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.

 

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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.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

By a narrow margin, state Senators have approved a tax that will generate some $70 million annual in state revenues.

Senators voted to increase taxes on tobacco products in West Virginia 17-16--with all but one Democratic member of the chamber voting against it and one Republican member, Sen. Robert Karnes, leaving the chamber minutes before the vote.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A bill to increase the state’s cigarette tax will be put to a final vote in the state Senate Thursday after serious debate over proposed amendments Wednesday.

As introduced on behalf of Gov. Tomblin, the bill would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 45 cents, bump the tax on smokeless tobacco products and create a new tax on e-cigarette liquids. The bill is estimated to bring in more than $70 million annually.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead have asked Gov. Tomblin to expand his call for the current special budget session to include additional measure that will result in cuts to state programs.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A bill to increase the state’s cigarette tax by 45 cents per pack and implement a new tax on e-cigarette liquids was on the fast track for passage in the Senate, but a disagreement on the amount the tax should be increased has slowed the process. 

The tax increases, proposed by Gov. Tomblin, are expected to bring in about $78 million in new annual revenue. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

During a joint meeting, members of the House and Senate Finance Committees were presented with Governor Tomblin’s plan to balance the 2017 budget as well as close a $110 million gap in the current fiscal year.

While that plan makes some additional cuts, it also relies on increased tax revenues. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Ending the night with around 50 percent of the vote, Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice was the clear winner for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor after Tuesday’s primaries.

The billionaire thanked his family and his fellow candidates, former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, but quickly shifted his focus to the general election and his new opponent, Republican Senate President Bill Cole during his victory speech.

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

High school counselors across the state have been notified that recipients of the PROMISE scholarship won’t receive their award letters until after the state has a budget for next year.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission sent a letter to high school counselors May 2 explaining why they have decided to hold PROMISE award letters this year.

Daniel Shreve / The Media Center

West Virginia rarely makes its way onto a national spotlight in election season, but this year’s primary has been a bit of a different story. With campaign stops from three remaining presidential candidates all last week, the state felt a bit of the spotlight.

Voting
WBOY

The Secretary of State's Office is reporting record high numbers of voters casting ballots during the state's early voting period.  

The Secretary of State's Office announced Monday more than 100,000 West Virginians in all 55 counties cast early votes. The early voting period was from April 27 to May 7.

Capitol Dome, Capitol, Legislature
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Several labor unions say they intend to sue West Virginia over a recently enacted Right-to-Work law.

Lawmakers approved the bill in February after Governor Tomblin vetoed it. Senate Bill 1 took effect last week.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After holding three events in West Virginia Thursday, Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he is focused on winning West Virginia because the hardworking people deserve a government that represent all people, not just the interested of billionaires. 

"It's a state of tough people, people who are fighting back against difficult odds today," Sanders said Friday afternoon. 

Voting
WBOY

More West Virginians have voted early this election year than in any of the past four election cycles.

The Secretary of State’s Office reports more than 63,000 West Virginians cast early ballots in just the first seven days of early voting this year. That number is up by some 40,000 votes from 2014 and about 30,000 from the previous presidential election cycle in 2012.

Steve Helber / AP Photo

Apparent Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump drew a crowd of more than 10,000 to the Charleston Civic Center Thursday for a campaign rally largely focused on revitalizing the coal industry.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Beth Walker is running for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

 

The name may be familiar to you, maybe because of her unsuccessful bid for the high court in 2008, or maybe because of her legal challenge to opponents Brent Benjamin and Bill Wooten’s use of public campaign financing in the race, but now, Walker is traveling the state to make sure voters recognize her for her conservative values.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Brent Benjamin was first elected to the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2004 during a race that became known for the influence of outside spending.

At the time, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship funneled big bucks into the race attacking Benjamin's opponent, incumbent Justice Warren McGraw, and now Benjamin, the conservative lawyer turned centrist judge, is attempting to move past his former political ties in 2016's nonpartisan race.

Gage Skidmore / AP Photo

Coming off of big wins in Indiana's primary Tuesday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders announced scheduled stops in West Virginia.

Both candidates will visit the state Thursday.

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