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

WVEA

Governor Tomblin announced a 2 percent pay raise for teachers during his State of the State Address, but union representatives say the state needs more to keep quality teachers in the classrooms.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he was glad to hear education is still a top priority for the governor this legislative session, but thinks more can be done for teacher pay.

“We will continue to work with the House and Senate to see if we can improve on that two percent realizing that it’s a starting point,” he said Wednesday.

Martin Valent/WV Legislature Office of Public Information

In his fourth State of the State address, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin touted his administration's accomplishments over the past year, including multiple multi-million dollar investments made by some major international corporations in the final months of 2012.

But his main focus was moving the state forward, his goals for the upcoming legislative session, and, perhaps most importantly, his thoughts on how to accomplish those goals in an obviously tight budget year.

“Governing, like gardening, takes planning, patience and foresight,” Tomblin began.

WVU College of Business and Economics

The West Virginia University College of Business and Economics presented their state economic outlook to lawmakers Wednesday.

The report says West Virginia is seeing growth in the areas of employment and per capita personal income.

According to the study, approximately 3,000 jobs were added in the past year, with the natural resource and mining sector contributing most to the increase.

Aaron Payne

House Speaker Tim Miley announced his intention to create a new committee in his chamber.

The House Committee on Energy is the second committee the speaker will create in his first term as the chamber’s leader.

Chaired by Delegate Kevin Craig of Cabell County, Miley said the industry is one of the most important to West Virginia’s economy and deserves the focus of its own committee.

Delegate Mike Caputo will serve as vice chair and said they already intend to introduce one bill creating a legislative oversight committee on energy worker safety.

Division of Corrections

A private prison company in Kentucky said Monday it can house West Virginia inmates for less than the state Division of Corrections.

Kentucky’s Corrections Corporation of America said in a bid opened by the state Purchasing Division it can house up to 400 West Virginia prisoners in its Beattyville facility for $59.80 per day.

It costs the DOC around $65 per day to house prisoners at an in state facility according to division Commissioner Jim Rubenstein.

wikimedia

Legislative interims wrapped up at the Capitol earlier this week and while we brought you some major headlines, like questions over Frontier’s broadband expansion project using federal grant monies and a proposed bill meant to make state purchasing laws more clear, here are a few more issues lawmakers were discussing.

WV Office of Legislative Services

The state House of Delegates already has a committee focused on improving the business climate in the state. It’s title, the Committee on Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business. A mouthful, to say the least.

So, when Delegate Tim Miley became Speaker Miley in June, he proposed a change.

WVDE

The Governor’s Education Reform Bill passed through the legislature and was signed into law earlier this year. That bill was seen as a major overall to the state’s public education system which critics said was failing West Virginia students, but was only meant to be the first step in reform.

From preschool to college and beyond, legislators have spent the past nine months hearing from the state Department of Education and the Higher Education Policy Commission about how they’re working to expand their reach and improve the quality of education students’ are receiving.

Ashton Marra

A bi-partisan House committee focused on the issues of woman and children across the state will introduce four bills to the full legislature for its consideration in the upcoming session.

“If every Delegate is thinking properly, they’re going to do the right thing by voting for these,” said Delegate Linda Goode Phillips, chair of the Select Committee on Crimes Against Children.

“I think these are more from the heart, common sense bills. We want to protect the children.”

The bills were announced during a press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.

Ashton Marra

The terms “router-gate” and “tower-gate” have been thrown around in committee meetings, in newspaper articles, on social media, to refer to what some are calling major mess ups by the previous and current administrations’ efforts to expand internet access across the state.

The funds those scandals misused came to West Virginia as a grant under the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, or BTOP. Legislative audits show that money was misused in various ways and now some are calling on the state to take a look at whether the expansion of the broadband fiber optic cable network has also been mismanaged.

WV Office of Legislative Services

Legislators are working on proposed legislation to reform the state purchasing laws that is expected to come before the full legislature during the 2014 session.

The bill was passed by a subcommittee and will be presented to the full Joint Committee on Government Organization in January for amendments before it is passed and considered by the full House and Senate.

Committee Chair Senator Herb Snyder said the draft bill has three basic provisions that will help make purchasing for all state spending units more clear.

The bill:

prweb.com

With the opening of an envelope and the reading of a few numbers, the state Purchasing Office completed a bid opening Thursday for the Division of Corrections.

The request for proposals, known as an RFP in government jargon, asked national companies or state corrections departments to bid on sending West Virginia inmates to their out-of-state facilities in the hopes of curbing the state over crowding problem.

Ashton Marra

Open enrollment for Medicare ends Saturday, Dec. 7, and Kimberly Riddle with the WV Senior Medicare Patrol said that means an influx of scams directed toward seniors.

Whether they receive phones calls asking for personal information for fake Obamacare cards or banking information to bill them for their new Medicaid cards, Riddle said it’s important for seniors to know these are fraudulent calls and to report them.

Ashton Marra

After a lawsuit criticizing the Salem Industrial Home for Youth last year, the home was ordered closed and its juvenile residents transferred to other facilities throughout the state.

But that wasn’t the end for the Harrison County location. The Division of Corrections has worked over several months to transition the facility and its counselors from one for youth to one that now focuses on the rehabilitation of adult males.

Ashton Marra

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin were joined by hundreds of West Virginians at the Capitol complex to celebrate their annual holiday gathering, 'Joyful Night.'

The evening was full of musical performances, a reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," and the lightning of not one, but two Christmas trees.

Performances included:

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for most of the state Tuesday into Wednesday as a Nor’easter makes its way across the mid west and into the northeast.

Meteorologist Ken Batty of the NWS said much of the state will experience light to moderate rain showers throughout the day Tuesday that will increase into the evening hours.

The northern panhandle is the exception as they are experiencing colder temperatures already bringing them snow. Areas near Wheeling and Weirton will continue to see snowfall throughout the day Tuesday into Wednesday.

Ashton Marra

Del. Ryan Ferns announced Monday he has switched parties and will run in 2014 for the state Senate as a Republican.

The former Democrat is in his second term in the House of Delegates and first made the announcement in his hometown of Wheeling, W.Va.

Ferns then traveled to Charleston, W.Va., where he, surrounded by Republican members of the state legislature, filed his pre-candidacy papers with the Secretary of State’s Office for the Senate seat.

Pahz/Flickr

The holiday season is often thought of as a time for giving, but state officials want West Virginians to be cautious as they choose who to donate to this year.

To protect yourself and your family from scams, the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office is urging you to ask questions of solicitors calling your home, research each organization before you decide to give and report any charity you believe may be fraudulent.

The office advises using the "BEWARE" method as warning signs for potentially fraudulent charities:

Provided

It’s that time of year again!

For two weeks, beginning Monday, Nov. 25 and ending Saturday, Dec. 2, it’s open season in 51 counties across the state as hunters hit the woods looking for that prize buck.

About 330,000 hunters will participate in West Virginia’s buck firearm season and will spend an estimated $230 million here, particularly in rural areas, but before you hit the woods, the state Division of Natural Resources has some rules and regulations they want you to be aware of:

Ashton Marra

Governor Tomblin and his wife Joanne honored the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a day early by rededicating a plaque that hangs in the lower rotunda of the Capitol.

The symbol commemorates Kennedy’s speech delivered on the Capitol steps June 20, 1963, celebrating West Virginia’s 100th birthday.

On that rainy summer day, the President began his remarks by saying, “The sun doesn’t always shine in West Virginia, but the people do.”

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