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

At midnight on Saturday, March 14, the West Virginia Legislature adjourned its 2015 session. This post is the home for The Legislature Today's online coverage of the final day of the regular session.

We've curated this post by aggregating tweets and posting audio of important moments on the chamber floors.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate approved a resolution Thursday calling for a convention of states to add a balanced budget amendment to the U. S. Constitution. 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 13 was debated for days in the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and passed by the full chamber after a voice vote following hours of impassioned debate.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin says he opposes a bill that would remove permit and training requirements for carrying a concealed weapon in West Virginia.  

Members of the House of Delegates approved Senate Bill 347 Thursday allowing anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit in the state. The bill as approved by the Senate would have set the age minimum at 18. 

Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Senate bills that appear to have died in the House are being revived, so to speak, by Senators. Members of the Judiciary Committee made major changes to a fireworks bill Monday.

House Bill 2646 as approved by the House would allow consumer exploding or display fireworks currently banned in West Virginia to be sold at certain retail locations.

The original bill created retailer fees on top of the sales tax and dedicated 20 percent of the collections to be split between veterans programs, the state Fire Marshal’s Office and Volunteer Fire Departments.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

After approving a bill to give nationally certified teachers in low performing schools a pay raise Wednesday, Democratic Senators attempted to get an across the board raise for all teachers in the state by amending a governor's bill. 

House Bill 2478 would reduce state funds dedicated to replacing county school buses one time, in the upcoming fiscal year. The bill was presented on behalf of Gov. Tomblin as a way to balance the 2016 budget.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

It’s too late in the session for Senators to approve a bill that would increase dollars committed to the state Road Fund, but members on both sides of the aisle say they are prepared to commit to a study of the issue. 

Sen. Bob Plymale of Wayne County introduced Senate Bill 478 nearly a month ago, which would do just that. The bill proposes increasing revenues for road construction by upping the gasoline and consumer sales taxes and raising Division of Motor Vehicle fees that haven’t been touched since the 1970s.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the Senate Education Committee made major changes Monday to a bill that would repeal Common Core English and math standards in West Virginia. The bill no longer calls for a repeal, instead requires the West Virginia Department of Education study the standards for two years.

House Bill 2934, as approved by the House of Delegates, would have fully repealed the content standards by July 1,2015. As it moved through the Senate, an Education subcommittee agreed to give the repeal an additional year, amending the date to July 1, 2016.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At a ceremonial signing Monday, Governor Tomblin signed Senate Bill 335 into law.

Short titled the Opioid Antagonist Act, the bill allows emergency responders, medical personnel, family and friends to administer a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and can save a person’s life. 

Opioids are drugs like heroine, morphine and oxycodone, drugs that are commonly abused in West Virginia.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

After a public hearing in the House of Delegates, members worked with stakeholders to compromise on Senate Bill 559, a bill that deals with the licensing requirements for social workers in West Virginia.

As passed in the Senate, the bill would have allowed the state Department of Health and Human Resources to create a training program for new social workers who do not have a degree in the field. Currently in West Virginia, to get a social work license a person must have a bachelor's or master's degree from a Council on Social Work Education accredited program.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An estimated 6,000 people attended the "Mountaineer Workers Rising" rally at the state Capitol Saturday afternoon, traveling from across West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Sponsored by the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the rally brought in state and national union leaders alike to speak out against many Republican lead initiatives they say will hurt workers in West Virginia, including a scale back of the state's prevailing wage, right to work, charter schools, and a weakening of mine safety regulations.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

With a projected $80 million budget gap by the end of this fiscal year, lawmakers are considering bills to ensure a balanced budget is maintained.

Members of the Senate approved four of Governor Tomblin's supplemental appropriation bills for fiscal year 2015, the current budget year, intended to help close the gap.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate Finance Committee took up a bill Thursday they see every year, a bill to settle some of the state’s small claims law suit debts. This year lawmakers found out they owe substantially less than previous years, though, because of a reform bill passed two years ago.

House Bill 2876 is short titled the Court of Claims bill. The court hears citizen claims of damages against the state and awards compensations in verdicts to pay for anything from pothole damages to wrongful death suits.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

During an evening session on the final day to approve bills in their originating chamber, members of the state Senate passed a bill that would make major changes to election contribution laws in West Virginia.

The body began debating the bill more than a week ago that when introduced would have removed all contribution caps for candidate donations and allowed corporations to begin giving to West Virginia races.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senators continue to move on a bill that would repeal Common Core standards in the state Tuesday by proposing amendments during an Education subcommittee meeting.

House Bill 2934 was approved over the weekend by the House of Delegates and called for a total repeal of the math and English standards by July 1, 2015.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

For the first time in more than twenty years, members of the legislature are on their way to overturning a gubernatorial veto.

According to Speaker Tim Armstead's office, the last time such a vote was taken was in 1987 under the late Governor Arch Moore.

The two thirds vote of both chambers overturned his decision on a portion of the 1988 budget, but lawmakers this year have a slightly different situation on their hands as they consider a vote to overturn the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Update March 4, 2015, 4:55 p.m.:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael said the Senate did not receive the House of Delegate's message of a vote to override the governor's veto before their morning floor session preventing them from taking up the bill Wednesday.

Carmichael said the chamber, however, is under no time crunch to reconsider House Bill 2568. Members of the Senate have until the final day of the session, March 14, to consider a veto override.  

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate approved a bill Monday evening that allows for the creation or conversion of a public school to a public charter school in West Virginia.

A public charter school is a school that uses government funding, but is not overseen by the county Board of Education, giving the school's administrators and teachers more flexibility in how they deliver education. The schools, however, are subject to state education standards. 

Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Members of the West Virginia Senate began discussing a bill Monday that, if approved, would repeal Common Core standards in West Virginia. The legislation passed the state House of Delegates Saturday.

House Bill 2934 calls on the West Virginia Department of Education to repeal the Common Core standards adopted in 2010 for math and language arts. It then requires the board, along with the state Department of Education, to draft new standards.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senators approved 30-1 a bill that will scale back the state’s above ground storage tank law approved in 2014. The law came as a reaction to the Freedom Industries’ chemical spill into the Kanawha River that left 300,000 West Virginians without usable water for as many as ten days.

Senate Bill 423 separates tanks into two levels, with level one tanks receiving the highest level of scrutiny from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate amended Senate Bill 335 Thursday after it was returned by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Tomblin vetoed the bill citing technical deficiencies.

The Opioid Antagonist bill allows emergency responders, medical professionals and friends and family to administer drugs that reverse the effects of an overdose, possibly saving a person's life. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will soon decide whether he’ll sign a bill banning late-term abortions in West Virginia. The bill was approved by the Senate Wednesday after being approved by the House of Delegates two weeks prior.

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act bans the practice 22 weeks after the mother’s last menstrual cycle, or 20 weeks post fertilization, the point at which supporters of the bill say the fetus can feel pain.

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