Ashton Marra

Assistant News Director, Statehouse Reporter

Ashton Marra is the Assistant News Director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, coordinating the coverage of her fellow reporters under News Director Jesse Wright, and serves as the producer for the morning news magazine West Virginia Morning. She also serves as the fill in host of the program.

Ashton covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning with the latest statehouse news, from politics to policy and everything in between. You can keep up with her work on social media through Twitter and tumblr.

During the legislative session, Ashton focuses on the state Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today.  She also hosts the show, interviewing lawmakers, lobbyists and leading a roundtable discussion focused on the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the Capitol press corps.

Ashton served as the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's 10-week political talk show in the fall of 2014. The weekly, hour-long program included in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable leading up to the 2014 general election. 

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point, the PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America. She was named the 2014 Associated Press "Outstanding Reporter of the Virginias."

Ashton came to WVPBS in October of 2012 from ABC News’ morning program Good Morning America where she worked as a production associate. Ashton produced pieces for the broadcast, including the first identified victim of the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as well as multiple entertainment news stories.

Before her time at GMA, Ashton worked as an intern on ABC’s news assignment desk, helping to organize coverage of major news stories like the Trayvon Martin case, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the 2012 Presidential election. She also spent 18 months as a weekend reporter for WDTV based in her hometown of Clarksburg, WV, breaking the story of missing Lewis County toddler Aliayah Lunsford. Ashton’s work from that story was featured on HLN’s Nancy Grace in October of 2011.

Ashton graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University in May of 2012, where she was named WVU’s Reporter of the Year. She covered government for the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s bi-weekly newscast WVU News and also served a semester as the WVPBS bureau reporter.

 

Ways to Connect

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed eight bills Friday, including the budget for the 2017 fiscal year lawmakers spent nearly a month in a special session crafting. 

The budget bill includes cuts to state agencies and Constitutional Officers as well as the use of one-time Rainy Day Funds to find a balance. 

The problem with drive-by journalism is that you only see what your driver points out.

If Garret Mathews had really been interested in seeing if hope exists in McDowell County, he would have gotten out of the car and talked with dozens of recent high school graduates who were mentored, encouraged to work hard and stay out of trouble and are about to enroll in college.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

  Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has added an additional bill to his special session call for state lawmakers to consider- a bill reducing funding for the state infrastructure fund.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography


June 30. That’s the day the Governor’s Office, members of the Legislature, even members of the media say is the final day lawmakers can approve a budget for the 2017 fiscal year and that’s technically true.

 

That is the day by which lawmakers must approve a budget to avoid a government shutdown, but state officials whose jobs are to implement the budget say that's not soon enough.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A spokesman for the House of Delegates says lawmakers will tentatively return to Charleston Saturday to once again work on the state's budget for the 2017 fiscal year.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tomblin vetoed the budget plan approved by lawmakers on June 2. That plan relied on more than $180 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund to help close a $272 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


When lawmakers return to Charleston Sunday, they won’t just be considering the budget bill. Members of both chambers will also consider another piece of legislation left floating when they left town on June 2.

 

House Bill 119, also known as Senate Bill 1010, was placed on the expanded special session call by Gov. Tomblin earlier this month. The bill looks to take a little more than $2 million from state reserves for the Boone County Board of Education.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed a budget plan that would take more than $180 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. 

In his veto message, Tomblin called the  budget “irresponsible”, saying it relies too heavily on one-time monies and leaves a significant shortfall for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Tax collections for the month of May were stronger than expected, according to Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss.

In a press release, Kiss said general revenue collections were up 12 percent when compared to those collected in May 2015 and some $28 million above the month’s estimates.

Courtesy: Shell Chemicals

West Virginia was in the running for construction of a new ethane cracker plant, but after four years of deliberations, a major petrochemical company announced Tuesday they are moving forward with construction in Pennsylvania.


West Virginia Legislative Photography

Is your school-aged son or daughter a master at minecraft? Then the West Virginia Department of Education has the contest for you.

The state department and Governor Tomblin’s Office are teaming up to sponsor a minecraft building competition, looking for a master builder who can recreate both the interior and exterior of West Virginia’s state Capitol or design a new Capitol complex on his or her own.

Zverzver / Wikimedia Commons

A study conducted by West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Council for Community and Economic Research says on average, the cost of living in and around Morgantown is 3.7 percent higher than the national average. That’s up a half a percentage point from the previous year. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Thirteen days into their special session, lawmakers have approved a bill to fund state government for the 2017 fiscal year that relies heavily on one-time monies to close the $272 million budget gap.

The bill moved quickly Thursday, being approved in the Senate on a party line vote, 18-16, in the early evening and receiving a 58-30 vote in the House just a few hours later.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A mere 24 hours after the Senate Finance Committee floated a bill to increase the state’s consumer sales tax by 1 percent, which would bring in $196 million in new revenues to close the $272 million gap in the 2017 budget, the bill died after a 6-10 vote.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Tomblin has amended his special session call placing two more bills before lawmakers. Those bills, however, do nothing to help balance the 2017 budget.

Tomblin announced the expansion Wednesday morning. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A Senate Finance Committee meeting was abruptly canceled Wednesday morning after closed door meetings led to all but one Democratic member of the committee walking out.

The committee was set to discuss amendments to a bill that would increase the state’s consumer sales tax by 1 percent, bringing in $196 million to help close a $272 million hole in the 2017 budget.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography


After calls from members of the Democratic Party, Senate leaders have decided to move forward with a tax increase that could potentially solve many budgetary problems for the 2017 fiscal year and rein in the even larger problems looming in the 2018 budget year. 

Cigarette, tobacco
nikkytok / Dollar Photo Club

The West Virginia House of Delegates voted 44-55 Thursday to kill a bill that would have increased a tax on tobacco products. The bill was designed to help fill a $270 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year.

Senate Bill 1005, as amended in the House, would have increased the state’s cigarette tax by 45 cents, making it a full $1 per pack.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The chairs of the House and Senate finance committees shared their budget proposals with their respective committee members Monday, each finding ways to close a more than $270 million budget gap expected during the 2017 fiscal year.

Both proposals would allow agency heads to determine how to take their additional cuts—that while leaders of both chambers are still waiting to see if a critical tobacco tax increase will make it through the House.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

By a narrow margin of just nine votes, members of the House have agreed to not impose a new tax on e-cigarette liquids.

The product is still subject to the state’s 6 percent sales tax, but lawmakers were looking to add an additional tax by the milliliter that would bring in some $2 million each year in additional state revenues.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

What happens if lawmakers do not approve a budget by the June 30 deadline? That’s a question no one at the statehouse seems to have a clear answer to just yet. Governor Tomblin and his staff, though, are taking steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario -- a government shutdown.

“Should we not have a budget then June 30, every state employee would lose their job,” Tomblin said.

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