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 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 that 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 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.
 

Ways To Connect

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

In some counties in the state, deaths from heroin overdoses have tripled in the past three years, drawing the attention of both lawmakers and law enforcement looking for ways to combat the problem.

At the statehouse, lawmakers approved the Opioid Antagonist Act during the 2015 Legislative session. The bill expands access to the overdose reversing drug Naloxone, allowing police officers to carry it and also family members and friends of addicts to seek a prescription for the medication.

Naloxone, if followed by more intense medical treatment, can save a person’s life giving them a second chance, according to Joseph Garcia, Gov. Tomblin’s legislative affairs director. Tomblin backed the bill.

But members of both the House and Senate leadership say the new law alone will not decrease the number of heroin overdose fatalities. Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said that ‘more’ should include a focus on rehabilitative services and a program to drug test those on public assistance.

A law that goes into effect on May 27 allows police officers and those close to addicts to carry the opioid overdose antidote drug Naloxone. While law enforcement officials generally agree that it’s a good idea to carry the drug, there are some questions about safety, training and exactly how the new law will be implemented.

“I totally agree with trying to address the problem at its root but there are a lot of other issues that have to be overcome along the way,” Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

As Republican lawmakers prepared to take the helm of both the state House of Delegates and Senate for the first time in more than 80 years this legislative session, they were questioned over and over again about their priorities. Those priorities became clear on the first day of the session when Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Bill Cole introduced the first 15 bills their party would pursue. 

Number nine of those 15: the Opioid Antagonist Act. 

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting / via Tableau

A bill aiming to stave off West Virginia's problems with heroin and prescription opioid overdose deaths goes into effect Wednesday. The Opioid Antagonist Act expands access to the life saving drug Naloxone, allowing addicts and family members the ability to purchase the medicine through a prescription.

In an age of globalization and a shrinking manufacturing sector, two young men in Wheeling are hedging their bets and running with a business idea that first took off in 1854.  

And as we prepare for a special week long series on heroin addiction in West Virginia, Digital Editor Dave Mistich discusses the digital components that supplement the series "The Needle and the Damage Done: West Virginia's Heroin Epidemic."

Alpha Natural Resources expects to idle a West Virginia coal mine that employs more than 400 workers. 

In a press release, Alpha said it notified 439 workers Friday that it expects to idle Rockspring Development's Camp Creek underground mine and processing plant in Wayne County.

 Last week, Alpha cut 71 jobs at four mines in Kentucky and Virginia.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting

If you’ve been paying attention to our news output here at West Virginia Public Broadcasting as of late, you’ve probably noticed an increased focus on data and digital journalism. Sure, we tell stories on the radio, but emerging technology and innovations have inspired us to present our stories in a new and interesting way.

As part of The Needle and the Damage Done, we wanted to allow our audience to get a better understanding of West Virginia’s heroin problem.

The Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways released their final report this week, finding West Virginia needs an additional $1 billion annually to both maintain and expand the state's highway system.

The commission recommends keeping the tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike in order to leverage the road for a $1 billion road bond. The bond would be one time funds. Commissioners also recommend increases in some vehicle fees and taxes to create $141 million in new revenue.

en.wikipedia.com

Members of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways released their final recommendations Wednesday after a 20 month delay.

The commission was charged by Gov. Tomblin in 2012 with finding new revenue sources for the state’s aging roadways.

The 57 page report recommends lawmakers increase DMV fees and the state sales tax on motor vehicles. Those two increases, along with a new annual fee on alternative fuel vehicles, would create more than $115 million in new revenue.

A national report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says West Virginia is one of just three states that has consecutively cut higher education funding in the past two years. The report focused on the cuts state lawmakers approved for colleges and universities across the country after the 2008 economic downturn.

Woodburn Hall, West Virginia University
Richinstead / wikimedia Commons

A report released this month by the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities looked at states across the country that cut their higher education budgets in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn.

West Virginia Turnpike
Seicer / wikimedia Commons

More than a year and a half after its initially announced release date, members of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways are set to release their final report Wednesday.

The commission began its work in October 2012, studying the state’s highway system, polling West Virginians on their priorities and compiling a list of new revenue sources as well as efficiencies.

In September 2013, the group held their final meeting to discuss recommendations, which include increasing the motor vehicle sales tax and DMV fees as well as continuing tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike to leverage more than $1 billion for new construction.

Members of the Joint Committee on Tax Reform continued their work at the Capitol this week reviewing the state's current tax code and looking for ways to improve it. The Monday session brought national policy and tax experts to Charleston to review what other states have done in the areas of reform.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Joint Committee on Tax Reform met in Charleston this week to carry on the new committee’s quest to improve the business climate in West Virginia.

The group looked to leaders from national policy and tax reform organizations to learn about the progress, or in some cases regress, other states are making as they take on changes in their tax codes.

Representatives of the Tax Foundation, a D.C. think tank, and the National Council of State Legislatures both presented lawmakers with reviews of the tax reform initiatives states across the country have taken in recent years.

This past weekend, over 500 people visited Matewan, West Virginia- to catch a glimpse of a brand new museum that tells the story of a dark and bloody time in West Virginia’s labor history. 

Coal miners were fighting for the right to organize--and to stop the practice of using mine guards. They also wanted an alternative to shopping at coal company stores and being paid in scrip, instead of money. In the early 1900’s, miners led a series of strikes in southern West Virginia, leading up to the climatic march on Blair Mountain in 1921.

President Obama has signed a major disaster declaration after severe storms last month caused damage in six counties.

Obama signed the declaration Thursday which makes federal aid available to support recovery efforts in Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo and Wayne counties. 

The funding comes after severe storms caused flooding, landslides and mudslides in the counties from April 3-5 this year.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures across the state. 

On this episode of West Virginia Morning, we preview the latest episode of 'Us & Them,' a newly released podcast from West Virginia Public Broadcasting. The episode focuses on the conflicts between panhandlers and the cities in which they live. Trey Kay discusses the research he did into the topic.

Also, the 30 Mile Meal program is working to connect farmers in the tri-state area with chefs in the Huntington to promote the farm to table movement. And so far, it's having success.

And the Drive-By Truckers are featured on the Mountain Stage Song of the week. 

Associated Press

Friday marks the release of the latest episode of the West Virginia Public Broadcasting podcast 'Us & Them.' This episode was inspired by a story WVPB reporter Dave Mistich reported in the fall that focused on panhandling in Parkersburg.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Department of Education is partnering with West Virginia University and the National Institute for Early Education Research to conduct a long term study on early childhood education in the state.

The study will follow a group of three and four-year-olds beginning in West Virginia’s pre-K system this fall through the next five years of their education, tracking their achievement along the way.

Shay Maunz / West Virginia Focus

During the 2015 Legislative session lawmakers approved, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed, a bill allowing alternative training methods for teachers who head West Virginia classrooms.

While the bill sets forth specific requirements for those teachers, like having a bachelor's degree and setting up a work agreement with the county school system, what it essentially does is allow the controversial program Teach for America to operate in the state.

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