Ashton Marra

Statehouse Reporter/Producer

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered.

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 that show on Fridays and leads a reporter roundtable discussing the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the statehouse press corps.

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical leak in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's hourly newscasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point and the PBS NewsHour.

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.

When she isn’t reporting, Ashton enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the arts, including theater, music and dance. She is a huge fan of musicals and touts her collection of Playbills from the Broadway shows she’s attended, which grew by nearly 30 in her 9 months living in New York City.
 

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NPR
8:23 am
Thu July 31, 2014

New NPR Chief Visits West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Talks Future of Public Radio

West Virginia Public Broadcasting executive director Scott Finn (left) looks on as NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn speaks to employees, board members, and others.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

NPR has a new president and CEO.  Jarl Mohn was once a music DJ, but he says he has a passion for  public radio. That's why he chaired Southern California Public Radio even as he made is career in cable TV as president and CEO of E-Entertainment Television.

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Energy & Environment
12:50 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

West Virginia, Coal Industry Leaders Attend Pittsburgh Energy Rally

Credit Marcus Constantino (@AMTino) / Charleston Daily Mail

   West Virginia officials joined hundreds of coal miners and coal supporters at an electricity and energy jobs rally.

The Wednesday event at Pittsburgh's Highmark Stadium included Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, labor leaders and others.

Officials say the rally is aimed at raising awareness over proposed changed to federal rules about pollution discharged by coal-fired power plants.

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Same Sex Marriage
1:59 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

How Does The 4th Circuit Court's Gay Marriage Decision Affect West Virginia?

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Credit Sean McCormick

In a historic move, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The decision was celebrated by pro-LGBT advocates in other states in the circuit, including West Virginia, but even they say it will take time before the decision impacts gay couples in the state.

As of now, 20 states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same sex marriage. Many other states, districts and circuits are currently dealing with the issue in the court system.

The Decision:

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Military Veterans
11:23 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Program is Turning Warriors to Farmers Across W.Va.

Two veterans look after the bees they bought after becoming members of the Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture Program.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

As the country continues to struggle to help its military members returning from war, one fledgling program in West Virginia isn’t wasting any time tackling the issues veterans face. 

From transitional job training to psychological therapy, members of the Warriors and Veterans to Agriculture Program say they’re discovering they can help West Virginia veterans in more ways than they ever anticipated.

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Energy Efficiency
11:46 am
Thu July 17, 2014

The Three Ways the NAACP Says W.Va. Can Reduce Pollution and Create Jobs

NAACP West Virginia Political Action Chair Kenneth Hale at the organization's press conference at the Capitol.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Civil rights and environmental advocates gathered at the Capitol Thursday morning for the release of a new national report. The NAACP’s Just Energy Policies details ways states can reduce pollution and create jobs.

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Investigation
2:38 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

The Five Things You Need to Know About the CSB's Preliminary Investigation at Freedom Industries

Johnnie Banks presented the Chemical Safety Board's preliminary findings on the Freedom Industries spill Wednesday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Investigators from the U. S. Chemical Safety Board presented preliminary findings Wednesday from their investigation into the January chemical leak at Freedom Industries in Charleston.

Lead Investigator Johnnie Banks explained the process they’ve gone through collecting evidence and information and said they will soon begin to analyze that data to put together a final report and recommendations.

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Infrastructure
9:08 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Congressional Stalemate May Cause Construction Delays for W.Va. Roads

From left to right, West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox, Congressman Nick Rahall, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx sat at a table with Senator Rockefeller, Congressman Nick Rahall and West Virginia DOT Secretary Paul Mattox in the main hall of the state Culture Center in Charleston.

He came to West Virginia to talk about infrastructure and the funding it will take to fix an aging system not just in West Virginia, but across the country. That funding, though, as Foxx said, is stuck in Washington.

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Election 2014
8:50 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Ryan, Warren Campaign in W.Va. For Senate Candidates

Natalie Tennant and Sen. Elizabeth Warren take the stage at a rally in Shepherdstown.
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Two major Congressional players made stops in West Virginia Monday to rally around their respective party’s candidate for Senate.

The atmosphere in Shepherdstown was upbeat, in a word, at current Secretary of State Natalie Tennant’s rally as supporters chanted and cheered for the Democratic candidate. Tennant was joined by veteran Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

In the days leading up to the rally, Tennant’s Republican opponent bashed her for teaming up with an anti-coal Senator whose agenda the state GOP says hurts West Virginia.

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Mountaintop Removal
10:16 pm
Sun July 13, 2014

New Coalition Battles Mine Site Near State Forest

Kanawha County resident Doug Woods points out Middle Lick Mountain just over his shoulder, a site that has been approved for mountaintop removal mining near the Kanawha State Forest.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

About 7 miles outside of Charleston sits 9,300 acres of protected land. The Kanawha State Forest is home to hiking and biking trails, campsites and a shooting range, but just a few hundred acres away, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has approved a mountain top removal mine site.

The Kanawha State Forest Coalition, a group of concerned Kanawha County residents, formed to fight the site and get the administration to withdraw the permit, saving hundreds of plant and animal species on Middle Lick Mountain where mining is set to begin.

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Meth Labs
4:48 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Senator Who Backed Pseudoephedrine Restrictions Reacts to CVS Ban

Sen. Greg Tucker
Credit West Virginia Legislature

Two major retailers in West Virginia announced this week they would no longer be selling some over the counter cold medications in their stores. CVS Pharmacies stopped selling single-ingredient pseudoephedrine medicines in late June and Walgreens intends to follow suit.

Senator Greg Tucker of Nicholas County sponsored legislation this year intended to curb the meth problem by making psuedoephedrine—meth’s main ingredient—available only by a doctor’s prescription. The bill, however, died in the final hours of the session.

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Election 2014
11:02 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Number of Registered Democrats in W.Va. Drops to Historic Low

Credit DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Republicans in West Virginia are touting an accomplishment this week that has historical significance for the state. For the first time in more than 80 years, Democratic voter registration has dropped to below 50 percent.

Numbers from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office show it is true, that number has dropped, but just barely.

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Public Education
5:29 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Preston County Schools Regain Local Control

Preston County Superintendent Rick Hicks details his county's progress over the past year in decreasing their deficit.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The state board of education declared a state of emergency in Preston County in 2009 and as part of their intervention, seized decision making authority from the county.

Everything from finances to the school calendar, hiring to curriculum, all were set at the state level. But that oversight will officially end August 1 after a unanimous vote from the board yesterday.

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Public Education
3:53 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Schools for Deaf and Blind Workers Want Change in New Hiring Policy

West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind Superintendent Dr. Lynn Boyer updated the board on negotiations over the new hiring policy.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The state Board of Education heard from child care workers at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind Wednesday morning about an upcoming change in their job requirements. The board decided in March those workers will now be required to obtain an associates degree.

The 35 workers who currently hold positions at the Romney schools have until 2018 to obtain a degree, but there’s no guarantee even then that they will keep their jobs.

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Public Education
9:44 pm
Tue July 8, 2014

Martirano Called Visionary Leader W.Va. Needs

Newly appointed state Superintendent Michael Martirano addressed a crowd at a press conference at the Capitol.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia got a glimpse of its newly appointed superintendent of schools Tuesday when Dr. Michael Martirano was introduced to a crowd of state employees and members of the media.

The appointment comes more than year into Governor Tomblin’s mission to strengthen public education in the state.

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Chemical Spill
4:54 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

DHHR Survey: One-Fifth Reported Symptoms Related to Spill

Credit wikimedia

The state Department of Health and Human Resources released the results Monday of a survey of households in the nine county area affected by the January chemical spill. The results are similar to those released in previous months.

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State Operations
3:21 pm
Mon July 7, 2014

WVOASIS Rolls Out Largest Phase to Date

Credit Office of the Governor

Tuesday marks a major change in the way state government does business, but it’s a change you likely won’t even notice.

West Virginia is rolling out its third phase of OASIS, Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems. It’s software that integrates a majority of the business state government conducts, but it’s not necessarily that simple.

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Cold Medicine
8:19 am
Mon July 7, 2014

CVS Stops Some Pseudoephedrine Sales in W.Va.

Credit Quinn Dombrowski / flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/

After a bill to make pseudoephedrine available only through a doctor's prescription died on the final night of the legislative session this year, two pharmacies are announcing their intentions to stop selling the drug.

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West Virginia Morning
8:12 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Testimony Entered in PSC Investigation, W.Va. Working to Limit Exotic Pets, and Humans of Fairmont

West Virginia American Water entered written testimony last week in the Public Service Commission's investigation into the January chemical leak in Charleston. The PSC wanted more information about how the company responded to the crisis, including justification for not shutting of their source water intake.

State officials are working on a list of animals they feel are too dangerous to own as pets and a North Central West Virginia man's Facebook project is picking up steam as he tries to introduce you to the 'Humans of Fairmont.'

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Lions, Tigers, Bears
7:12 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Dangerous Wild Animals: Who Made the List?

Credit Cody Kwok / www.flickr.com/photos/49859500@N00/

When you hear the phrase “dangerous wild animals,” what image pops into your head? A lion? Tiger? Bear?

State officials are working to define what a dangerous wild animal is in order to restrict West Virginia residents from keeping them as pets. It’s an effort Sen. Bob Beach of Monongalia County said started for him in 2004 as chair of the House Agriculture committee.

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West Virginia Morning
8:16 am
Thu July 3, 2014

The Tradition of The Old Guard, History's Tale of J.R. Clifford and The Black Lillies Perform

A Princeton native is continuing the more than 250 year old tradition of The Old Guard, a military group tasked with formal duties like playing taps at the Arlington Cemetery and firing traditional gun salutes. Parsons remembers J. R. Clifford, a prominent black attorney in the 1800s who stood up for the rights of African American teachers, and The Black Lillies perform "Gold and Roses" on the Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

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