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

Robb Kendrick / National Geographic

West Virginia lawmakers and other state officials are responding to the filing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power plan.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito is hopeful Congress can approve a long-term funding plan for the nation’s roads and bridges even though senators were forced to approve yet another short-term measure last week. The Senator made a quick stop in Nitro to talk with reporters about the measure Monday.

Members of the U.S. Senate, including Capito and Sen. Joe Manchin, approved a three-year funding bill Thursday that would mean more than $2 billion in road funding for West Virginia over the bill’s duration. 

Senators, however, were forced to also approve a short-term funding expansion through the end of October because members of the House of Representatives had already left town for their August break.

National Governors Association

According to a report by the nonprofit groups Trust for American's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country, about 34 for every 100,000 people. The state is working to find ways to reduce those rates, but is not alone in its work. States across the country are grappling with the same problems. 

Oklahoma saw a record number of overdose deaths in 2014, reaching 864 that year. Neighboring Kentucky reported nearly 1,000 in the same year, more than half of which were due to prescription narcotics and heroin.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In early 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act, a sweeping education reform bill. The new law required all states to test all children and set federal benchmarks for student achievement in order to receive federal funding. 

West Virginia implemented the reforms and West Virginia Department of Education Chief Accountability Officer Michelle Blatt said the state did see some incremental improvements under the law. Still, she said, one size fits all from Washington did not work in West Virginia. 

“It didn’t matter if you started in one place and really grew a long way," she said, "there were still sanctions if you didn’t meet the bar that they set.”

 

Now, some 13 years later, members of Congress are thinking of turning that legislation on its head by passing a reauthorization that is essentially a rewrite. 

National Governors Assocaition

Members of Congress will continue to debate a long-term plan to fund the nation’s Highway Trust Fund as the U.S. Senate takes up the bill once again Monday. The fund, which expires Friday, dedicates dollars for highways and railways across the country for six years, but only provides funding for three of those years.

Without any deal, states could take a major hit on the infrastructure projects they already have underway.

“I have to stop somewhere about 350 road projects immediately. It would cost us about $1.2 billion immediately,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Saturday. “It would be a disaster.”

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin welcomed 23 governors from across the country to West Virginia for the National Governors Association's summer meeting at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs Friday.

Over the course of two days, governors will hold meetings focused on a variety of topics NGA Chair and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said many states deal with: economic development, health care, workforce development and education.

Love Krittaya, Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia’s 55 schools districts can now apply for state funding to help combat excessive absences in public schools.

 

The West Virginia Department of Education is accepting applications from county boards of education for funding to hire a local truancy diversion specialist.

Those county level specialists will work directly with students who have the highest number of absences, providing them individual attention to get them back in the classroom.

Justice Robin Jean Davis
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

An ethics complaint filed against a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice has been dismissed after the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission found there was “no evidence to support a finding of probable cause” supporting the claim.

Morgantown resident and two-time failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney filed the complaint on April 16 claiming Davis violated the judicial code of ethics by not recusing herself from a wrongful death case that came before the state’s highest court.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Rachel Swaby took the stage at the Walker Theater in Charleston as a part of the Higher Education Policy Commission's Division of Science and Research STEM Speaker Series. Swaby, a freelance journalist, published her first book in April titled "Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science- and the World."

"I think it’s easy to say, oh Marie Curie and just check that 'you’ve talked about a woman in science' box, but we should have a breadth of knowledge of many women who have done many amazing things,” Swaby said before her June talk. 


Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the West Virginia Public Service Commission are considering a tentative settlement in a case that could have caused rate hikes for more than 221,000 Mountaineer Gas rate payers across the state. The settlement, according to the PSC’s Consumer Advocate Division, could result in an actual decrease of customers' rates.

Mountaineer Gas Company filed for a rate increase in January of this year, increasing their base rates by $12.2 million. That increase would have resulted in a nearly 5 percent increase for ratepayers across the state.

An agreement entered Tuesday morning says instead of seeking the 4.7% increase, Mountaineer Gas would seek a 3 percent increase or about $7.7 million in base revenues.

Provided

The U.S. and five of its allies have reached a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. The deal will limit the country’s ability to enrich uranium and opens Iran up to international inspections.

The agreement was reached by diplomats from seven countries, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in the hopes of preventing Iran from enriching enough uranium to create a nuclear weapon, but the deal will still have to receive approval from Congress before taking effect.

Economic sanctions against Iran would be phased out as part of the deal, but West Virginia’s Senatorial delegation is hesitant to say if they will support the agreement.

Provided

The first woman to hold a statewide office in West Virginia, Helen Holt, passed away Sunday at the age of 101. Holt died of heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida.

Among her many accomplishments, Holt may be best known for being the first female Secretary of State in West Virginia, appointed to the office by Gov. Cecil Underwood in 1957 after the passing of Secretary D. Pitt O’Brien.

At the time, Holt was serving in the West Virginia House of Delegates, filling the seat of her late husband, Rush Holt, Sr., who had passed. Rush Holt had also served a term in the United States Senate representing West Virginia. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Food tourism is a $900 million industry in West Virginia and now the Division of Tourism is hoping their new dining guide will help that number grow.

Six restaurants from the Huntington-Charleston area joined Division of Tourism Director Amy Schuler Goodwin to launch the restaurant guide Monday at the Capitol Market in Charleston.

The ‘101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia’ guide features restaurants from across the state, including places like Café Cimino in Sutton, Dish in Charles Town and Sterling Drive-In in Welch.


The final two public comment hearings on Mountaineer Gas' proposed rate increase of more than $12.2 million will be held Tuesday in Charleston.

The first hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. the second for 6 p.m. at the West Virginia Public Service Commission’s Office on Brooks Street.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Tomblin issued a State of Emergency Monday for three counties in West Virginia after heavy rainfall over the weekend that lasted into Monday morning.

The governor issued the State of Emergency for Braxton, Webster and Wood Counties, mobilizing state resources to combat severe flooding in those areas. 

 "In the past 24 hours, areas of our state have experienced rockslides, mudslides and severe flooding as a result of major storms and substantial rainfall," Tomblin said in a news release Monday. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Board of Education has a new president in retired Morgantown businessman Mike Green, but his nomination and subsequent election Thursday came with a small spark of controversy.

Green, the board’s current Vice President, replaces former First Lady Gayle Manchin as the body’s leader. Manchin completed her second term as board president Thursday, holding the post since July 2013. Her nine year term as a member of the board expires in November.

Green will be joined at the head of the table by former state Sen. Lloyd Jackson who was elected Vice President and Tina Combs who was re-elected to her seat as Secretary.


West Virginia Department of Education

After the announcement of a comprehensive review earlier this year, West Virginia parents, teachers and concerned citizens are now being asked to evaluate the state’s education standards.

The West Virginia Department of Education launched “West Virginia Academic Spotlight” Wednesday, a five month review of the state’s Next Generation Content Standards and Objectives. The first step in that review is an online public comment period.


AllVoices.com

Members of the U.S. Senate will soon consider a bill that could affect the pension and healthcare benefits of nearly 28 thousand retired West Virginia coal miners.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

The West Virginia Joint Committee on Government and Finance says WorkForce West Virginia has failed to turn over more than 50 emails and other important documents, including ones that show efforts from outside interests to influence the development of the prevailing wage rate methodology.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A syringe exchange program is being launched to reduce diseases within Cabell County's population of injection-drug users.

State and local officials announced the one-year pilot program on Thursday at a news conference in Huntington.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen L. Bowling says the state will provide $10,000 to the Cabell-Huntington Health Department to launch the one-year pilot Another $10,000 will be provided for technical support.

Pages