where a fire started, occupants on every floor could be warned with enough time to escape.” Harkins added Read more

 

Merski launches personal care products drive

(Nov 04, 2019)

ERIE, Nov. 4 – Hoping to make one aspect of life easier for families in need, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, announced at a news conference today that he is kicking off a month-long personal care products drive. Merski said he organized the drive – which he is holding in partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network and the Glenwood Park YMCA – to ensure that all residents in the district have access to essential items such as soap, shampoo, toilet paper and toothpaste. “Personal care isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity, and one that deeply affects our self-esteem and capacity to succeed in life,” Merski said. “A family’s ability to practice personal hygiene should never depend on their income level. Unfortunately, assistance programs don’t always cover these products. “I’m holding this drive because no family should ever have to worry about finding the means to stay clean and healthy. I’m optimistic the drive will be a success because I know what a caring community we share.” Merski said those able to donate should bring new, sealed personal care items to his office at 3901 Liberty St.; his Summit Township satellite office (open Tuesdays only), at 1230 Townhall Road W.; or the Glenwood Park YMCA, at 3727 Cherry St. 16508. Merski said the following items are especially helpful: toothpaste and Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $264,000 to address Lake Erie Coastal Zone projects

(Oct 22, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 22 – Grants totaling more than $264,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will fund programs to address coastal zone erosion and educate the public about related environmental issues, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced. Merski and Harkins said some of the grants include: $50,000 to the Erie Times-News in Education for a weekly feature on coastal zone environmental issues. $50,000 to the Regional Science Consortium to research the geographical sources of E. coli contamination at Presque State Park beaches. $15,000 to Mercyhurst University to develop a bluff erosion model along Lake Erie’s shoreline. $15,000 to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for shorebird monitoring at Presque Isle State Park. $5,500 to the Erie County Conservation District to develop an invasive species management plan for Millcreek’s Headwaters Park and to finance a youth education program. “Education is always a critical first step in raising awareness and then promoting best practices, and this is especially true when it comes to environmental issues,” Merski said. “The more we educate the public about the unique characteristics and challenges affecting coastal zones, the better we become about being good stewards of this amazing and beautiful natural resource.” Harkins agreed, Read more

 

Merski: Committee approves bill to allow Sunday hunting

(Oct 21, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 21 – Pennsylvania is one step closer to Sunday hunting after the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee approved a bill that would lift an existing prohibition, according to state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie. Senate Bill 147 – approved 21 – 4 – would authorize the state Game Commission to decide whether to allow hunting, lifting a ban that prohibits Sunday hunting. “I’m encouraged by the vote today,” said Merski, who sits on the Games and Fisheries Committee. With life as busy as it is, Sunday is sometimes the only free day to get out and enjoy nature. Today’s action would give Pennsylvanians a much-deserved chance to enjoy the sport they love.” The bill would provide hunting on three Sundays – one during rifle season, one during archery season and one Sunday to be determined by the state Game Commission. The bill now goes to the House chamber for a vote. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $53,000 to fund Erie school safety resources

(Oct 18, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 18 – Erie schools are receiving three grants totaling $52,850 to fund safety-related upgrades, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The legislators said the funding includes $24,240 to the Erie City School District for security-related equipment, $24,935 to Erie County Technical School for security-related equipment, and $3,675 to Bethel Christian School for safety-related programs. “After 20 years in the classroom, I know from a teacher’s perspective how important a secure, supportive learning environment is to allow kids to focus, thrive and learn,” Merski said. “The funding announced today is great news for our schools because it allows them to move forward with specific plans they’ve developed to promote this kind of environment.” Harkins agreed, adding, “School safety is about protecting our kids’ physical well-being, but it’s also about making sure they feel secure. The resources made possible by these grants will help keep fear out of the classroom.” The grants are part of a package of $7.2 million in competitive 2019-20 Safe Schools Targeted Grants from the state Department of Education. The funding – awarded to both public and non-public schools throughout the commonwealth – is designed to help schools prevent or curb violence, purchase safety and security-related equipment, Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $32 million loan to ensure safe water supply for Erie

(Oct 16, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 16 – A $32 million low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority will ensure that Erie residents continue to enjoy reliable access to safe drinking water, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The loan to Erie City Water Authority will fund projects that enhance service for more than 57,000 residents. “Ensuring a safe, reliable water supply depends on smooth, coordinated functioning of multiple systems, from pumps and chlorination equipment to treatment, testing and storage facilities,” Merski said. “This funding is essential to help us address long-standing issues such as pump stations that are at the end of their useable lives and an 80-year-old treatment plant building long overdue for upgrades.” Harkins agreed, noting, “The water authority has already invested more than $60 million in upgrading filtration equipment and standby power. The new financing builds on those improvements by addressing plant infrastructure issues, remedying code violations and expanding water storage to ensure Erie and surrounding towns have a plentiful, continuous supply.” Bizzarro added that the funding allows Erie to continue to fulfill its most important duties to residents. “Safeguarding public and community health is the No. 1 priority for government,” he said. “The funding Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $500,000 grant brings Erie closer to becoming ‘smart city’

(Oct 10, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Oct. 10 – Erie is one step closer to becoming a “smart city,” thanks to a $500,000 grant that will fund the city’s broadband deployment program and provide free public Wi-Fi access, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission will expand Erie’s “Secure Smart City Pilot” – a project launched last year to help the city use electronic data collection to better manage resources, fight crime, and improve efficiency. “I’m especially excited about how this program is going to make us a safer community,” Harkins said. “I have been working with law enforcement for some time on this project, and this infusion of funding is going to enhance security in areas that are prone to crime. We’ll be seeing urban security solutions that include traffic monitoring, analytics that can be tracked on a visualization dashboard, and better lighting, including the ability to remotely control streetlights.” Merski noted that the technology also will enable Erie to save money and operate more efficiently. “The theory behind smart cities is that they use information t echnology to capture data that can pinpoint exactly where resources are needed,” Merski said. “That allows us to target specific areas needing assistance while reducing wasteful spending. It Read more

 

Merski to host Medical Marijuana Forum Oct. 16

(Oct 09, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 9 – Erie residents can learn more about the state’s Medical Marijuana program by attending a free forum hosted by state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie. The forum will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 in the first-floor community room at 100 State St. Local experts will discuss how the program works, what conditions it covers and how to register and participate, among other topics. A question-and-answer session will follow. “Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program has brought relief to thousands of patients suffering from intractable pain and other problems related to serious medical conditions,” Merski said. “Because the program can meaningfully improve quality of life for those suffering, I want to be sure everyone in our community who might benefit is aware of this resource and understands how it works.” Merski noted that the program covers 23 serious medical conditions, including anxiety disorders, autism, cancer and remission therapy, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. He added that there are at least 25 physicians in Erie who are approved to certify patients for participation. Residents wishing to learn more about the forum should call Merski’s office at (814) 455-6319. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Grant will bring urban agriculture to the classroom

(Oct 02, 2019)

ERIE, Oct. 2 – Erie students will soon get hands-on experience with urban agriculture thanks to a $825 microgrant that will fund supplies and equipment for 14 school gardens, according to state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie. The funding – part of the first round of Pennsylvania Farm Bill grants – will allow the Erie City School District to purchase soil, seed trays and hydro domes to create starter plants for the gardens. “Some of the best lessons are those that allow kids to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty,” Harkins said. “For city kids, planting seeds, watching them sprout and harvesting food they’ve grown themselves teaches about the life cycle in a way no book can. It also shows that you don’t need a lot of land to create a peaceful, productive green space.” Merski agreed, noting, “A well-rounded education isn’t just about teaching kids math and reading – it’s about allowing them to cultivate life-sustaining skills to help address food insecurity and empower whole communities. Those are skills they will carry with them their whole lives.” The grant is part of a package of funding to benefit 28 projects in various counties statewide and comes from the Urban Agriculture Infrastructure Grant Program, part of the state’s first-ever Pennsylvania Farm Bill. Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $376,000 for programs to address domestic violence and abuse, curb gun violence

(Sep 12, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Sept. 12 – State grants totaling $376,741 will bolster Erie programs aimed at reducing gun violence and supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – includes three grants totaling nearly $127,000 under the Victims of Crime Act and one grant of nearly $250,000 under the 2019/20 Gun Violence Reduction Initiative. “In addition to helping victims of domestic violence and abuse rebuild their lives, this funding will benefit our entire community by reducing gun violence and the shadow of fear it casts,” Bizzarro said. “The Gun Violence Reduction Initiative being funded is based on a deterrence model that has proven successful by targeting high-risk individuals and groups through direct communication, enforcement and outreach. I’m hopeful that we’ll see meaningful results in Erie.” Harkins added that the funding will also make a difference for those victimized by domestic violence or abuse. “More than anything, innocent residents whose lives have been shattered by domestic violence or abuse need to feel safe and free from the ongoing threat of violence,” Harkins said. “The PCCD funding will go toward programs that help victims free themselves from the specter of ongoing violence or abuse by obtaining protective Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $18,000 in funding to benefit homeless children in Erie City School District

(Aug 30, 2019)

ERIE, Aug. 30 – Fifty-two students in the Erie City School District will benefit from $18,605 in funding serving homeless children and displaced youth. The money comes from a federally funded program created to assist local educational agencies serving homeless children and youth displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, or the 2017 California wildfires. “This funding is great news for students in our district whose families are facing extremely difficult circumstances that have disrupted their lives,” Harkins said. “As legislators, we want to do everything in our power to make sure all kids in Erie city schools have an equal chance to learn.” Merski agreed, noting, “As a former teacher, I’ve seen how difficult it can be for kids to learn and achieve when they’re facing homelessness or poverty. This funding should bring a measure of hope and peace of mind to these students that will reduce their stress and uncertainty and allow them to get back to the business of learning and thriving.” Grants were awarded to 17 school districts throughout Pennsylvania with displaced students ranging from 28 to 495 children. Read more

 

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar
Dec 19, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $420,000 in tax credits to fund regional food bank
Dec 18, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski encourage Erie residents, businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans
Dec 12, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse
Dec 11, 2019

‘Telepresence’ grant of nearly $18,000 will bring classroom to home for Erie students unable to attend school
Dec 11, 2019

Merski to host Holiday Open House on Dec. 10
Dec 06, 2019

Erie lawmakers urge MLB not to cut ties to SeaWolves
Dec 05, 2019

Harkins, Merski: More than $1.5 million in tax credits to strengthen education, address blight, assist working families and crime victims
Nov 15, 2019

Merski to host Sportsman’s Expo Nov. 21
Nov 14, 2019

Merski/Harkins bills would strengthen regs to prevent repeat of deadly fire
Nov 07, 2019

Merski launches personal care products drive
Nov 04, 2019

Harkins, Merski: More than $264,000 to address Lake Erie Coastal Zone projects
Oct 22, 2019

Merski: Committee approves bill to allow Sunday hunting
Oct 21, 2019

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $53,000 to fund Erie school safety resources
Oct 18, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $32 million loan to ensure safe water supply for Erie
Oct 16, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $500,000 grant brings Erie closer to becoming ‘smart city’
Oct 10, 2019

Merski to host Medical Marijuana Forum Oct. 16
Oct 09, 2019

Harkins, Merski: Grant will bring urban agriculture to the classroom
Oct 02, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $376,000 for programs to address domestic violence and abuse, curb gun violence
Sep 12, 2019

Harkins, Merski: More than $18,000 in funding to benefit homeless children in Erie City School District
Aug 30, 2019