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.

 

Ways to Connect

Former U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, left, and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, right.
wikipedia/West Virginia Legislative Photography

Two of the four candidates running for Governor participated in a forum hosted by the statewide community action group Create West Virginia in Charleston Tuesday. 

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On April 5, 2010, Howard "Boone" Payne went to work at the Upper Big Branch mine just as he had for years. He and 28 other men made their way miles underground to the mine's long wall operation, spent hours mining coal, and prepared to wrap up their day when the unthinkable happened- an explosion that took all of their lives.

Six years later, Boone's sisters Shirley Whitt and Sherry Keeney Depoy say there is still a void left in their family that cannot be filled. 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has vetoed two education bills, one that would have repealed Common Core aligned standardized test in the state and a second that would have allowed county boards to schedule fewer then 180 days in their school calendars.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a bill that requires voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot at his or her polling place as well as creates an an automatic voter registration process system. 

PEIA Board
Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Health insurance could become more expensive for some 230,000 West Virginians after the state Public Employees Insurance Agency, or PEIA, Finance Board voted unanimously to reinstate benefit cuts.

Board members had initially approved the cuts in December, but were assured by lawmakers that the program would receive more funding during this year's legislative session.

Best Furniture
Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Asbestos abatement and environmental clean up began Tuesday at the vacant Best Furniture Store in downtown Welch in McDowell County Tuesday, some 19 months after a project to demolish and build new housing on the site was announced.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Two weeks after the Legislature left Charleston without approving a budget for the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy is urging lawmakers to not just consider cuts when they return to complete the funding bill.

"West Virginia should take a balanced approach that includes additional revenue rather than a cuts only approach that could threaten our state's struggling economy," Ted Boettner said Monday.

WVU Tech
West Virginia University

A 120 year-old institution will soon be relocating in southern West Virginia after receiving the go-ahead from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. 

Tomblin has signed a bill that allows the West Virginia University Institute of Technology to move from Montgomery in Fayette County to Beckley in Raleigh County, taking over the campus of the former Mountain State University. 

commons.wikimedia.org

Williams Ohio Valley Midstream has paid a $14,440 settlement to the federal government after leaking a natural gas component into three Ohio Valley waterways. 

The company paid the fine to the Environmental Protection Agency after 132 barrels of natural gas condensate leaked from its Moundsville pipeline. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a bill that requires the state Department of Health and Human Resources to apply for permission to drug test TANF recipients.

TANF is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that provides government benefits to working, low-income families.

Governor Tomblin
AP Photo / Tyler Evert

The state board that oversees the insurance program covering more than 250,000 West Virginians will meet once again next week to discuss possible cuts because lawmakers have not yet approved a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the decisions of two Kanawha County Circuit Court judges and will allow Brent Benjamin and Bill Wooton to keep the monies their campaigns received under the state's public campaign financing program. 

The decision comes a little more than six weeks before the judicial election.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A week after members of the West Virginia Legislature left the capital city without approving a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, Governor Tomblin's Office says negotiations with House and Senate leaders are still underway.

WVU Hospitals / @wvumedicine / Instagram

Information technology specialists at Ruby Memorial Hospital are individually checking more than 14,000 computers on the hospital’s campus after malware or a virus sent the hospital into a lockdown this morning.

The hospital reportedly began experiencing issues with both its clinical and security operating systems just after midnight Tuesday, and around 4 a.m. lost the use of its video monitoring system. That sent the hospital into lockdown for nearly four hours.

Don Blankenship
Joel Ebert / The Charleston Gazette-Mail

Attorneys for former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship are asking a federal judge to either delay his April sentencing or put off deciding the amount of a federal fine. 

In December, Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws linked to a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 men.  Blankenship could face up to a year in prison for the charge. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Update: Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 11:01 p.m.:

Members of the Senate have also approved the conference committee version of House Bill 4013, requiring voters to show some form of identification at their polling places. The bill passed 26 to 8.

House Bill 4013 now heads to Governor Tomblin for further consideration.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Editor's Note: For the latest updates on the final day of the legislative session, be sure to keep checking our live blog.

Updated Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 7:28 p.m.: 

Members of the Senate have concurred in the House amendments to House Bill 4014 after voting 27-4 during a Saturday evening floor session.

With the concurrence and passing vote, the bill now heads to Governor Tomblin for further consideration.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Editor's Note: For the latest updates on the final day of the legislative session, be sure to keep checking our live blog.

Update: Saturday, March 12, 2016 at 5:33 p.m.: 

Senate Bill 298--which would move alcohol sales in restaurants, private clubs, wineries and distilleries on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 10 a.m.--has passed the final needed approval in the House. Earlier Saturday, the Senate concurred with House amendments to the bill but had made a title amendment. The House has accepted the title amendment.

The bill would only allow for on-premise consumption and also requires each county to pass a referendum to allow for the move of the sale time. 

It now heads to Governor Tomblin's desk for possible signature. 

Live video of the floor sessions will be available via the West Virginia Channel. Also be sure to follow along with our news team on Twitter @wvpublicnews

For a look back on what's happened this session, take a look at this season's episodes of The Legislature Today.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

With just one day left in this regular legislative session, both the 2016 and 2017 budgets remain unbalanced. 

Secretary of Revenue Bob Kiss details the House, Senate and Governor's proposals to fund state government, but the loss of several bills means none of the proposals can be approved for the 2017 fiscal year.

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