Latest News

Merski to host ‘Modernizing the Vote’ sessions Feb. 18

(Feb 10, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 10 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is partnering with the Erie County Board of Elections to host “Modernizing the Vote” – a Feb. 18 event to educate voters about changes to Pennsylvania’s voting laws. The event will offer two identical sessions: the first from 10 a.m. to noon and the second from 4 to 6 p.m. Both will be held in the H.O. Hirt Auditorium of the Blasco Library, 160 Blasco St. “The new voting laws are bringing exciting changes, and they’ll be taking effect starting with the April 28 primary election,” Merski said. “Some of the changes include no-excuse mail-in voting, an annual mail-in ballot request list, extended deadlines for returning a mail-in or absentee ballot and more time to register to vote. “In addition, residents will see new machines that add protection from hackers by creating a paper trail. The new laws will make voting more convenient, more accessible and more secure, so I’m urging everyone to attend one of my sessions and learn what they need to know now, before it’s time to cast a vote.” Merski said residents wishing to learn more about the “Modernizing the Vote” event should call his office at 814-455-6319. Read more

Harkins: Budget proposals hold promise for state’s future

(Feb 05, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s address this morning on his proposed 2020-21 budget plan: “The budget plan the governor unveiled today is a work in progress, but I’m encouraged that it allocates resources to areas I feel are especially important to Pennsylvania’s future. “One of those areas is full-time kindergarten, a proposal I have been advocating for years. Studies show kindergartners who have access to a full-day program do better, both in terms of test scores and future long-term achievement, because they benefit from the extra time to develop literacy skills, social skills, confidence and more. I agree with the governor’s proposal to mandate free, full-time kindergarten, and I believe it's time for Pennsylvania to join other states that already do so. “On a related note, I support the governor’s proposal to address the problem of lead, asbestos and other hazards in our schools. Our community has been dealing with the problems of older buildings and the expenses associated with eliminating possible health hazards, and an investment of state resources will help ease the cost burdens and speed the process of ensuring our students have a safe environment. “Addressing the burden of loan debt for students graduating from our state-owned university system is another proposal I strongly Read more

Merski supports proposed budget’s investments in education, career training, healthy schools

(Feb 04, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, released the following statement today in reaction to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2020-21 budget address: “How we spend our state resources determines the direction our state takes. When we invest in our people – from our students to our seniors – we all move forward. After hearing the governor’s proposed budget plan for the year ahead, I’m encouraged that it’s a plan that can move us in the right direction – without adding any new tax burden to residents. “I’m especially encouraged by the plan’s focus on education, including an additional $30 million to fund high-quality pre-K. As a teacher for many years, I know that a quality education is the starting point that lays the groundwork for all successes that flow later. When kids are given the right start, they achieve and succeed – and our entire state grows and prospers based on those successes. “Equally important to classroom learning is a healthy school environment. I strongly support the governor’s proposed funding to address lead and asbestos hazards in our schools; the health of our students is paramount, and they can’t learn and thrive in a toxic environment. “I’m encouraged that in addition to strong educational funding, the budget plan proposes strong continued investments in workforce development. Career and technical training Read more

Harkins, Merski announce more than $101,000 in fire, EMS grants

(Jan 21, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 21 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced the award of $101,024 in state grants to nine fire and emergency medical service companies in Erie . “So often, our first responders are our defense against catastrophe,” Merski said. “We ask them to walk into dangerous situations every day, and they do so willingly to keep us safe. These grants will help ensure that they have the resources they need to face risks of all kind with the maximum possible protection.” Harkins agreed, noting, “Purchasing quality equipment is just one of many expenses that can stretch fire department and EMS companies’ budgets to the limit. We need to do everything within our power to ensure that our firefighters and rescue workers have state-of-the-art training and equipment, and this funding will go a long way toward making that happen.” The grants will go to the following entities in the following amounts: Belle Valley Fire Department Inc. – Fire Company, $12,331. City of Erie Fire Department – Fire Company, $14,248. EmergyCare Inc. – EMS, $9,192. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – Fire Company, $11,646. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – EMS, $9,192. Perry Hi-Way Hose Company – Fire Company, $14,248. Perry Hi-Way Company – EMS, $9,192. Wesleyville Hose Company Read more

Merski, Harkins: Local universities receive $60,000 in grants as part of statewide campaign to prevent campus sexual assaults

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Mercyhurst and Gannon universities have each received a $30,000 grant under Pennsylvania’s “It’s on Us” initiative to keep college campuses free of sexual assault and harassment, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. “Our colleges should be places where young people thrive as they work toward chosen career paths,” Merski said. “The specter of sexual assault or other violence destroys that environment and turns places of learning into places of fear. I’m thankful that our local universities will share in this funding to raise awareness about and prevent sexual assault and violence.” Harkins agreed, adding, “No student or educator should ever have to feel unsafe where they learn or teach,” Harkins said. “In addition to training and awareness programs, this funding will help us get the message out that sexual violence or harassment will not be tolerated on our campuses.” The funding is part of a $1 million package of grants to 36 postsecondary schools statewide. Schools use the funding for programs ranging from campus-wide training for students, educators and staff to campaigns to raise awareness about the reporting process and resources that are available to those victimized by sexual assault. It’s on Us started as a national campaign in 2014. Pennsylvania quickly took the initiative, becoming the first state Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $100,000 in funding to expand computer science in Erie schools

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Erie students will see more computer science in the curriculum, thanks to three state grants totaling $105,000, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The PAsmart targeted grants from the state Department of Education will provide $35,000 apiece to the Millcreek Township, Fort LeBoeuf and Iroquois school districts. “With the advent of the digital age, computers are an essential part of every industry – not just the tech sector,” Bizzarro said. “Software applications are used in nearly every modern industry, from health care and transportation to education and finance, so making sure our students develop tech skills is essential to keeping our industries competitive and our economy thriving.” Harkins agreed, noting, “ As our reliance on technology continues to increase, the need for a tech-savvy workforce becomes more and more important to our economy. For this reason, a solid foundation in computer science skills is essential for our next generation of workers.” Merski added that adding computer science to the curriculum provides kids with the important problem-solving skills they need to succeed. “Computer science teaches students of all ages how to think logically and gives them the confidence of knowing that they can rely on their own skills to solve problems, which is an incredibly valuable lesson as they go through Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $120,000 grant to promote school-business partnerships, real-world learning for students

(Jan 16, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 16 – A state grant of $120,000 will bolster career readiness for Erie students and improve the pool of talented job candidates for area businesses, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry will fund the Northwest Workforce Development Board’s “Student in the Workforce” project – designed to bring students from Erie and several other counties into the workplace for real-world experiences with high-demand jobs. “T he funding announced today allows us to build incredibly valuable connections between our schools and area businesses,” Bizzarro said. “Giving students a chance to interact with area employers in real-world settings can provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and open new doors to career pathways. It prepares students to hit the ground running when they venture out into the working world.” Harkins agreed, noting, “A connection between the classroom and the workplace is invaluable – particularly for students from lower-income households, who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop these connections. It’s a way to level the playing field and ensure that all students have a meaningful chance to compete for high-demand, good-paying jobs.” “ Experiential learning is the most effective tool for educating our young people, Read more

Merski urges students to apply for PennDOT summer maintenance program

(Jan 14, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 14 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is encouraging college students to consider applying to PennDOT’s 2020 Summer Maintenance Program. The agency is recruiting students for labor and flagging duties, sign upgrades, and maintenance and custodial services at roadside rest facilities, among other jobs. “The PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program is a terrific opportunity for young adults to earn good summer pay and learn new skills while performing important, real-world work,” Merski said. “To be eligible, students must be 18 or older, enrolled full time in college for the next semester and have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. “My office can recommend candidates for the program, but those interested should contact us as soon as possible, because recommendations are due to PennDOT by February 14.” Merski said students interested in a recommendation should stop by his district office at 3901 Liberty St. or call the office at 814- 455-6319 during business hours, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. They can also send an email to Merski added that all applicants must apply online to the PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program 2020 posting at under the Open Jobs section of the website. Jobs under the program pay $13.97 per hour. Read more

Harkins, Merski: ‘Teacher in the Workplace’ grant to boost career readiness for Erie students

(Jan 06, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 6 – A $25,000 grant will allow Erie teachers to visit area employers for an in-person look at the latest skills demanded by area employers, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The funding to the Erie City School District is part of a $2.2 million package of competitive grants from the state Department of Education providing 92 local education agencies $25,000 each to fund teacher visits. “Even the best teachers need to step out of the classroom sometimes to refresh their knowledge of what skills are needed in the modern world so they can shape the curriculum accordingly,” Merski said. “Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to teaching the foundational skills that will help our next generation get good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.” Harkins agreed, noting, “This funding provides teachers with an essential look into modern job settings so they can carry that information back to the classroom. It also helps our regional workforce remain competitive by ensuring employers have a large pool of well-trained job candidates.” The PDE grants are funded through federal money made available through Title II, Part A, of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Eligible applicants include local education entities, businesses and chambers of commerce, labor organizations, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, public libraries, Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski offer support to Erie Coke employees

(Dec 19, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 19 – Reacting to news that Erie Coke permanently closed its doors today, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are advising workers who were turned away from the plant this morning that their offices can provide important support and services. “This is why our offices are here – to support our community in difficult times when the future is uncertain,” Bizzarro said. “The workers who showed up this morning and were turned away through no fault of their own deserve the best support we can offer, and we don’t plan to let them down.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Our hearts are with the employees who were caught off guard this morning, a week before Christmas, when they showed up at Erie Coke, only to be told that their services are no longer needed. It’s important for people to know that our offices can provide valuable assistance – from helping people find new job opportunities to assisting them in filing unemployment insurance claims or applying for children’s health insurance.” Merski added that these resources are available down the line, as well. “Although residents may not need these resources immediately, we want everyone to know that we are prepared to help at any time in the future,” he said. “Whether it’s now or down the line, we want people to know that we will be there to support them with state Read more