Featured News

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $1.3 million to fund anti-crime, victim support and youth mentoring programs Erie County

(Jun 14, 2019)

HARRISBURG, June 14 – Nearly $1.33 million in grants will fund programs and services to reduce crime, assist victims, address substance abuse and support at-risk youth in Erie County, 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 eight grants to various Erie County criminal justice, protection and advocacy, and community service agencies. “Our community thrives when all of us thrive,” Bizzarro said. “By funding evidence-based projects and pilot programs, these grants will help us reach those in our community who are at risk, whether they’re residents struggling with substance abuse, family members living with the threat of domestic violence or youth who are falling into crime or delinquency.” Harkins said he was especially encouraged by the funding to advocacy and victims’ agencies. “Our safety as a community is important, but it’s also critically important to ensure that those who have been victimized by domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or other violent crimes receive the assistance they need to rebuild their lives,” Harkins said. “This funding will help provide essential protective services, counseling and most importantly – hope – to residents whose lives have been turned upside down by violent crime.” Merski noted that the grants Read more

 

Harkins issues statement in response to Wabtec-union contract ratification

(Jun 13, 2019)

ERIE, June 13 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee, issued the following statement in response to news that members of UE Locals 506 and 618 yesterday ratified a four-year labor agreement with their new employer, locomotive manufacturer Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., after 128 days of negotiations and a nine-day strike: “I’m exceedingly proud of the union for having the fortitude and determination to stand up and fight for its members. The negotiation process required the union to rewrite its entire contract from scratch, which was a long and difficult path with a lot riding on the outcome. Through it all, union leaders stood their ground to ensure Wabtec workers receive the benefits and protections they deserve. “I’m especially pleased that the new contract will provide workers with improved health and welfare benefits; five-year recall rights for laid-off workers; a commitment for new work equivalent to 100 full-time employees by the end of the contract; and a continued policy of volunteer, as opposed to mandatory, overtime, among other protections. It’s also a step in the right direction to see that new workers will be able to increase their wages over a 10-year period until they are on-par with the legacy employees. The negotiations proved that, in this day and age, labor and management can co-exist. “Most of all, I know members are relieved to return to Read more

 

Harkins: Low-interest loan will help area employer expand operations, retain jobs

(Jun 06, 2019)

ERIE, June 6 – A low-interest loan will enable an area employer to expand its operations and retain jobs, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins said the real estate development entity Sites Bros Holdings, LLC, was approved for a $400,000, 15-year loan at a 3.5% rate through the Enterprise Development Center of Erie County. The loan will allow for acquisition of a 12,850-square-foot Erie building currently occupied by XPO Logistics Freight, Inc., and will enable the company to retain 30 jobs over the next three years. “I’m excited to see that our efforts to help secure this loan were successful,” Harkins said. “Our regional businesses provide the pulse of our economy, and a favorable loan that permits a business to expand stimulates economic activity and promotes job retention. It’s an investment that yields multiple, healthy returns for families, businesses, and the entire community.” The loan was part of a package of loans approved through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for businesses in eight counties statewide. The loans are designed to help businesses at various stages of development – from startups to established businesses seeking to expand – and are projected to create or retain 324 jobs across the commonwealth. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: $400,000 grant will fund afterschool opportunities for Erie elementary school students

(Jun 04, 2019)

ERIE, June 4 – A $400,000 grant will permit Mercyhurst University to offer afterschool academic supports and other enrichment programs for students attending three Erie elementary schools, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. Harkins and Merski said the federally funded grant – part of a package of 21st Century Community Learning Center grants administered by the state Department of Education – will benefit students of Grover Cleveland, Jefferson, and Jo Anna Connell elementary schools. “I’m thrilled that our attempts to secure this funding were successful, because the programs funded will help level the playing field for students who may be at a disadvantage based on income barriers or academic obstacles,” Harkins said. “Every student deserves a chance to succeed.” Merski agreed, noting, “As a former teacher, I have seen firsthand the benefits of additional programs that boost learning and reinforce core concepts for grade school age children. Investing in a strong start early on for these students yields tremendous benefits later, in terms of greater confidence, greater engagement and future success.” Competitive, 21st CCLC grants fund the establishment of community learning centers that provide students with academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities. The opportunities must occur during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session and help Read more

 

Harkins: Grant of more than $72,000 will enhance safety at Erie railroad crossings

(May 29, 2019)

ERIE, May 29 – A $72,040 state grant will improve safety at four Erie railroad crossings, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. The funding – from PennDOT’s Automated Red Light Enforcement program – will be used to upgrade fluorescent and incandescent railroad notification signs with LEDs at four Erie intersections. “I’m extremely glad to see that these upgrades we’ve been pushing for will be implemented,” Harkins said. “The safety of Erie motorists and pedestrians is one of our most important concerns, and crossing collisions are often the preventable result of human inattention. LED lighting that increases visibility of signage and helps catch the eye of approaching drivers and pedestrians can help prevent these tragic incidents.” Harkins said the grant will fund upgrades at the following intersections: Bayfront Parkway and E. 6th Street Bayfront Parkway and E 8th Street Bayfront Pkwy and E. 10th Street Bayfront Connector and McClelland Avenue Under state law, grant funding is supplied by fines from red light violations at 30 intersections in Philadelphia. Municipalities submitted 134 applications, totaling almost $38 million in requests. Projects were selected by an eight-member committee based on criteria such as benefits and effectiveness, cost, local and regional impact, and cost sharing. Read more

 

Harkins: $25,000 grant to Iroquois School District will fund purchase of security equipment

(May 20, 2019)

ERIE, May 20 – A $25,000 grant to the Iroquois School District will fund the purchase of security equipment, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins said the funding, administered by the state Department of Education, will allow the district to complement existing safety measures in schools with a variety of equipment-based resources. “Effective school security relies on a mix of different resources, and those vary depending on the school,” Harkins said. “There’s no one-size-fits-all plan. What’s true across the board, however, is that a safe, secure environment is essential for students to learn. The grant announced today should go a long way in ensuring that Iroquois School District can purchase the security equipment it has determined it needs to keep students and school employees safe.” Harkins noted that the grant is part of a statewide package of 39 competitive Safe Schools Targeted grants awarded up to a maximum of $25,000 each. Districts may use the funding to purchase student, staff and visitor identification systems; surveillance and special emergency communications equipment; metal detectors; protective lighting; electronic locksets, deadbolts and theft control devices; and training for the use of security-related technology. The funding announced today is in addition to more than $47 million in competitive Safe Schools Targeted grants announced earlier this month. Read more

 

Enough is enough: Time to throw a safety line to our public-sector employees

(May 20, 2019)

On the day he died , Jake Schwab went to work like he did on any other morning, looking forward to tackling the projects ahead of him. The 48-year-old Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority mechanic and avid motorcycle enthusiast was assigned to work on a bus from a different agency. Although he wasn’t familiar with the bus, Jake wasn’t daunted. He was good at his job, and, with 27 years’ experience, he was comfortable working on a range of vehicles. But then, a problem arose: The lift equipment Jake requested was unavailable, forcing him to use different equipment in its place. As he was working, the equipment malfunctioned, and the bus shifted. A component of the suspension exploded, striking Jake in the head. He died just days later, on November 9, 2014, leaving his widow and the love of his life, Tiffany, to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. lipping through the cracks As a mechanic for a public transit authority, Jake shared many things in common with private mechanics – except one: Unlike private-sector employees, Jake was not protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and Pennsylvania has no state plan imposing comparable standards to protect public employees. As a result, there had been no safety training in Jake’s garage for more than nine years, and there was no public investigation and report detailing the safety problems leading up to his death. Instead, Tiffany battled to receive Read more

 

Harkins bill to rid Public School Code of derogatory language passes House unanimously

(May 15, 2019)

HARRISBURG, May 15 – The House today unanimously passed a bill that would remove outdated, derogatory language from the state’s Public School Code, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie. “Our laws are a reflection of our values as a society,” Harkins said. “Pennsylvania has made measurable progress in updating our classrooms and educational programs to be inclusive of students with mental health issues and disabilities. At the same time, however, derogatory terms such as ‘defective’ and ‘handicapped’ remain in the Public School Code. “Language is powerful: Studies have shown that the use of certain words and phrases maintains the stigma surrounding mental health issues and disabilities. It is time to update our laws so that they keep pace with our advancement toward a more inclusive society. I’m extremely pleased that the House unanimously passed this legislation. Removing such language from our laws would go a long way toward eliminating it from speech, social interactions and perceptions.” The bill (H.B. 1196) now heads to the state Senate for consideration and a vote. Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $65,000 in matching grants to help Erie County businesses grow greener

(May 08, 2019)

HARRISBURG, May 8 – State matching grants totaling $65,335 will help 12 small businesses in Erie adopt greener practices, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins, and Bob Merski, all D-Erie. The funding is provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Small Business Advantage Grant program. “I’m extremely pleased that we were able to help these seven small businesses in our district procure funding,” Harkins said. “Taking steps to be more responsible stewards of the environment helps recover natural resources and also makes economic sense for businesses, because energy-efficient practices are more cost-efficient in the long run.” Merski agreed, noting, “Greener practices translate to less waste, a healthier work environment, and greater efficiency for these companies, which helps their bottom line. It’s an investment that pays off for everyone.” Bizzarro added that businesses that work to protect the environment set a good example for others. “Small businesses can be a positive force for change by inspiring other companies and private citizens,” Bizzarro said. “By ‘going green,’ small-business owners encourage others in the community to do the same. It sends a great message.” The grant recipients, projects and amounts, by legislative district, are as follows: First Legislative District: Two Penny Corporation – HVAC – $7,000 Read more

 

Harkins announces grant of more than $14,800 to Erie Fire Department

(May 06, 2019)

ERIE, May 6 – The Erie Fire Department is receiving a grant of $14,811, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced. The grant is provided by Pennsylvania's Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program, which is administered by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner. “Our firefighters never hesitate to be on the front lines, regardless of the emergency, and even while having to work under tight budget constraints,” Harkins said. “These first responders deserve the best for their courageous service, and this funding will help address some of the financial challenges they are facing.” Harkins added that in addition to funding equipment and training, the money can be used for repairing, building or renovating facilities and for repaying debt related to equipment purchases or facility building and maintenance. Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $200,000 state grant to fund Erie regional job-training program

(May 03, 2019)

ERIE, May 3 – A $200,000 state grant will provide on-the-job training to Erie job seekers while strengthening the talent pool for regional manufacturers, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The funding to Erie Regional Manufacturer Partnership will allow it to partner with workforce development boards to create WorkAdvance – a short-term manufacturing training program that will provide job-training skills tailored to workforce needs as well as placement assistance for the Erie County region. “As the manufacturing industry continues to advance and incorporate new technologies such as robotics, it’s essential that our region has qualified workers who can step into these high-tech jobs,” Bizzarro said. “Programs such as WorkAdvance are extremely helpful because they address that potential manufacturing workforce gap and help ensure that our regional industries remain competitive.” Harkins agreed, noting, “While we are always looking for new business opportunities, it’s also essential to make sure we are doing all we can to strengthen our current industries. The funding for this program will help ensure that our local manufacturers have the pool of skilled workers they need to keep pace and remain competitive in today’s business world.” Merski added that the program will fund a range of services for area job seekers. “The program will be a terrific Read more

 

Harkins, Merski add their names to brief supporting AG’s suit against UPMC

(Apr 25, 2019)

HARRISBURG, April 25 – Vowing to fight for patient health care choice, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, have signed onto a legal brief filed yesterday by the House Democratic Caucus in support of the state attorney general’s lawsuit against UPMC. That suit is seeking to modify and indefinitely extend the UPMC-Highmark Health consent decrees that are set to expire on June 30. “Expiration of these consent decrees strikes at the very heart of patient choice and patient care,” Harkins said. “By refusing to extend the decrees, UPMC is effectively cutting off patients’ access to the providers with whom they have developed trusted, long-term relationships. I’m hearing from residents – including those who work at public safety jobs putting their lives on the line for us – who are deeply distressed about the thought of losing this access. We can’t stand by and allow that to happen.” Merski agreed, noting that members of the Erie community are particularly impacted. “So many in our community depend on these relationships that they’ve developed over the years with their chosen providers,” Merski said. “It’s reasonable to expect UPMC to abide by its responsibilities as a charitable organization. Unfortunately, UPMC does not appear to see it as an obligation, despite the fact that it is funded by patients’ taxpayer dollars.” Attorney General Josh Read more

 

Harkins takes ‘Keystone Worker Protection Pledge’ on Capitol steps

(Apr 09, 2019)

HARRISBURG, April 9 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, pledged to protect Pennsylvania’s workers as he joined union leaders, workers’ right advocates and fellow legislators for a rally today on the front steps of the state Capitol. Harkins and fellow legislators took the “Keystone Worker Protection Pledge,” affirming their commitment to protecting workers’ safety and their support for legislation that promotes workers’ rights – including the right to receive a living wage and the right to join and participate in unions. “I’m encouraged to see so many of my fellow legislators turn out today,” said Harkins, who is Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee. “We can’t afford to be silent on the issue of worker protections, and we can’t remain neutral when it comes to policies that help Pennsylvania’s working families. Our commonwealth is only as strong as the workers whose efforts build our economy and the working families who sustain it. When they succeed, we all succeed. “As part of my pledge today, I also want to reaffirm my commitment to working for the passage of Jake’s Law – my bill that would extend workplace protections under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act to the state’s public employees. Currently, those standards apply only to private-sector and federal workers. My bill is named for Jake Schwab Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $1 million will fund new housing for Erie County residents with disabilities

(Mar 27, 2019)

ERIE, March 27 – New housing is on the horizon for Erie County individuals with disabilities, thanks to $1 million in funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The money will be used to fund the EHCA New Community Homes project, which will construct group homes for Erie County residents with physical and intellectual disabilities. “The many individuals in our area who live with disabilities are integral members of our Erie community,” Bizzarro said. “They’re our friends, our families, and our coworkers, and they have remarkable achievements to contribute. The funding announced today will ensure that they have housing that provides them with both the independence and support they need to thrive.” “I’m very pleased about this funding,” Harkins said. “The money will allow for construction of group homes that provide Erie County’s individuals with disabilities a true home environment while also providing the necessary medical, social and emotional support they need to live with dignity.” Merski said: “The measure of a community is how it provides for all residents of all abilities. The funding announced today will make sure our community is an inclusive one that offers the benefits of a warm, supportive living environment for all residents.” RCAP is administered by the Office of the Read more

 

House unanimously adopts Harkins resolution supporting crime victims’ rights

(Mar 26, 2019)

HARRISBURG, March 26 – A resolution supporting crime victims and celebrating progress made on behalf of victims’ rights won unanimous House support today, according to the author, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie. House Resolution 137 – designating April 7 -13 as “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” in Pennsylvania – also aims to raise awareness about the importance of victims’ rights and services. “Each year, several million Americans fall victim to crimes, and anyone can become a target,” said Harkins, who is co-chairman of the Law Enforcement Caucus. “In 2017 alone, approximately 5.6 million Americans were victimized by violent crime. While our national attention is often focused on the rights of criminal defendants, it’s important to remember that crime victims and their families are equally deserving of justice, rights, resources, restoration and rehabilitation.” Harkins noted that each year, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime encourages communities across the country to observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. “It’s a great opportunity for criminal justice officials, service providers and concerned citizens to join forces in celebrating the hard-won progress we’ve made thus far,” he said. Read more

 

House unanimously passes Harkins online career resource center bill

(Mar 20, 2019)

HARRISBURG, March 20 – Students navigating career choices would enjoy a simpler, more streamlined and more informative process under a bill the House passed unanimously today, according to the author, state Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie. Harkins’ H.B. 393 – part of a bipartisan package of career training and technical education bills – would create an online career resource center that would consolidate information about career pathways and CTE resources into a single online clearinghouse. “Students contemplating career choices face weighty, sometimes confusing decisions,” Harkins said. “The commonwealth provides a wealth of resources on career pathways and CTE opportunities, but there’s currently no central location where students and those counseling them can go to easily access all of this information. Consolidating these resources in one online location would make the process less daunting and time-consuming and would ensure that students have all available resources at their fingertips when making these major life decisions.” Harkins’ bill would require the state Department of Education and the Department of Labor and Industry to establish the clearinghouse in consultation with the Department of Agriculture. The data would be updated annually and would include information on: postsecondary and career pathways and options. career and technical education and workforce opportunities. data Read more

 

Harkins: $300,000 state grant will fund rehab of Renaissance Centre elevator system

(Feb 26, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – A $300,000 grant from the Keystone Communities program will fund the renovation of a three-unit elevator system in Erie’s historic Renaissance Centre, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. “This grant is a terrific investment in one of Erie’s most important landmarks,” Harkins said. “The Renaissance Centre is more than just an important anchor for businesses in the heart of our commercial district. As the city’s sole skyscraper and tallest multi-story building, it’s a symbol of Erie’s strength and economic progress through the years. It’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. “Like any building, however, it requires upkeep and maintenance – particularly where safety is a concern. This grant will fund the necessary renovations to the building’s elevator system to ensure that the many workers and visitors who use the elevators on a daily basis have a safe and smooth ride.” The Keystone Communities program is administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The program is designed to support local initiatives that grow and stabilize neighborhoods and communities, encourage the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors in the community and enhance the overall quality of life for residents. Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $83,000 will fund paid summer internships for local students

(Feb 25, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – Erie County students will have a chance to benefit from paid summer internships thanks to a grant of $83,122 from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie. The funding awarded to NWPA Job Connect – the northwest region’s local workforce development board – will give area students and job seekers between ages 16 and 24 the opportunity to earn a minimum of $10.35 per hour as they participate in summer internships with local public- and private-sector employers. “Summer internships are an ideal way for students to get a feel for what it’s like to work in a real job setting as they start to explore careers,” Bizzarro said. “By contributing in a real-life work environment, students develop confidence in their abilities while at the same time getting a sense of how their interests and skills overlap with real-world opportunities.” Harkins agreed, noting, “Internships of all kinds are incredibly valuable because they give students a chance to start building real-world, employable skills. At the same time, these programs help local employers tailor workforce training to their emerging needs. So we’re opening up career possibilities for students while strengthening the employment pool for our local businesses." Merski added that he was especially excited by the program because of the valuable Read more

 

House Democrats sponsoring bills to improve access to career & tech ed programs in Pa.

(Feb 19, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, joined members of the Pa. House legislature in support of a bipartisan package of legislation that would enhance the quality of career and technical education programs throughout Pennsylvania. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: $500,000 state grant will bring comprehensive computer science curriculum to Erie City School District

(Feb 11, 2019)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 11 – A $500,000 state grant will allow the Erie City School District to offer students a greatly enriched curriculum in computer science, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The grant will help the school district provide the foundation for a kindergarten through grade 12 computer science college and career pathway for more than 11,000 students throughout 16 schools. “This grant is extremely exciting,” Merski said. “In the past, students in the Erie City district have had only limited access to computer science and STEM coursework. Fortunately, with the help of this grant, that’s about to change. The funding announced today is going to provide greatly expanded opportunities – including computer technology and programming – that were previously out of reach. The grant is going to provide students access to career opportunities they didn't even know existed. It’s going to bring them up to par with their counterparts in wealthier districts.” Harkins agreed, noting, “The grant is going to allow the district to offer courses that engage students’ minds, with activities like coding, programming, robotics, gaming, networking and cyber security. It’s also going to provide for resources such as new and renovated computer labs and internship opportunities – the kinds of opportunities that provide meaningful college and career pathways.” Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $1.3 million to fund anti-crime, victim support and youth mentoring programs Erie County
Jun 14, 2019

Harkins issues statement in response to Wabtec-union contract ratification
Jun 13, 2019

Harkins: Low-interest loan will help area employer expand operations, retain jobs
Jun 06, 2019

Harkins, Merski: $400,000 grant will fund afterschool opportunities for Erie elementary school students
Jun 04, 2019

Harkins: Grant of more than $72,000 will enhance safety at Erie railroad crossings
May 29, 2019

Harkins: $25,000 grant to Iroquois School District will fund purchase of security equipment
May 20, 2019

Enough is enough: Time to throw a safety line to our public-sector employees
May 20, 2019

Harkins bill to rid Public School Code of derogatory language passes House unanimously
May 15, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $65,000 in matching grants to help Erie County businesses grow greener
May 08, 2019

Harkins announces grant of more than $14,800 to Erie Fire Department
May 06, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $200,000 state grant to fund Erie regional job-training program
May 03, 2019

Harkins, Merski add their names to brief supporting AG’s suit against UPMC
Apr 25, 2019

Harkins takes ‘Keystone Worker Protection Pledge’ on Capitol steps
Apr 09, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $1 million will fund new housing for Erie County residents with disabilities
Mar 27, 2019

House unanimously adopts Harkins resolution supporting crime victims’ rights
Mar 26, 2019

House unanimously passes Harkins online career resource center bill
Mar 20, 2019

Harkins: $300,000 state grant will fund rehab of Renaissance Centre elevator system
Feb 26, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $83,000 will fund paid summer internships for local students
Feb 25, 2019

House Democrats sponsoring bills to improve access to career & tech ed programs in Pa.
Feb 19, 2019

Harkins, Merski: $500,000 state grant will bring comprehensive computer science curriculum to Erie City School District
Feb 11, 2019