Merski bills would cut government spending, boost transparency, fight blight

(1 day ago)

ERIE, Feb. 2 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is garnering support for a slate of bills designed to improve government efficiency and accountability, fight blight and help seniors and military families. “We should always be looking for ways to make government run more efficiently, and one way we can do that is through legislation that reduces unnecessary spending, eliminates waste and increases accountability,” Merski said. “My bills would help do that by reducing costs to municipalities for some items, making sure government operations are as transparent as possible and studying where money is going.” Merski said he is currently seeking co-sponsorship of bills that would: Create a program for selling used state police pursuit vehicles directly to local and regional police departments at a fixed price prior to any public auction. Require the state to conduct a new cost-benefit analysis to determine whether an early-retirement proposal for some state pension plan participants would help save costs. Require political subdivisions and municipal authorities to maintain publicly accessible websites with contact and other information to make their operations more open and accessible. Establish a grant program that would make it easier for municipalities to enforce code violations and fight blight. Merski said several other bills would help seniors on fixed incomes by excluding Social Security cost-of-living increases for Read more

 

Merski, Harkins offer statement on death of EMT Michael Harrington

(1 day ago)

ERIE, Feb. 2 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to news that EmergyCare EMT Michael Harrington died unexpectedly yesterday: “It is always heartbreaking to hear about the loss of a first responder,” Merski said. “Michael’s death is a somber reminder of the stresses and risks these workers face every day and that it’s our job, as public officials, to ensure they have the best possible resources. “I hope Michael’s loved ones can find some solace in knowing that he lived a life devoted to caring for and protecting others.” Harkins said: “I was saddened to hear about Michael Harrington’s death yesterday. Although most of us realize that emergency response work can be dangerous and stressful, we also want to believe that those who willingly shoulder those burdens are invincible. My deepest sympathy to Michael’s family, the Greenville community and the entire team at EmergyCare, who lost one of their own yesterday.” Harrington worked for EmergyCare’s Greenville division. Gov. Josh Shapiro has ordered U.S. and Pennsylvania state flags in Erie and Mercer counties to be flown at half-staff. More on that order is available here: https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-shapiro-orders-us-commonwealth-flags-to-half-staff-in-honor-of-erie-county-emt/ Read more

 

Merski to launch two new satellite offices

(Jan 19, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 19 – State Rep. Bob Merski announced today that he will be opening new satellite offices this month in Greene and Harborcreek townships. Merski, D-Erie, said the new offices – which will open the week of Jan. 23 – will make services more accessible to residents living farther from the city. “When our district lines changed, we welcomed many new residents from different parts of the county,” Merski said. “It’s my hope that the new satellite locations opening in Greene and Harborcreek townships, together with the existing satellite office in Summit, will make accessing services more convenient for folks throughout the district.” The locations and operating hours for all three satellite offices are: Greene Township: 9333 Tate Road, Erie, PA 16509, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays. Harborcreek Township: 5601 Buffalo Road, Harborcreek, PA 16421, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Summit Township: 1230 Townhall Road West, Erie, PA 16509, open from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. Merski said all his offices are available on a walk-in basis during operating hours but that residents wishing to avoid potential wait times can schedule an appointment at any of the offices by calling his 3901 Liberty St. district office at 814-455-6319. Read more

 

Harkins clarifies requirements for voters on annual mail-in ballot list

(Jan 18, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 18 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, is reminding residents on the state’s annual mail-in ballot list that they must still officially apply for mail-in or absentee ballots each year in order to receive them from the state. “There is some confusion regarding the state’s annual mail-in ballot list,” Harkins said. “We get a lot of folks asking, ‘If I am already on the list, do I still need to reapply for a ballot every year?’ The answer is yes. “Every February, voters who are on the annual mail-in ballot list will receive a form from the state asking if they want to continue voting by mail or absentee ballot in the year ahead. A voter who wants to continue using the mail option should complete the form and send it back. Once the state receives and processes the form, the voter will automatically receive ballots for all 2023 elections. “For voters who decide they want to vote in person, the form also contains an option allowing voters to cancel their annual mail voter status and be removed from the list.” Harkins said more information – including how to become an annual mail voter – is available by visiting www.vote.pa.gov and scrolling down to the link titled “Annual Mail-in Voter List.” Read more

 

Harkins: Completion of OSHA workplace feasibility study ‘a step in the right direction’

(Jan 13, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 13 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to news that the state has completed a feasibility study on extending Occupational Safety and Health Act workplace standards to Pennsylvania’s public-sector workers. “Today’s news is extremely encouraging, because it is a concrete step toward finally bringing Pennsylvania’s thousands of public-sector employees the protections they deserve. “For decades, public-sector employees – from maintenance workers to mechanics to public transportation workers and so many others– have faced unnecessary risks on the job simply because the state does not require public employers to abide by the same OSHA safety standards as private companies. “In many cases, public workers are doing the same kinds of jobs with the same dedication and the same expectations of safety. Yet for years, they have suffered unnecessary injuries because their job sites are not as safe. “Jake Schwab – an Erie public transit mechanic – was one of those workers. Jake died because the equipment he needed was unavailable at his workplace, leading to a fatal explosion. In nearly a decade since his death, more public workers have died or been injured unnecessarily. “While I am hopeful that completion of this study is a step in the right direction, I hope the state will move quickly to implement these critical protections, which I call Read more

 

Conklin: $2.4M in state funding to help replace State College stormwater infrastructure

(Jan 13, 2023)

STATE COLLEGE, Jan. 13 – State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, announced today approximately $2.4 million in state funding to replace the aging stormwater system along Calder Way in State College. Conklin said the $2.44 million low-interest loan will allow the State College Borough to replace pipes that compromise the outdated infrastructure, which is currently preventing stormwater from properly entering the wastewater collection system – leading to unsafe inflow and infiltration issues. “In its current state, this infrastructure could lead to a dangerous sinkhole developing at any time,” Conklin said. “Upgrading it will also improve the quality of the water that deposits into the Spring Creek Watershed.” With the loan provided by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, commonly known as Pennvest , the State College Borough plans to begin work on the project on May 1, with an anticipated completion date in September. Approximately 1,320 feet of stormwater piping and other components will be replaced, allowing the system’s drainage area to work properly. The interest rate for the first five years of the 20-year loan is 1.74%, and 2.18% after that. Pennvest funds sewer, stormwater, and drinking water improvement projects throughout the commonwealth via low-cost funds and grants. In addition to safeguarding the health of Pennsylvania residents, these projects Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: $3.3 million loan secured to rehabilitate Erie’s aging stormwater systems

(Jan 12, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 12 – A $3.3 million low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority will allow the city of Erie to rehabilitate the Garrison Run and McDannell Run stormwater systems, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. "The Garrison Run stormwater infrastructure is at the end of its useful life and recently suffered a catastrophic failure, creating a sinkhole that damaged a nearby residence,” Harkins said. “Securing the new funding to allow the city to upgrade both the Garrison Run and McDannell Run systems will help safeguard public health and safety and also eliminate the risk of future property damage.” “We are constantly looking for ways to improve infrastructure in Erie County, and upgrading our decades-old stormwater systems is a major priority,” Merski said. “The new loan funding will allow the city to make major upgrades to the Garrison Run and McDannell Run systems to ensure that this critical infrastructure serving nearly 40,000 residents is in safe working order.” The lawmakers said the first stage of the project will involve relining sections of the Garrison Run’s original 96-inch piping with at least 2,700 feet of invert shotcrete; creating connections to 54 in-feeds, 7 manholes and other appurtenances; and repairing an existing concrete headwall located at the discharge Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $1 million secured for Erie watershed protection, stream restoration projects

(Jan 12, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 12 – Nearly $1 million in new funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will support projects to restore a severely degraded Erie stream and help protect the Lake Erie watershed, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The funding includes: $589,886 to Penn State University from the DEP Growing Greener Fund to restore a severely degraded portion of Cascade Creek in the city of Erie; and $335,000 in DCNR Community Conservation Partnership Program Tree Planting Grants to fund installation of riparian forest buffers, meadows and trees along waterways in the Lake Erie watershed, and the development of a tree inventory and tree-care workshops. “Nurturing the health of our Lake Erie watershed is critical to our community as well as our economy,” Harkins said. “Among other things, the new funding is going to allow the city to install about two acres of riparian forest buffers and three acres of meadows and trees along waterways. Those measures – which will help reduce pollution, control erosion and protect delicate ecosystems – are vitally important to the health of our entire lake environment.” Merski said, “Our communities have a special relationship with the lake and special responsibilities to preserve the delicate balance between land and water. One Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: $50,000 in funding for new urban agricultural facilities

(Jan 11, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 11 – A $50,000 grant to the Erie County Redevelopment Authority will help fund new urban agricultural resources for Erie, including aquaponics and aquaculture facilities in the Joyce A. Savocchio Business Park, state Reps. Rob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding from the 2022-23 PA Farm Bill Urban Agriculture grant program also includes $1,679 to Wild Field Urban Farm. “Urban gardens – which can thrive in city areas such as vacant plots, rooftop spaces and indoor farms – are a critical tool for combating food insecurity ,” Harkins said. “Today’s grant will help fund aquaponics and aquaculture facilities in Savocchio Park that will be used for cultivating fish, produce and other nutritious foods for residents in need.” “No family should ever have to worry about keeping healthy food on the table,” Merski said. “The funding awarded today will help fund Erie’s efforts to transform a once-vacant and blighted area into a place of growth and productivity that helps fight hunger.” More about all the funding is available here: https://www.media.pa.gov/Pages/Agriculture_details.aspx?newsid=1290 . Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $160K secured to steer youth toward productivity, away from violence

(Jan 11, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 11 – New funding of $157,888 to the Youth Leadership Institute of Erie will help the organization continue successful programs to help at-risk youth and reduce violence, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. “Securing this new funding for the Youth Leadership Institute of Erie will support the organization’s vital “Connected in 5” program,” Harkins said. “The program helps high school students discover and develop their unique strengths and talents, putting them on the path to a productive future and steering them away from violence.” “Youth Leadership Institute’s programs are a critical supplement to classroom learning for so many at-risk teens,” Merski said. “In addition to providing practical learning like developing interpersonal skills, prepping for college entrance exams and creating a resume, the program helps high school students develop self-confidence and understand how they can be a strength to their community. “The result is more productive young adults and less community violence.” More about the funding, which was awarded through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, is available here: Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: $20,000 secured to keep hunger off Mercyhurst campus

(Jan 11, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 11 – Mercyhurst University has been awarded $20,000 to help fight student hunger and food insecurity, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding from the Hunger-Free Campus grant program will help address a problem that still plagues campus life for some students. “Hunger is a huge obstacle to learning, whether the student is age 8 or 18,” Merski said. “Securing this funding for Mercyhurst University will ensure that hunger and food security do not stand in the way of Erie’s young adults as they pursue higher education and careers.” Harkins said, “Food insecurity doesn’t just affect families in households. It can follow students to the classroom and be a barrier as they work to obtain a degree. This funding is going to allow Mercyhurst University to knock down those barriers by ensuring students have the nutrition they need.” More on the funding is available here: http://governor.pa.gov/newsroom/governor-and-first-lady-announce-1-million-in-pa-hunger-free-campus-grant-funding-for-28-colleges-and-universities/ . Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: $250,000 secured to strengthen Erie apprenticeship opportunities

(Jan 11, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 11 – New funding of $250,000 awarded to Early Connections will help smooth the path from the classroom to the workplace for Erie students, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding comes from the Schools-to-Work Program administered by the state Department of Labor and Industry. “Venturing out of the classroom and into a work environment is one of the best ways for students to discover how their skills and interests intersect with real-world workforce needs,” Merski said. “The new funding to Early Connections will help ensure Erie students continue receiving those opportunities.” Harkins said, “Pre-apprenticeship programs can make the path from high school to the workplace smoother and more successful for students. With this funding, Early Connections can help students get the workplace visits, mentorships, job shadowing and other tools that are such an important part of the process.” Early Connections serves Erie, Clarion, Crawford, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties. More on Labor and Industry grant programs is available here: https://www.dli.pa.gov/Businesses/Workforce-Development/grants/Pages/Grant-Programs-at-LI.aspx . Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Mercyhurst University receives $40,000 ‘It’s on Us’ grant to bolster student safety

(Jan 10, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 10 – New funding of $40,000 will help Mercyhurst University bolster security and keep the campus safe from the threat of sexual violence, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding comes from the It’s On Us PA Grant Program administered by the state Department of Education. “The college campus should be a supportive, nurturing place where students have the peace of mind they need to learn and mature into confident adults,” Merski said. “Today’s funding will help ensure Mercyhurst students have that sense of security and all the resources needed to ensure their safety.” Harkins said, “No student should ever have to fear for their safety on a college campus, and no parent or caregiver should ever have to worry when they send a child off to pursue a degree. The grant funding to Mercyhurst will help the school maintain a safe environment that encourages young adults to pursue their dreams.” It’s On Us PA is a statewide campaign that was launched in 2016. The program is designed to raise awareness about sexual assault; teach students that assault includes non-consensual sex, advise them on how to identify dangerous situations, and empower them to intervene; and foster an environment of support for sexual assault survivors. More on the campaign is available at Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $60k secured to promote Erie agriculture, boost preschooler nutrition, teach food science and safety

(Jan 09, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 9 – Nearly $60,000 in funding to several Erie organizations awarded under the state Department of Agriculture’s PA Farm Bill will support urban agriculture, provide farm-fresh food for preschoolers, and teach them about gardening and boost educational programs in food science and safety, state Reps. Rob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. “The new funding is going to help boost preschooler nutrition and inspire young students to learn about urban gardening and the key role it can play in addressing food insecurity,” Merski said. “In addition to funding projects for younger students, the new grants will help strengthen urban agriculture projects and enrich programs that teach older students about food science and safety,” Harkins said. The lawmakers said the funding includes: $22,614 Agriculture and Youth matching grant to Northwestern Community Youth Center for equipment for raised beds and kitchen expansion. $14,883 Agriculture and Youth matching grant to Sisters of Saint Joseph Neighborhood Network for urban agriculture project sites. $8,589 Farm to School grant to Early Connections Inc. for a project to incorporate gardening in the pre-K curriculum, add taste-testing of nutritious foods, and aid in procurement from local farms. $7,500 Agriculture and Youth direct grant Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $400K secured for pedestrian safety

(Jan 04, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 4 – A new grant of $395,769 will fund intersection improvements to better protect Erie pedestrians with visual or hearing impairments and those in wheelchairs, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding from PennDOT’s Automated Red-Light Enforcement program will allow the city to install 30 accessible pedestrian signal buttons. The devices, which are placed at a height that allows them to be used by pedestrians in wheelchairs, also include features for vision- and hearing-impaired pedestrians. “Simple modifications like adding accessible pedestrian signal buttons can make a huge difference for pedestrians in wheelchairs and those who are blind or have low vision or other disabilities,” Harkins said. “Mobility is a key component of independent living,” Merski said. “In addition to enhancing safety, the new equipment will make it possible for more Erie residents to find that independence.” Funding for ARLA grants comes from judgements for red light violations at 36 intersections in Philadelphia. The funding can be used for projects that improve safety, enhance mobility or reduce congestion. Read more

 

Merski: Nearly $220,000 secured for two Erie fire companies

(Jan 04, 2023)

ERIE, Jan. 4 – Two Erie fire companies will share $216,300 in state grant funding for new resources, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, announced today. Merski said the funding includes $146,300 to Brookside Fire Company for self-contained breathing apparatus units, including 19 packs and 18 cylinders and batteries, and $70,000 to Perry Hi-Way Hose Company for training support. “Firefighters rely on properly functioning equipment and regular training to protect them during life-threatening situations, but keeping resources up to date can severely strain tight department budgets,” Merski said. “Securing this new funding should relieve some of that strain and help protect those who answer the call – regardless of the danger – to keep the rest of us safe.” Merski said the funding was administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development. Read more

 

Merski takes oath to begin third term representing 2nd Legislative District

(Jan 03, 2023)

HARRISBURG, Jan. 3 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, was sworn in today at the state Capitol to begin his third term representing the residents of the 2 nd Legislative District. Merski outlined some legislative priorities and his vision as he leads the Northwest Democratic Delegation. “I’m excited about representing our district in the year ahead and optimistic about what we can accomplish in the new term,” Merski said. “I’m also looking forward to another year leading the Northwest Democratic Delegation as we work to build on our region’s unique strengths, including our expanding industrial base in the tech and advanced manufacturing fields. “Beyond expanding access to funding, we’ll be working to ensure these industries have the long-term supports – including infrastructure and a well-trained workforce – they need to keep growing. “I will also be working to help local small businesses; to improve benefits for retirees by making it easier for counties to issue cost-of-living increases; and to make sure our schools have the resources they need for our students and their families. “Here at home, I’m looking forward to engaging in outreach across the new 2nd District, and helping residents with state-related issues. I encourage anyone needing assistance to contact my office at Read more

 

Harkins sworn in to ninth term representing state’s 1st Legislative District

(Jan 03, 2023)

HARRISBURG, Jan. 3 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, took the oath of office today in the state Capitol to begin his ninth term representing Pennsylvania’s 1st Legislative District. Harkins said stronger protections for workers will be among his top priorities in the year ahead. “The new session brings a new chance to accomplish legislative priorities, and for me, protecting workers’ rights and safety is high on that list,” Harkins said. “In the year ahead, I will be reintroducing legislation that would require the state to provide public workers with the same safety protections already available to workers in private companies. Public employees in many other states already have those protections, and Pennsylvania workers are no less deserving. “I will also be introducing legislation to punish dishonest employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying them benefits and to protect employees victimized by workplace bullying. “Fixing our broken mental health system is another top priority, and I will be introducing a bill to start reforming the system, whose failings leave our prisons to take up the slack, force police officers to act as case workers and put lives at risk.” Harkins said that in addition to pursuing these and other legislative priorities, he is looking forward to resuming a leadership role in the Read more

 

Merski urges Erie residents to review FCC broadband map by Jan. 13 deadline

(Dec 21, 2022)

ERIE, Dec. 21 – State Rep. Bob Merski is encouraging residents and small business owners to review the map that the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority will be using to deliver funding for high-speed internet services to unserved or underserved areas of the state. Merski, D-Erie, said it is important for residents to review the map, which was created by the Federal Communications Commission, to ensure that funding gets to areas where those high-speed connections are lacking. “The state Broadband Development Authority will be using the FCC map to determine where funding for high-speed internet is needed,” Merski said. “But the map is only as accurate as the information the FCC receives. I’m urging Erie residents and business owners to review the map to ensure that it accurately reflects whether high-speed service is available in their location. If the map says high-speed internet is available but it isn’t, they should file a challenge. “It's an important step we can all take to make sure funding is distributed where it is needed. The deadline for making a challenge is January 13, so folks need to review the map soon. Visit www.RepMerski.com and click on the link titled “FCC Broadband Map review & challenge” for instructions. Merski said residents with questions should call his office at 814-455-6319. A video of Merski urging residents to review the map is available Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $25,000 secured for neighborhood improvement plan

(Dec 20, 2022)

ERIE, Dec. 20 – A new grant of $24,250 will fund development of a neighborhood improvement plan for Erie’s East Avenue Commercial Corridor, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said that the funding to Erie Center for Arts and Technology – awarded through the Keystone Communities Program – will lay the groundwork for major improvements. “Improvements to the commercial corridor are greatly needed, but having a comprehensive plan in place is a critical first step,” Merski said. “With this funding, Erie Center for Arts and Technology can develop a blueprint to ensure that the improvements made will best suit the community and that future money invested will be used in the most cost-effective and productive way possible.” Harkins said, “Getting this planning underway is exciting. It’s the first step in a project that will transform the corridor in ways that will invite new residential and commercial traffic to the area.” Keystone community grants are administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development for projects such as business facades, accessible housing, public infrastructure and other community-strengthening projects. The grants are part of a package of nearly $8 million in funding for 51 projects statewide. More information is available at: Read more

 

Merski bills would cut government spending, boost transparency, fight blight
1 day ago

Merski, Harkins offer statement on death of EMT Michael Harrington
1 day ago

Merski to launch two new satellite offices
Jan 19, 2023

Harkins clarifies requirements for voters on annual mail-in ballot list
Jan 18, 2023

Harkins: Completion of OSHA workplace feasibility study ‘a step in the right direction’
Jan 13, 2023

Conklin: $2.4M in state funding to help replace State College stormwater infrastructure
Jan 13, 2023

Harkins, Merski: $3.3 million loan secured to rehabilitate Erie’s aging stormwater systems
Jan 12, 2023

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $1 million secured for Erie watershed protection, stream restoration projects
Jan 12, 2023

Merski, Harkins: $50,000 in funding for new urban agricultural facilities
Jan 11, 2023

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $160K secured to steer youth toward productivity, away from violence
Jan 11, 2023

Merski, Harkins: $20,000 secured to keep hunger off Mercyhurst campus
Jan 11, 2023

Merski, Harkins: $250,000 secured to strengthen Erie apprenticeship opportunities
Jan 11, 2023

Merski, Harkins: Mercyhurst University receives $40,000 ‘It’s on Us’ grant to bolster student safety
Jan 10, 2023

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $60k secured to promote Erie agriculture, boost preschooler nutrition, teach food science and safety
Jan 09, 2023

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $400K secured for pedestrian safety
Jan 04, 2023

Merski: Nearly $220,000 secured for two Erie fire companies
Jan 04, 2023

Merski takes oath to begin third term representing 2nd Legislative District
Jan 03, 2023

Harkins sworn in to ninth term representing state’s 1st Legislative District
Jan 03, 2023

Merski urges Erie residents to review FCC broadband map by Jan. 13 deadline
Dec 21, 2022

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $25,000 secured for neighborhood improvement plan
Dec 20, 2022