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

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate’s Workforce Committee has advanced a bill to limit the powers of cities and towns.

Senate Bill 399 prevents local governments from enacting ordinances or local policies that impose requirements on employers when it comes to employee wages and benefits. Among other things, the bill would prevent a city or town from making minimum wage higher than the state’s.

On The Legislature Today, there are more than 700 classrooms in the state being led by substitute teachers, more than a dozen local school systems being monitored for a lack of operational funds, and over the past few years, the state Department of Education has reduced its numbers by some 80 positions. 

Still, lawmakers are looking for ways to save money on education, one of the largest drivers of the state's budget.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano discusses the problems that face the state's public education system and what lawmakers can do to address them.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators are looking to make changes to the way some employees will pay their union dues or club fees.

Senate Bill 239 would require an employer to have the written consent of an employee to withhold any amount from their paycheck for contributions to a political candidate or candidate committee. That consent would have to come through a form submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office and is only good for 12 months.

On The Legislature Today, the state of West Virginia’s budget has largely been the focus of this legislative session, overshadowing many of the other bills making their way through the process.

Several pieces of legislation, though, have been introduced to aid the victims of rape and sexual assault in the state. Sen. Mike Woelfel and Nancy Hoffman with the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services discuss those bills.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

West Virginia Senators have approved a bill to dismantle the wage bonding requirement for certain industries in the state. 

Members voted 21-12 Monday morning after some debate on the chamber floor.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

As the owner of a construction company, Putnam County Sen. Glen Jeffries said Friday a bill to end a decades long practice in West Virginia of bonding employee wages in certain industries worried him. 

"This industry, they are vulnerable businesses, construction especially," he said on the chamber floor. "In a five year period, 38 percent of the businesses are still open. Thirty-eight percent."

On The Legislature Today, Gov. Jim Justice has sent lawmakers a second budget plan this session and now plans to sweep $120 million in one time monies to balance the 2017 budget.

Lawmakers also got their first look at the $610 million deficit that would be created by the Senate's current tax reform bill that would repeal the personal income tax and replace it with an expanded consumer sales tax. 

State Journal Managing Editor Ann Ali and MetroNews Statewide Correspondent Brad McElhinney recap the week's budget news.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice continued his Save Our State Tour Friday, making a stops in Wood County to discuss his budget plans.

Save Our State, or SOS, is what Justice has dubbed his plan to close a $497 million budget gap in the 2018 fiscal year and fund a $2 billion bond for road construction. 

On The Legislature Today, Sen. Ryan Ferns and Del. Daryl Cowles react the governor's new plans to balance the 2018 budget. 

Justice's proposal includes increased taxes on soda and cigarettes, along with a smaller hike to the consumer sales tax, but is contingent on lawmakers finding additional cuts. 

Both Majority Leaders believe the plan still places the burden too squarely on the backs of West Virginians and they want to see a reduction in the size of government.

On The Legislature Today, state Auditor J.B. McCuskey said on the campaign trail he would complete the OASIS implementation process, and just over a month on the job, he says the state is on track to meet that goal by July 1, 2018. 

OASIS is the computer operating system the state has spent years and millions of dollars implementing.

A bill to create guidelines for drones in the state has made its way through the West Virginia Senate.

Senate Bill 9 creates guidelines for the private and commercial use of drones or unmanned aircrafts. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators will vote on a bill Wednesday that regulates the use of drones in the state. The bill has been years in the making, according to its lead sponsor.

Senate Bill 9 sets a number of guidelines for both the personal and professional use of drones, or unmanned aircraft. 

On The Legislature Today, Secretary of State Mac Warner says changing the make-up of his office was necessary after his election in order to move in a new direction. 

A number of the 16 employees were considering filing a wrongful termination lawsuit, but Warner defended his decision saying some of the staff hired to replace them will be out in the field working directly with county clerks, the elected officials he'll work with directly to administer elections. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Each legislative session, the state’s Constitutional Officers, or the heads of government offices who are elected by the people, bring their priorities to lawmakers and ask for support for various legislative changes.

This year, newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt is hoping to change the structure of government, expand a growing program that’s been controversial in some parts of the country, and incentivize the purchasing of West Virginia-grown products. 

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators approved a bill Monday to clarify West Virginia’s right-to-work law that the Legislature passed last year. The law has yet to take effect because it’s been tied up in a court case in Kanawha County.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate’s Select Committee on Tax Reform has started discussing the latest version of its bill to repeal West Virginia's personal income tax and replace it with an expanded consumption tax. 

The income tax provides nearly $2 billion in annual revenue for the state, but supporters of the provision say a broader sales tax on goods and services at a higher rate could replace that revenue, encouraging economic growth in the state. 

The committee discussed the bill for a second time Monday morning, but still have not been presented with a fiscal note detailing the shift of revenues. 


On The Legislature Today, the governor releases an alternative plan to balance the 2018 budget-- one legislative leaders seem more open to considering.

 

In the Senate, a bill to clarify the state’s right to work law gets a passing vote and in the House, delegates hold a public hearing to address changed to the state's water quality standards.

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. 

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