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 Interim 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

Between a repeal of the Common Core based education standards, a cut in the school aid formula and teacher layoffs, it’s a busy time in education in West Virginia. State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano address all three issues in a special extended interview.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Four amendments for House Bill 4012, the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act, were debated on the House floor Wednesday morning. The bill creates a judicial test for lawsuits against the state or government entities to ensure the protections of an individual’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Senators approve a bill to drug test welfare recipients, but are still struggling with one that would increase campaign contribution limits. The Senate's Judiciary Chairman discusses changes to the bill he says may prevent its passage.

Also, state Auditor Glen Gainer discusses the latest on a state computer operating system lawmakers threatened to delay.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

West Virginia Senators voted 32 to 2 to create a three-year pilot program to drug test welfare recipients. Two Democratic senators voted against the provision. 

The bill requires the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources seek federal approval to create such a program and sets forth the requirements for it, including the "reasonable suspicion" a DHHR employee must find before testing a TANF recipient. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Updated 2/9/2016: The West Virginia Senate approved a three-year pilot drug testing program, 32-2. For more, click here.

Original story:

 Members of the West Virginia Senate are set to vote on a bill to drug test the recipients of public assistance. 

Senate Bill 6 creates a three-year pilot program to drug test recipients of TANF benefits. TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The House of Delegates approves a controversial gun bill, one similar to legislation Governor Tomblin vetoed in 2015.

A special report tonight on West Virginia’s Division of Tourism and what they’ve done with $4 million lawmakers committed to a new advertising campaign.

Also, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant joins us to discuss the progress of the state’s public campaign financing program and a proposal to increase contribution limits in the middle of an election cycle.

Members of both the House and Senate are focused on a problem that needs a fix quickly: balancing the 2016 budget.

In this episode, we hear what both the House and Senate Finance Chairs say their chambers are doing to find a solution.

Also, Common Core was the focus of a public hearing in the House Thursday, and a special report on a program helping kids return to school after experiencing a trauma at home.

Two contentious pieces of legislation--one repealing the prevailing wage and the other making West Virginia a Right-to-Work state --see votes on the Senate and House floors, respectively.

Both pass by slim majorities with some lawmakers even crossing party lines in the process.

The prevailing wage repeal heads to Governor Tomblin's desk, but Right-to-Work will return to the Senate after some amendments in the House.

House of Delegates
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photograhy

In a close vote, members of the House of Delegates have approved a bill to make West Virginia a Right-to-Work state. Delegates voted 54 to 46, with some Republicans joining the Democratic minority in opposition.

Members debated the bill for nearly five hours Thursday before the final vote.

Senate Bill 1, the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, makes it illegal to fire a worker for refusing to join a union or pay union dues or fees.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Senate has approved a bill to repeal the state’s prevailing wage on a party line vote. The bill now heads to Governor Tomblin for a signature.

Lawmakers voted 18-16 Thursday with only Republicans supporting the legislation.

Legislation to ensure West Virginia can pay its bills through the end of the year is now on Governor Tomblin’s desk which he says he’ll sign quickly.

But bills to repeal the prevailing wage and implement right-to-work provisions, those may see a veto. We speak with the governor tonight.

Also on our show, changes have been made to some controversial pieces of legislation, and the Education Chairs join us to discuss their work during this 60 day session.

As the vote to repeal the state’s prevailing wage draws closer in the West Virginia Senate, Democratic members of the chamber are not being silent about their opposition. Wednesday, two Senators attempted to amend the legislation on the floor.

Democratic Senators continued with attempts to slow or kill a bill that repeals the state's prevailing wage, but the GOP majority maintains the bill will help West Virginia's economy.

Sean O'Leary with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and John Deskins with the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research discuss the possible economic impacts of the bill that will be up for passage in the Senate Thursday.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

On a party-line vote Monday, members of the Senate Committee on Government Organization approved a bill to repeal the state's prevailing wage. It was reported to the floor Monday as well, setting it up for a vote Thursday. 

    

In the third full week of this legislative session both chambers are poised to vote on bills that could see vetoes from Governor Tomblin--one to make West Virginia a Right-to-Work state, the other, to repeal the state’s prevailing wage.

The chairs of the House and Senate Government Organization Committees discuss the proposed repeal as well as a possible change to the state's Home Rule Pilot Program.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Friday that would make West Virginia a right-to-work state.  

The committee began debating Senate Bill 1 Friday morning and continued the discussion into the afternoon lasting more than 6 hours.

 A House Committee takes up the contentious Right to Work legislation for the first time, which causes House Democrats cause sparks on the floor as the attempt to fund state employee healthcare benefits with money from the Rainy Fund.

Also, a special report tonight on new security measures and construction on the state Capitol complex.

Hundreds of children and their families descend on the Capitol for their lobbying day at the Legislature.

But so did advocates for a bill they say protects their religious freedoms. The bill’s opponents say it will legalize discrimination in the state.

Also, the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees join us to discuss the contentions bills making their way through the major committees.

 

  At the legislature today: Should West Virginians be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit? That was the subject of a public hearing this morning.

West Virginia is on track to join 18 other states who do not have prevailing wage laws after Delegates approved a repeal this afternoon.

Also, the chairs of the House and Senate Energy Committees discuss the ailing coal and natural gas industries. Coming up on The Legislature Today.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates voted 55 to 44 Wednesday to repeal the state's prevailing wage as dozens of union members looked on from the gallery.

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