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.

 

Ways to Connect

Bill Cole, Jeff Kessler
Martin Valent / WV Legislative Photography

In a surprising vote on the floor Wednesday evening, House Bill 4012 died on a 7 to 27 vote.

 

The bill, known as the Religious Freedom Protection Act, would have established a process for courts to follow when people or businesses claimed that government action was infringing upon their religious beliefs.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Public Broadcastinglative Photography

 After a late-night meeting Friday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee emerged with a new version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Religious Freedom Protection Act- still House Bill 4012- received another major change on the Senate floor Tuesday.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Fiscal issues top the concerns of members of the minority party leading up to the end of this legislative session. 

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler and House Minority Leader Tim Miley discuss the most pressing issues facing lawmakers with just 11 days left to consider legislation.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

During a session that has largely focused on how lawmakers will close a nearly $400 million budget gap, the Senate will vote on a bill Wednesday that will cut taxes for both the coal and natural gas industries. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Senators approved a bill to allow ride sharing companies to operate in West Virginia. The vote on House Bill 4228, commonly referred to as the Uber bill, was unanimous.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The Senate is advancing a bill that would reduce the state’s overall severance tax on coal to 3 percent over the next two years.

Senate Bill 705 was written by the Senate’s Finance Committee and was read a first time on the floor Monday evening, but only after being debated by members of the full chamber. 

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting


The GOP majority in both chambers have received plenty of criticism and support this legislative session for taking on controversial issues like Right-to-Work and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

 

West Virginians on either side of the issue have made their stances known through social media campaigns and rallies at the statehouse, and many opposed are turning those feelings into political fuel for the upcoming primary and general elections.

 

Curtis Wilkerson with Orion Strategies discusses a poll recently conducted by the firm about both legislative and political issues.

pipeline construction
Emmuzka / wikimedia commons

 

The state Senate has voted down a bill that would have allowed natural gas company surveyors onto private property without a landowner's permission.

Senators voted down the bill 23 to 11 Monday. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

More than two weeks after it was approved by the House of Delegates, senators are beginning to move on a bill that would codify a judicial standard for cases where plaintiffs argue the government has infringed on their religious freedoms. 

On first reading in the Senate on Monday, House Bill 4012 has seen some changes since it was approved in the House Feb. 11.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

State Senators have approved a bill that would protect doctors who refuse to prescribe painkillers when they think a patient might be addicted to the medication. 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee took up the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the first time Friday evening, more than two weeks after the House of Delegates approved the legislation.

As anticipated by some members of the body, the committee began considering a strike and insert amendment, replacing the House version of the bill with new provisions, but before the proposed changes were even handed to lawmakers, some members of the chamber were unsure of how they would vote on the final version.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting


The West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved in the House more than two weeks ago and, in that time, Senate leaders have said little about the bill. The chamber's Judiciary Committee took up the legislation Friday evening, but some Senators say they’re waiting to see a final bill before throwing their support behind it.

 

Martin Valent / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Berkeley County Democrat Sen. John Unger has dropped his lawsuit against Senate President Bill Cole after "reaching an agreement" with Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael Thursday.

Unger filed a lawsuit in Kanawha County Circuit Court after Senate leadership announced they would hold floor sessions, including votes on bills, both Saturday and Sunday this week.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Several bills being considered at the statehouse would give gas companies an option when a mineral rights owner refuses to sell. The bill negotiated over several months by the House Energy Committee Chair has stalled in the chamber though.

Tom Huber, Vice President of the West Virginia Royalty Owners Association, discusses the failed bill and the others lawmakers may still put to a vote this session.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

A proposal by Governor Tomblin to recalculate the state school aid funding formula and cut public education funding by nearly $15 million in the 2017 budget year was killed in the Senate Wednesday when lawmakers rejected the bill as it moved out of the chamber’s Education Committee.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Del. Mick Bates of Raleigh County discussed his party's proposals in the House to increase road funding. Those proposals have failed so far this session, but now Bates and other members of the House are waiting to see what Senators will do with a bi-partisan bill that would increase some fees in order to generate revenue.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Members of both the House and Senate approved the final version of a bill Wednesday to remove the permitting and safety training requirements for anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon in West Virginia.

House Bill 4145 now heads to Gov. Tomblin's desk. It includes a compromised tax credit of $50 for completing the optional permitting and safety training that will remain in place. 

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Governor Tomblin was hesitant to say Tuesday whether he’d sign a Senate-approved bill that removes the permitting and safety training requirements to carry a concealed weapon in West Virginia.

The bill was approved by the upper chamber Monday and was expected to be reconsidered by the House of Delegates Tuesday; however the bill did not come up on the floor.

The Legislature Today
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Senators want to raise the state’s tobacco tax by $1, but Governor Tomblin says that could cause a loss of business in the border counties. Still, Tomblin says if the measure is approved by the House of Delegates he "probably could" sign it.

Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography

The state Senate has approved a bill to increase the state's cigarette tax by a dollar beginning in April of this year. Members voted 26 to 6 Tuesday. 

The bill also includes increases in tax rates for other tobacco products, including snuff and vaporized nicotine.

Pages