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 Beth Vorhees, 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 is also the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Radio's new political talk show. The weekly program includes in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable that includes journalists from across West Virginia. The show will take questions from callers and via social media.

Ashton also  covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio 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 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 spill 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, the PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America.

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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Reproductive Rights
3:13 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Advocacy Groups Say Abortion Bill Still Unconstitutional

Supporters of West Virginia FREE held a demonstration outside the House of Delegates chamber against the abortion bill Thursday.
Ashton Marra West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Two West Virginia advocacy groups gathered outside the House of Delegates Thursday to protest a bill they say is unconstitutional. Lawmakers in the chamber have re-introduced the 20 week Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, this year with additional provisions.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act makes it illegal for a medical professional in the state to conduct an abortion after 20 weeks except with the woman has a medical emergency.

It also sets up civil and criminal penalties for doctors who do not comply with the ban.

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Labor Issues
7:25 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Should West Virginia Repeal the Prevailing Wage?

Sen. Daniel Hall chairing the Senate Committee on Labor meeting Tuesday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor pulled a bill from the committee's agenda Tuesday, Senate Bill 245, a bill that aims to repeal the state's prevailing wage requirement. 

Prevailing wage is a defined hourly wage, overtime and benefits used in government contracts established by regulatory agencies. Once those wage standards are set, anyone bidding on a state government contract must pay workers on their project at that level.

Senate President Bill Cole introduced similar legislation in 2014 repealing the wage requirement and said he still believes in repeal because it would be a cost savings to the taxpayers of West Virginia.

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Education
6:35 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Senate Bill Would Increase Number of Permitted Unexcused Absences

Sen. Chris Walters
Credit West Virginia Legislature

Senate Bill 256 was introduced to the full chamber Tuesday. Sponsored by Sen. Chris Walters of Putnam County, the bill aims at increasing the number of unexcused absences a student can have before the state court system intervenes.

“Currently, West Virginia has one of the most aggressive numbers and that’s five statewide," Walters said.  "Once a child reaches five unexcused absences then he arrives into the court system and can be placed in a facility.”

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Legislature
2:59 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

Energy Portfolio Repeal on Fast Track at Statehouse

Sen. Mitch Carmichael on the Senate floor.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A bill that's caused a bit of an uproar in the House and Senate progressed through both chambers at the state house Monday, but that bill is changing shape as it makes its way through both chambers. 

The Alternative and Renewable Energy Act was approved by lawmakers in 2009 under the guise of Governor Joe Manchin. Backed by the coal industry, the law requires electric utilities in the state to produce 25 percent of their energy using alternative and renewable resources, like solar or wind, by 2025.

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Politics
1:43 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Memorial Service Held for Gov. Arch Moore

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin pay their respects to Gov. Arch Moore, Jr.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Hundreds gathered at the Capitol Friday to remember former Arch Moore, Jr., the state's longest serving governor.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin, Arch Moore III and others shared fond memories of the state's 28th and 30th governor during a service in the Culture Center. Fitting, many remarked, because Gov. Moore worked to find the money to build the facility in the 1970s.

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WV Legislature
4:51 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Legislature Considering Repeal of Law Requiring Use of Alternative and Renewable Energy

Credit Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of both the House and Senate Energy Committees took up a bill Thursday repealing a law that’s commonly been referred to as West Virginia’s cap and trade law.

The Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act of 2009 requires electric utilities in the state to produce 25 percent of their electricity with alternative and renewable energy sources by 2025, meeting benchmarks of ten percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2020.

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Government
2:17 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

W.Va. GOP Names Replacement Options for Resigning Senator

Credit West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Republicans have named three options to replace state Sen. Clark Barnes, who has officially resigned to become Senate clerk.

The Republican candidates who will be considered for the vacancy are state Del. Allen Evans of Petersburg; West Virginia Farm Bureau President Charles Wilfong of Dunmore; and engineer Gregory Boso from Summersville.

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Legislature
2:14 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Democrat Crosses Party Lines to Vote for New Senate President

Sen. Bill Cole takes the podium as Senate President for the first time.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mercer County Sen. Bill Cole was elected to the Senate Presidency by a vote of 19-15 Wednesday with one Democrat crossing party lines to vote with the new Republican majority.

Sen. Bob Plymale of Cabell County voted for Cole instead of former Senate President and now Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, the Democratic nominee. Plymale declined to comment on the vote.

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2015 Legislation Session
8:24 am
Wed January 14, 2015

WATCH: Gov. Tomblin's 2015 State of the State Address

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin gave his fifth State of the State Address Wednesday night in the House Chamber before a joint meeting of the legislature as well as the Supreme Court, Constitutional officers and many, many others.

Tomblin touted the financial success the state is seeing from fiscally prudent decisions made in recent years. From the strength of the state’s more than $800 million Rainy Day Fund to the accomplishments in paying off worker’s compensation debt, Tomblin said the state is in good financial health.

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Law & Order
2:03 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Study Recommends Regional Magistrate Court System

Cynthia Lee, a researcher with the National Center of State Courts, presented the report recommendations Tuesday.
Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers were presented the final recommendations Tuesday from a national group that’s been studying the state’s magistrate court system for years.

The National Center for State Courts began the study in 2013 after lawmakers approved a pay increase for a small group of magistrates across the state. The study is focused on realigning the system so the number of magistrates in each county is based on the time spent on cases instead of the county’s population.

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Legislature
10:33 pm
Sun January 11, 2015

Will Lawmakers Repeal the Unfair Trade Practices Act?

Sen. Herb Snyder listens to a presentation during legislative interims.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A debate that started during the 2014 legislative session continued during interim meetings in Charleston Sunday. State lawmakers are still questioning if a 1939 law affects today’s gas prices.

Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association or OMEGA, addressed lawmakers during a Joint Government Organization and Operations meeting in the House Chamber about the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act which has been in state law for more than 70 years.

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Chemical Spill
11:57 am
Fri January 9, 2015

W.Va. Chief Health Officer Reflects on Chemical Spill Response

Dr. Rahul Gupta is the Commissioner for the state Bureau of Public Health.
Credit West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources

As soon as he was made aware of the Freedom Industries' chemical spill and the tap water use ban, Dr. Rahul Gupta said his main concern was the health and safety of the citizens in the affected area.

In January of 2014, Gupta was serving as the Executive Director of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department, a position he held since 2009, and was very vocal when responding to all of the possible health concerns related to the spill.

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Chemical Spill
9:32 am
Fri January 9, 2015

DEP Secretary: Tank Regulations Starting to Show Results

The tanks that used to stand at the Freedom Industries site along the Elk River.
Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

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West Virginia Morning
8:53 am
Fri January 9, 2015

W.Va.'s Chemical Leak One Year Later

Friday marks one year since a chemical tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston, leaving some without usable water for as many as ten days. State lawmakers immediately took action to regulate aboveground storage tanks like the one responsible for the contamination, but the regulatory effort is on going.

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Health
6:29 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Hospitals Deal with Widespread Flu Activity

Credit WVUniversity Healthcare Logo / Berkeley Medical Center

Earlier this month the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared a flu epidemic in the nation and named West Virginia a state with widespread flu activity. Now some hospitals in the eastern panhandle are taking extra precautions to make sure the virus doesn’t spread in their facilities.

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West Virginia Morning
8:27 am
Thu January 8, 2015

The Best of 2014: Students Work with NASA to Build Model Satellite

We continue our look at our favorite stories of 2014 first with a visit to the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association. In August, Roxy Todd reported the association in the past few years has decreased their euthanization rate by some 95 percent.

Liz McCormick visited Paw Paw High School in the fall as students teamed up with NASA to build a full scale model satellite. The project started after the 7-12 school's only science teacher took her students on a field trip and thought, why can't we do that? She says her students also learned more than science along the way.

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West Virginia Morning
8:50 am
Wed January 7, 2015

The Best of 2014: Raleigh County Group Works to Continue Appalachian Bluegrass Tradition

As we continue recapping our favorite stories of 2014, we return to Sophia in Raleigh County where a group of local musicians get together each week to play bluegrass. While most of the participants are from older generations, one Glenville State College student learned the basics from the group that eventually inspired him to study the music style in school.

Jessica Lilly brings us the sounds of the Sophia bluegrass jam band and discusses why this tradition is so important to Appalachia. 

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Politics
4:21 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

W.Va. Senators Respond to President's Position on Pipeline

West Virginia’s U.S. Senators responded Tuesday to President Obama’s announcement that should the Keystone XL Pipeline be approved by Congress, he intends to veto the bill.

The proposed pipeline would run from tar sands oil deposits in Canada through the heartland of America to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast. Industry groups say the pipeline would create construction jobs, but many activists say the environmental costs outweigh those benefits.

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Politics
11:51 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Former DNR Director Named Senator's New Liason

Former WVDNR Director Frank Jezioro buys the first Senior Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License from Felicia Boykins
Credit WVDNR

Senator Joe Manchin has appointed the former state director of the division of natural resources to a new, elevated post. 

Manchin named West Virginia's former director of the Division of Natural Resources Frank Jezioro the senator's new liaison to sportsmen and natural resources. Manchin was recently tapped to serve as co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and will hold a position on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in the new Congress.

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West Virginia Morning
8:33 am
Tue January 6, 2015

The Best of 2014: Veterans Find Solace in Agriculture Programs

As we continue our recap of our favorite stories of 2014, we start by meeting a veteran who suffers from PTSD, but found his life changed when he found the West Virginia Warrior and Veterans to Agriculture Program.

A Marshall University student shares the pride she felt when her hometown was named host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. She spoke with Clark Davis about the changes she saw in Sochi, Russia, as the media previewed the Olympic games. 

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