Marsha Mercer

Marsha Mercer

Marsha Mercer is a Stateline correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

Voting to Raise Their Own Pay Puts State Lawmakers in a Bind

By: - April 13, 2023

Persistently low salaries discourage everyday citizens from serving in state legislatures, say legislators who face an uphill battle to raise pay. “Could a single parent be a state rep? Absolutely not. If you are the sole wage earner in a family, you can’t afford it — or even if you’re the primary wage earner,” Louisiana […]

States Strive to Help SNAP Recipients Cope With Lower Benefits

By: - February 28, 2023

The white words on a red background are plain. “Important notice: SNAP emergency allotments ending after February.” If there’s any doubt, the Colorado Department of Human Services SNAP webpage adds, “All Coloradans who receive SNAP benefits are going to see a reduction in their monthly benefit amount after February.” In every state, participants in the […]

States Strive to Reverse Shortage of Paramedics, EMTs

By: - February 6, 2023

Note: This story was updated, February 6, 2023, to clarify the capabilities of emergency medical responders who have completed the first level of training in Louisiana’s Jump Start program. Low wages, a lack of work-life balance and burnout are among factors driving emergency medical services personnel around the country to quit ambulance duty. Last year, the […]

States Put Grocery Taxes on Ice

By: - January 17, 2023

As inflation soared in the past year, families in some states suffered a double whammy — paying food sales taxes on top of higher-priced groceries. At least five of the 13 states where groceries were taxed as of last Jan. 1 passed laws to reduce, eliminate or ease the pinch — Kansas, Virginia, Illinois, Tennessee and […]

Some States Open College Savings Accounts for Every Newborn

By: - November 21, 2022

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the source of funding for Pennsylvania’s Keystone Scholars program States, cities and community groups that offer free money to families to jump-start college savings face a dilemma: The families most in need often fail to sign up. To solve the problem, some states have transformed the […]

Carrots for Carrots: States Promote Buying Local for School Lunches

By: - September 30, 2022

What’s for lunch? For millions of school students, the answer may be fresh lettuce and tomatoes, apples and carrots grown by nearby farmers, or, in a few states, fresh lamb or haddock, raised or caught locally. Local foods, once rare on school lunch trays, are gradually becoming more available in school cafeterias as states promote […]

Advocates Seek to Make Prison Work Voluntary

By: - September 7, 2022

Prisoners making license plates is a popular stereotype, but most of the nation’s 800,000 incarcerated workers hold jobs more similar to those on the outside: They cook and serve food, mop floors, mow lawns and cut hair. Unlike other workers, though, the incarcerated have little say, if any, in what jobs they do. They face […]

Yes, Slavery Is on the Ballot in These States

By: - August 22, 2022

More than 150 years after it was officially outlawed in the United States, slavery will be on the ballot in five states in November, as a new abolitionist movement seeks to reshape prison labor. Voters in Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Vermont will decide on state constitutional amendments prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude, in some […]

Juneteenth Is Not a Legal Holiday in Most States

By: - June 17, 2022

A year after Juneteenth became a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, most states have yet to enact Juneteenth legal holidays. When President Joe Biden signed the holiday into federal law June 17, 2021, only a handful of states had Juneteenth holidays with paid time off for state employees: Illinois, […]

State Parks Are Trying to Attract More Diverse Visitors

By: - May 31, 2022

As Americans plan their summer vacations, states around the country are struggling with a persistent challenge: how to attract more Black residents and other visitors of color to their parks. The racial gap in park visitation is longstanding: Officials estimate that about 3 in 4 visitors to America’s state and national parks are White, well […]

State Supreme Courts Are (Slowly) Starting to Look More Like America

By: - May 2, 2022

State supreme courts wield power over many areas of American life, from school funding to environmental protection, gun laws to voting. Even as the United States population has become more diverse, state high courts have been the domain of White judges, attorneys and staff. Many still are: Nearly half the states don’t have a single […]

Gun Storage Tax Break Is Rare Point of Unity in Firearms Debate

By: - February 23, 2022

An 11-year-old boy in eastern Tennessee grabbed his father’s shotgun and fired once, killing an 8-year-old neighbor girl—because she wouldn’t let him see her puppy. The boy was convicted of murder, but the adult gun owner was not charged with a crime. In 2016, a few months after the shooting, Tennessee state Sen. Sara Kyle […]