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.

During the legislative session, Ashton hosts West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today. She also reports from the Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house.

Ashton served as the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's 10-week political podcast fall of 2016 focused on the General Election. 

Ashton is the winner of two 2016 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her work producing West Virginia Morning and covering the decline of the state's coal industry. She was also named the 2015 and 2016 "Outstanding Reporter of the Virginias" by the Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters Association.

Ashton's work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, PBS NewsHour, WBUR’s Here & Now, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, KCRW’s To the Point and other programs.

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, W.Va., 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. 

 

Ways to Connect

On The Legislature Today, Gov. Jim Justice has presented lawmakers with several legislative proposals, including an overhaul of the state's education system aimed at pushing control back to the local level. 

Although he said he hasn't worked through the full proposal, Senate President Mitch Carmichael supports the overarching plan of more flexibility.

"That’s what his initiative in broad terms does," he said. "We support that and we’ll reserve right to comment on the details, but I’m very anxious to work with him on that goal of returning control to the local entities.”

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

DMAPS, the shorthand for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, is an area of the budget that, according to Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall, can be difficult to cut. At $350 million, it’s a fairly sizable part of state government and houses the regional jails, prisons, homeland security office, State Police, and a few other divisions.

During the department’s budget presentation Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice’s newly appointed Secretary Jeff Sandy told senators he’s only officially been in his position for just over a month, but he’s already looking to make changes that will result in savings.

On The Legislature Today, hundreds of pieces of legislation get introduced each legislative session and the House and Senate Judiciary Chairs see most of them. Sen. Charles Trump and Del. John Shott discuss some of those bills, including the ones they call their top priority-- those that deal with substance abuse.

Del. Shott says the House has taken the lead on those bills, which include some to increase penalties for those bringing drugs into the state as well as those selling them.

Sen. Trump says its an issue that plagues the entire state and lawmakers are doing their best to tackle the issue from all sides. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

State Senators have approved a bill that makes it illegal to share a personal, private image of another person without his or her consent.

Senate Bill 240 was drafted by students at Bethany College in the state's Northern Panhandle and finessed in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee creating the misdemeanor offense. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle are reacting to Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement Tuesday that the state’s bond rating had been downgraded by the third national rating agency in a year.

Moody’s dropped the state’s rating from AA1 to AA2.

At The Legislature Today, although the budget has been the top priority for lawmakers this session, it’s implications trickle down into all areas of state government, including education.

Del. Paul Espinosa and Sen. Kenny Mann, chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, say even though there may be less money for schools, they are working through bills to give counties more flexibility in how they spend that funding.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate has approved a bill that changes the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits for striking workers. 

The chamber approved Senate Bill 222, 22 to 11, with one Senator absent on Wednesday.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Lawmakers are 14 days into this legislative session and so far, not a single bill dealing with broadband expansion has been introduced. The issue received attention early last session, but lawmakers say they’re still working on a plan to reach both unserved and underserved areas of West Virginia.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The third bond rating agency in a year announced Tuesday it would be downgrading West Virginia's rating, from AA1 to AA2. 

West Virginia’s Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy announced the decision during a press conference at the Capitol with Gov. Jim Justice.

“This just makes me sick," Justice said after the announcement. "I mean, that’s just all there is to it."

On The Legislature Today, Gov. Jim Justice announces a downgrade of the state's bond rating nearly two weeks after he presented lawmakers with a proposal to increase taxes and fees for a road bond. 

Sen. Greg Boso and Del. Marty Gearheart, chairs of the House and Senate Transportation Committees, react to the downgrade and the governor's bond proposal. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Over the past several years, West Virginia voters have decided on a county-by-county basis whether to allow hunting on Sundays, and many counties have approved the measure.

A bill now being considered in the state Senate would make those provisions uniform across counties.

The Senate's Select Committee on Tax Reform has yet to take up a bill that would phase out West Virginia's personal income tax and replace the revenues with an increased sales tax. That, however, hasn't stopped the bill from becoming one of the most talked about at the statehouse this session.

Sen. Robert Karnes, the chair of that select committee, shares his take on the bill.

On The Legislature Today, the Senate's Select Committee on Tax Reform begins discussing the chair's plan to reform the state's tax code, shifting from a personal income tax to a broader consumer sales tax.

Ted Boettner with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and John Deskins with the Bureau for Business and Economic Research at West Virginia University discuss the potential benefits and risks to the plan and it impacts on West Virginians. 

The Republican majority in the Senate is starting to reveal its plan to restructure the state’s tax code. A bill introduced in that chamber Thursday would repeal the state’s income and corporate net income taxes and replace them with a higher consumer sales tax and fewer exemptions.

Gov. Jim Justice has already released his proposal to balance the state budget on tax increases and a small amount of cuts.

Minority Leaders Tim Miley and Roman Prezioso discuss the budget proposals their party will support.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A national research group says the deficiencies, congestion, and lack of safety features on West Virginia’s roadways are costing drivers in the state more than a billion dollars every year.

Gov. Jim Justice plans to drastically change that by increasing the funding to the state’s road system, but members of the Senate have mixed feelings about whether that plan can succeed.

On The Legislature Today, the Chairs of the House and Senate Finance Committees are digging deep into state agencies to find efficiencies or cuts that could potentially save the state money. 

Del. Eric Nelson and Sen. Mike Hall discuss the state's $497 million budget gap for the 2018 Fiscal Year and how they intend to fix it. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators are considering a bill that would change the eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers on strike. It’s a measure the bill’s lead sponsor says other states have adopted, but West Virginia union leaders already oppose.

Senate Bill 222 would make workers who have temporarily lost their jobs due to a strike ineligible for unemployment benefits from the state. 

On The Legislature Today, Senate President Mitch Carmichael has created a committee focused on restructuring the state's tax code and says its goal is to get rid of the state's income tax. 

Carmichael discusses his newly formed committee and his goals as the newly elected Senate President.

At the Legislature today, it's been less than a week since Gov. Jim Justice presented his plan to lawmakers to close a $497 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year.

House Speaker Tim Armstead shares his views on the governor's plan and the plan Legislative leaders are beginning to put together.

Nancy Andrews / West Virginia University

The stories of the hardworking, blue collar West Virginians who looked to Trump as an outsider willing to change the political order in Washington have been told by both local and national media outlets, but the question now is whether he will stick to his word.

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