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

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Lawmakers from the Eastern Panhandle tried two separate times to aid the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind during the 2015 legislative session. The schools are struggling to maintain their buildings, some of which are more than 100 years, and looked to the Legislature this year to begin to help them meet their facilities goals. 

Those goals, contained in the schools' 10 year Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan, including closing and demolishing some buildings on campus to create a "stronger sense of community," according to Superintendent Dr. Lynn Boyer. 

The plan includes updated housing for residential students, increased building security and the installation of fire and sprinkler systems suitable for deaf and hearing impaired and blind and visually impaired students and teachers. The plan, however, comes with a $42 million price tag.


Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A new program through the West Virginia Department of Education is taking state government issued computers and turning them into training tools for students of all ages.

The WVDE introduced the program Friday called Second Launch WV, a partnership with the West Virginia Office of Technology.

Second Launch takes computers that are being cycled out of use at state agencies, like the Department of Corrections or Division of Highways, cleans out their databases and places the refurbished desktops in classrooms across the state.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Delegate Eric Nelson says there are three main goals for the Joint Committee on Tax Reform: to ensure West Virginia’s tax code is fair, simple and structured to promote economic growth. The House Finance Chair also serves as the co-chair of the special interim committee.

Members held their second meeting in Charleston Monday as they move forward with the first study of the state’s tax code in 9 years. The most recent study came in 2006 under Gov. Joe Manchin. Before that, the system hadn’t been reviewed since 1999 under Gov. Cecil Underwood.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A $4 million project on the Boone and Lincoln County border will soon bring public drinking water to some 215 homes in the area. The Morrisvale-Woodville expansion is expected to go to bid this fall and be completed by November of 2016.

A partnership between the two county Public Service Districts, County Commissions and West Virginia American Water, the extension, which will begin in Boone County, will cross the county line to pick up some 40 residents the Lincoln County PSD has not been able to serve.

Wikipedia / en.wikipedia.org

Members of the search committee at Marshall University tasked with hiring a new president will begin interviewing candidates over the weekend.

The closed door sessions of the search committee begin Saturday and will continue Sunday.

The committee was appointed after the University’s former president, Dr. Stephen Kopp, passed away suddenly in December.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Angie Vallier

After several accidents involving trains carrying crude oil in the past few years, including one in southern West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced new rules to make rail shipping safer.

The new rules apply to rail shipments of flammable and hazardous materials, like crude oil and ethanol. 

Woodburn Hall, West Virginia University
Richinstead / wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia University's Board of Governors approved a tuition increase Friday of nearly 10 percent for in-state students and 5 percent for those who live out of state.

Only the student representative on the board voted against the proposal.


Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Offenders looking for treatment and rehabilitation within their communities now have a new home in a Charleston facility that celebrated its opening today. 

Dozens of Division of Corrections employees joined with state and local officials to celebrate the opening of the Charleston Correctional Center on the city’s East End Thursday.


Office of the Governor

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has appointed Steven Shaffer, the former mayor of Tunnelton, to fill a vacancy in the state House of Delegates.

The vacancy in the 52nd District was created when long time Delegate Larry Williams resigned. Williams took a new position at the state Department of Agriculture overseeing deer and elk farming in northern West Virginia.

Provided

A national worker safety organization is using the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster as call to action for the nation to enforce stricter safety standards to prevent workplace deaths.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health released their report “Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths 2015” Thursday ahead of the national Workers Memorial Week, which runs from Saturday, April 25, through Saturday, May 2.


U.S. Senator Joe Manchin
Courtesy Photo

Senator Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey have introduced comprehensive mine safety legislation to Congress.

The Senators say ‘The Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2015’ will help fix a broken regulatory system.

Its 1,700-foot arch made it the longest single-span arch bridge in the world.
e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / New River Gorge, Fayette County, Fayette Station Road

A report from the National Park Service says three parks in southern West Virginia brought tens of millions of dollars into the surrounding communities, supporting hundreds of jobs.

The National Park Service says the New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area brought 1,280,604 visitors into southern West Virginia last year.

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Ruhrfisch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) / Wikimedia Commons

Despite recent announcements of layoffs in the industry, the state is reporting severance tax incomes from oil and gas have doubled since 2013.

A review by the West Virginia Department of Tax and Revenue and the State Treasurer’s Office shows companies paid $188.3 million in severance taxes in 2014. That’s compared to the $79.2 million collected in 2013.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is throwing his support behind Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for 2016. Clinton declared her candidacy earlier this month. 

On a conference call with reporters Monday, Manchin called Clinton "“warm, compassionate, engaging and tough" and ready for the job.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“I have promised my children that I will do everything in my power to fix this and I believe that we finally with this bond have a chance to do that.” -Shauna Starks

Fayette County parents like Shauna Starks spoke during the West Virginia Board of Education's April meeting in favor of the county's upcoming $66.5 million bond vote.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin
Courtesy Photo

Sen. Joe Manchin says he will remain in the United States Senate and not run for Governor. He made the announcement today, after telling people he was seriously considering a return to the Governor's mansion because of gridlock in Congress.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was joined by lawmakers and patient advocacy groups from across the state at the Capitol Thursday for the ceremonial signing of two healthcare related bills.

Senate Bill 366 creates the Patient Protection and Transparency Act which offers protections to people who sign up for insurance through a federal health care exchange website.

Tomblin also signed House Bill 2100 known as the Caregiver Advise, Record and Enable Act.

On West Virginia Morning, as a part of our occasional series "Effective from Passage,"reaction from the Eastern Panhandle about a new bill that may affect net metering standards in West Virginia. Those standards dictate how solar producers, including homeowners with solar panels, receive credit for the energy they produce.

Professor Michael McCawley of West Virginia University discusses his recent research about the health dangers of dust exposure for West Virginians that live near mountaintop removal or surface mine sites.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Nearly 40 people gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to protest Governor Tomblin’s veto of a bill to allow for herd-sharing in the state, allowing more West Virginians to consume raw milk.

Senate Bill 30 passed with overwhelming support by both the House and Senate, despite some health concerns attached to the bill. 

Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office will present oral arguments before a U.S. Court of Appeals Thursday fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon emission standards. 

The proposed standards were released for comment last summer by the federal EPA. They would require states across the country to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent in 15 years, focusing particularly on emissions from coal-fired power plants.

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