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.

 

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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.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Senate voted 20 to 14 Friday to approve a bill that would require voters to show some form of identification before casting a ballot. 

House Bill 4013 as approved in the House of Delegates included a list of valid forms of identification beyond just photo IDs, but Senators worked to expand the list even further.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  As the 2017 budget deficit looms, members of both chambers are looking for ways to balance the budget in a tight fiscal year. 

Senate President Bill Cole says additional agency cuts should come from the Governor, but says using the state's Rainy Day Fund to help fund the deficit is a reasonable measure.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Legislature has voted to reverse Governor Tomblin's veto of a bill to ban a certain second-trimester abortion method. 

Senators voted 25 to 9 Thursday morning, while House members voted 85 to 15 during an afternoon floor session to overturn the veto. 

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting


The Finance Committees in both chambers have approved their versions of the bill, and the Senate as a whole will vote on the budget tomorrow, but it will look very different from the one taken up in the House.

 

Speaker Tim Armstead says his chamber still has a reasonable budget before them, despite the lack of any revenue increasing measures.

Justice Brent Benjamin at a community forum earlier this year.
Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin has filed for a stay in his case over state public campaign finance dollars.

On Friday, a Kanawha County Circuit judge ruled the State Election Commission had erred in awarding Benjamin the public monies last month and reversed the decision to award Benjamin the money.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Additional funding for the state's highway system is in doubt after removed from a House Committees agenda. 

Delegates also inch closer to a vote the could set up a drug testing process for West Virginians who apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

State Senators have made changes to a bill that, as approved by the House, would repeal the state’s Common Core education standards and aligned standardized tests. 

Senators on the Education Committee accepted amendments to the bill during an evening meeting Monday.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The House Judiciary has advanced a bill that would allow restaurants, wineries and distilleries to sell alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays if county voters approve of the change through a referendum. 

As approved by the committee, though, the bill does not require county commissioners to hold elections to allow the sales, only permits such ballot measures. 

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At a public hearing in the House of Delegates, speakers unanimously favored a bill to allow alcohol sales on Sunday mornings, but the hearing might not fully represent the feelings of West Virginians according to a recent poll.

The chamber's Finance Committee will spend its third day discussing a bill that increases Division of Motor Vehicle Fees and some taxes to fund roads. The bill has already been approved in the Senate.

WVU Tech
West Virginia University

The West Virginia University Institute of Technology has been given the legislative go ahead to move its campus out of Montgomery to Beckley and the former campus of Mountain State University. Senators approved a bill Monday allowing for the relocation.

Senators voted 22 to 12 to allow WVU Tech to move from Montgomery in Fayette County where it’s been located for 120 years.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senators joined the House of Delegates in a vote to override Governor Tomblin's veto of a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

The Senate voted 23 to 11 during a Saturday morning floor session. The House had voted on the measure Friday.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A Kanwaha County Circuit Judge has ruled that West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin should not be given state dollars to fund his re-election campaign.

The lawsuit was brought against Benjamin by Beth Walker, one of four challengers in the race. Benjamin was attempting to participate in the state’s public campaign financing program, a program that is only available to candidates running for Supreme Court seats, but this is the first time a candidate’s participation has been challenged.

Charleston attorney Anthony Majestro from the firm Powell & Majestro discusses the implication of the case.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A bill to remove the permitting and safety training requirements to carry a concealed weapon in West Virginia is just one vote away from becoming law.  

Delegates voted 64 to 33 to override Governor Tomblin's veto of House Bill 4145 Friday morning.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After members of the House Finance Committee voted to kill a bill that would have increased the state's taxes on tobacco products, including a $1 increase per pack of cigarettes, Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health and West Virginia Chief Health Officer Dr. Rahul Gupta reacts to the legislative decision.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Surrounded by law enforcement officers from across the state, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill that would allow anyone over the age of 21 in West Virginia to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

The bill approved by lawmakers last month also removes the requirement to take a safety training course in order to carry a concealed handgun.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael and House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles discuss the future of a bill approved in the Senate Wednesday that raises taxes and fees to fund infrastructure. The two also focus in on the difficulties lawmakers face in balancing the 2017 budget.

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