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

On The Legislature Today, members of the House and Senate are being presented with their budget bills which the Senate Finance Chairs says look almost nothing alike.

Still, he maintains the Legislature could pass a budget by Day 60.

Perry Bennet / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Yet another plan to restructure taxes in West Virginia has been taken up by members of the House of Delegates.

The House Finance Committee was presented with their version of a Senate Bill 484 during a Saturday afternoon meeting.

Perry Bennet / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind Gov. Jim Justice's proposed Commercial Activities Tax, or CAT tax.

The 0.045 percent tax would create $45 million a year in new tax revenues for the state. 

On The Legislature Today, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state is bypassing the committee process, putting it on the fast track for a vote in the House.

The vote Thursday night has been called historic in the chamber, but several delegates argued pulling the bill out of the committee process was the only way members would get to vote in a medical marijuana bill this session.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators are considering amendments to a bill that would make it illegal to manufacture and distribute fentanyl in West Virginia, adding it to the state’s list of schedule one drugs.

One Senator, however, thinks the bill may prohibit doctors from prescribing the drug for terminally ill patients, which caused some delay to consideration Friday.

On The Legislature Today, Governor Jim Justice says budget negotiations have broken down between Democrats and House leadership after talks this week.

Justice said they were near a deal when House Republicans refused to put about $45 million in tax increases to a vote in the chamber.

Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

At a press conference surrounded by Democrats from both chambers Thursday morning, Gov. Jim Justice said while his office is still willing to negotiate a budget deal with Republican leaders in the House, they reached an impasse Wednesday night.

“We’ve had all kinds of discussions and we got right to the altar," he said, "but the net of the whole thing was we couldn’t make a decision.”

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators have voted to override Governor Jim Justice’s veto of Senate Bill 330.

The bill was an attempt to clarify some language in the state’s Right to Work law which was approved by lawmakers in the 2016 session.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators have approved a bill to create a medicinal cannabis program in the state. Senate Bill 386 was approved on a 28 to 6 vote Wednesday night in the chamber.

The bill would create a 17-member medical cannabis commission under the West Virginia Department of Health and human Resources that would largely be responsible for creating the rules of the program. 

On The Legislature Today, there are several bills making their way through the legislative process that lawmakers are counting on to balance their respective budgets.

Meanwhile, many of those same lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are in talks with Gov. Jim Justice about how to close a budget gap millions of dollars wide. Jason Pizatella, Gov. Justice’s Deputy Chief of Staff, discusses how those negotiations are going so far.

On The Legislature Today, Republican House leadership's budget plan, according to Finance Chair Eric Nelson, aims to protect higher education from additional budget cuts after lawmakers initially announced they’d reduce funding to the system by $50 million.

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee sat down with me earlier today to discuss the potential budget implications for his university.

On The Legislature Today, both the House and Senate are working on their own tax reform measures that rely on changes to the sales and personal income taxes. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A Senate committee has delayed consideration of a bill that some Democratic members challenged as being unconstitutional Saturday.

Senate Bill 609 would cut funding to public education by reducing the state school aid funding formula.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of the Senate voted 27-6, with one member absent, Saturday to increase the state's gasoline tax and some vehicle fees to increase funding for the state's Road Fund.

Senate Bill 477 was presented to lawmakers on behalf of Gov. Jim Justice.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A Senate committee has advanced a bill to create a medical marijuana program in West Virginia, despite the committee chairman’s vote against it. 

The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee took up Senate Bill 386 Friday morning, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. 

On the Legislature Today, members of the House Finance Committee consider two bills that would help balance the 2018 budget, one to lower the overall sales tax rate while getting rid of some exemptions, the other to capture some dollars from the state's Road Fund and increase the beer barrel tax.

Across the rotunda in a Senate committee, members have advanced a bill to create a medical marijuana program in West Virginia, allowing doctors to prescribe the illegal drug for medicinal use.

Will Price / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Update Friday, March 24, 2017: Senators have approved Senate Bill 18, 18-16, with four Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues to vote against it. 

Senators will vote on a bill Friday that will give lawmakers the authority to approve all change to education standards and aligned standardized testing to be required in West Virginia schools after an amendment to a bill on the chamber floor Thursday.

On The Legislature Today, there are several pieces of legislation making their way through the statehouse to expand broadband internet access in West Virginia.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 30 percent of West Virginians do not have access to federally defined broadband internet. That's why two West Virginia groups have joined together to promote expansion in any way possible.

Flood
Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On June 23, 2016, West Virginia experienced some of the worst flooding in the state’s storied history. During the past 52 years, 282 West Virginians have died in floods, including the 23 who perished last summer after historic water levels led to a federal disaster declaration in 12 counties.

Nine months later, communities are still recovering from the high water. 

West Virginia Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice says he and his staff will be waiting for lawmakers in his “war room”—a conference room in the Governor’s Office—every morning until the end of the legislative session to work on a budget compromise.

Justice held the first of those meetings Wednesday, which was attended by six members of the Democratic caucus from both the House and Senate.

Pages