Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief

Amanda Vinicky has covered Illinois politics and government for WUIS and the Illinois Public Radio network since 2006.  Highlights include reporting on the historic impeachment and removal from office of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, winning a national award for her coverage of Illinois' electric rate fight as a result of deregulation, and following Illinois' delegations to the Democratic and Republican national political conventions in '08 and '12.  

Though she's full-time with WUIS now, she previously interned with the station in graduate school; she graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program in '05.  She also holds degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 

Amanda is insatiably curious, so please reach out to her and get in touch if you notice something interesting going on at the Capitol! She can be reached at (217) 206-6019 or (773) 217-0316. If she's not in the statehouse bureau, you can usually find Amanda tweeting, dining at a local restaurant, taking a jog around Springfield or Chicago or practicing yoga. 

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IDOT
6:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Inspector General Discloses Political Hiring Investigation

Attorney Michael Shakman's lawsuit accuses Gov. Pat Quinn's administration of political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which until late June was headed by Anne Schneider. In this photo, taken in April, Schneider is introducing a state roads plan with Quinn by her side.
Credit WUIS

  As Gov. Pat Quinn battles a lawsuit accusing his administration of political hiring, the state watchdog charged with investigating ethics violations is asking to get involved.

Confidentiality restrictions prevent the Inspector General from saying what he is or isn't looking into.

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Pensions
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Illinois' Credit Prognosis: Negative

Wall Street's view of Illinois' financial health has taken a hit, thanks largely to the state budget that took effect at the start of this month. Pensions also continue to be a drag. 

When Illinois Democrats passed the state's latest budget, many seemed to hold their nose. Credit ratings agencies are more direct: Standard & Poors has revised Illinois' credit outlook to "negative." 

It says the new budget "is not structurally balanced and will contribute to growing."

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Statehouse
12:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Trucker Asks: Are Police Above The Law?

A screenshot of the video Brian Miner posted of being pulled over in June by an Illinois State Trooper.
Credit Brian Miner, You Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-dJgFdfl3I)

It has been just over half a year since Illinois made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. There are some exceptions: you can hold your phone if your car is stopped -- say at a railroad crossing for a freight train -- and in park or neutral, or if you pull off onto the shoulder. The law also makes an exemption for law enforcement. A recent YouTube sensation that raises the question: should police get special treatment?

    

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Guns
12:06 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Attorney General Wants To Send Concealed Carry Cases Out Of Court

Credit flickr

Illinois gun owners who've been denied a concealed carry permit can appeal. But instead of going through the courts, Illinois' Attorney General wants a state panel to decide those cases.

There are about 200 concealed carry denials before Illinois courts, brought by people who say they shouldn't have been deemed dangerous or a threat to public safety by Illinois' Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board.

Until recently, applicants didn't actually know why they were rejected.

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Election 2014
5:26 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

No School For Kids On Election Day

Credit wikimedia

Illinois students could get a day off of school come election day. Schools are often at the heart of a community, metaphorically, if not literally. That's part of the reason they've long been voting sites.

But with shootings at schools across the country, some lawmakers are concerned the practice is dangerous.

Most of the time visitors need to sign in before entering a school; they say allowing anyone in on election day is asking for trouble.

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Statehouse
5:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Supreme Court Won't Take Up Term Limits

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

  An effort to institute term limits in Illinois has hit a major road block. The state Supreme Court says it will not rush to hear the case.

 The Supreme Court's decision could be the end of Republican Bruce Rauner's term limits initiative.

Limiting how long legislators can be in Illinois' General Assembly has been a staple of his campaign for governor.

That takes a change in the constitution. Rauner's group collected over a half million signatures so that question could be put to voters on the November ballot.

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New Law
6:52 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Illinois To Require Bulletproof Vests

Credit flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

A new law signed Wednesday is intended to keep police officers safe, by requiring they get protective gear.

A bulletproof vest will become part of an officers' standard equipment issue. Contingent on money, of course.

The new law includes provisions to help ensure there is funding.

It law requires communities and the state apply for a federal grant, that provides matching funds specifically for the purchase of bullet proof vests.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
6:02 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Election-Year Fight Over What's Next In Probe Of Quinn's NRI

After a day-long meeting Wednesday, a legislative commission will meet again Thursday morning in Chicago. They're set to begin with a call to the U.S. Attorney's office. Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill over what to do next in their probe of Gov. Pat Quinn's controversial anti-violence program.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
12:31 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Republicans Call "Contempt" As Witnesses Fail To Show At NRI Hearing

A legislative hearing convened to probe a troubled anti-violence program run by Gov. Quinn is underway in Chicago. Federal prosecutors have asked lawmakers to hold off taking testimony, because it may obstruct their investigation. 

It all goes back to a program called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which debuted in 2010, when Quinn was in the midst of a tight race for governor against Republican Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. A state audit showed it was rife with mismanagement, and Republicans say that's because Quinn was trying to use it to boost his campaign.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
9:36 am
Wed July 16, 2014

How The NRI Hearing Could Play Out For Quinn's Campaign

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program will be in the spotlight today (7/16) when a bipartisan legislative commission meets in Chicago.  

It's not yet clear how lawmakers will proceed, given that the federal government wants them to put a hold on their investigation until mid-October, just before the November election, when Quinn will face Republican Bruce Rauner.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown says that's what Quinn's campaign wants.

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Statehouse
6:07 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Applicants Denied Concealed Carry Licenses Will Learn Why Under New Emergency Rules

Credit http://www.adamsguns.com

  A year after Illinois legalized concealed carry, new rules are out to determine the process for deciding who can't carry a gun in public. The Illinois State Police issued the emergency rules Monday 7/14 afternoon.

Not just anyone can carry a gun right off the bat. You have to get a license, which entails passing muster with local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police; they can deny applicants.

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Budget FY15
8:12 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Bill Backlog Improvement Could Be Temporary

Credit flickr/dborman

  The amount of money Illinois owes to companies and organizations that have provided goods and services for the state is at its lowest level since 2010, but that improvement could be short-lived.

At one point, Illinois had a stack of overdue bills totaling about $10 billion.

It took so long for the state to pay back its vendors that some were forced to close their doors - they couldn't pay their bills.

But that was at the height of the recession, and before Illinois' hike in the state income tax.

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Election 2014
7:20 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Republican Bruce Rauner Defends His Personal Tax Bill

Bruce Rauner
Credit WUIS

Bruce Rauner -- the Republican nominee for Illinois governor -- says he followed the letter of the law when filing his taxes.  But he won't say whether it was fair.

Rauner, a businessman, has said his wealth puts him in the top .01%.
Even so, a Chicago Tribune analysis showed that in several recent years, he paid no Social Security or Medicare taxes.
Rauner has released limited parts of his tax returns.

It's believed he took advantage of I-R-S rules to legally cut his tax burden.
Rauner defended that ...

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Residents Fend For Themselves
10:40 am
Thu July 10, 2014

Tensions Rise With Waters Over Flood Expense

There's an irony to the arch on the entranceway of Clarksville's park, which reads "Touch the Mississippi." Normally, that requires stooping down; now the river laps up a main downtown drag, and comes to you.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Heavy rains have led to flooding all across the Midwest in recent days: in Iowa, Illinois, and in the small town of Clarksville, Missouri, which sits on the Mississippi River. That river is expected to reach its crest there Wednesday, and residents hope the walls they’ve built to keep out the water will hold. Especially because this time, they had to build those walls themselves.

Ask a Clarksville resident how long they’ve lived there, and the answer is usually given in the context of a flood.

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Election 2014
8:01 am
Thu July 3, 2014

Quinn Gets Teacher Union Nod

Unions were upset with Governor Pat Quinn for his role in Illinois' pension overhaul.  But that didn't stop the state's largest teachers' union from endorsing him.  

The Illinois Education Association hasn't even had a year to get over the legislative equivalent of a knife-in-the-back.

Though the IEA endorsed Quinn in the 2010 governor's race, he both advocated for, and signed, the law that reduces public school teachers' pensions.

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Budget
6:50 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Deadline For Quinn To Take Budget Action

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  It's the last day of the fiscal year for the State of Illinois, which means the pressure is on for Gov. Pat Quinn to sign a new budget into law.

There's nothing on the governor's public schedule for today, but that doesn't mean he won't be busy making official the spending plan passed by his fellow Democrats in the General Assembly.

It makes sense that Quinn wouldn't want to hold a big ceremony drawing attention to it. He had wanted lawmakers to extend Illinois' 5-percent income tax rate, beyond its scheduled rollback halfway through the new fiscal year.

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Redistricting
5:30 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Redistricting Effort Gives Up

Yes! For Independent Maps collected 27 feet's worth of signatures to have its redistricting question appear on the November ballot, but that effort is stalled this year now that a judge declared it unconstitutional.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

An effort to change how legislative districts are drawn has suspended its efforts. It follows a judge Friday ruling that the proposal is unconstitutional.

"Yes! For Independent Maps," as the redistricting coalition calls itself, is not done for good.

Spokesman Jim Bray says the group will stay together in hopes of maybe trying again in the future. But he says it's done this year's efforts.

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Term Limits
5:27 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Rauner's Discarded Term Limit Initiative Mirrors Quinn's 1994 Effort

Then-Treasurer Pat Quinn had a term limit petition of his own in the early 1990s. But in summer 1994, much like Rauner's term limit petition, it was found unconstitutional.
Credit Courtesy of Quinn For Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, disagree about plenty -- everything from gun rights and restrictions, to what Illinois' income tax should be. But with Friday's ruling by a Cook County judge knocking a term limits initiative off the ballot, the candidates have something in common.

Though there has been a lot of turnover in the General Assembly in recent years, some politicians have been serving in Springfield for decades.

Chief among them House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been a state representative since 1971.

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Election 2014
4:12 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Rauner Plans To Close Tax "Loopholes," Change EDGE Credits

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has unveiled what he says is phase three of his plans to "Restore Illinois." It's focused on how the state taxes businesses.

In a statement — he released the plan via social media, rather than at a live event — Rauner says he wants to close "special interest loopholes."

Like a tax break for buying a racehorse.

And, in a risky move as he seeks to win newspaper editorial boards' endorsements, he wants Illinois to begin taxing newsprint.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
3:57 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

Two Insiders Dropped From Subpoena List

Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley
Credit ILGA.gov

Subpoenas are going out to five former members of Gov. Pat Quinn's administration who were involved with his plagued anti-violence program, but two other insiders will not be served. As Quinn seeks reelection, he continues to be dogged by a program rolled out just before his last, close race for governor.

Republicans contend the timing wasn't a coincidence; they allege Quinn rushed to introduce the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative to curry favor with Chicago area leaders before the 2010 election. A state audit and media reports reveal it was botched.

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Election 2014
4:12 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Libertarians: Strive To Beat "Ballot-Blocking" To Get On Ballot

The Libertarian's slate of statewide candidates for the 2014 election; Chad Grimm, the candidate for governor, is to the immediate left of the podium, while Political Director Lex Green is speaking.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Libertarian Party of Illinois is running a candidate for Governor, and all of the other statewide races. But the race could be over before it begins.

Chad Grimm, a 33-year-old health club manager from Peoria, and the Libertarian party's nominee for Illinois governor, has some unconventional political views; he believes Illinois should completely do away with a state income tax, and that there should be no -- as in zero - regulations on guns: Not the type, not where they're allowed, not who can have one.

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Inspector General Report
3:50 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

IBHE Leader "Abused Public Resources," Got $48K

Former Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Dr. George Reid
Credit Illinois Board of Higher Education

A just-released investigation by Illinois' Inspector General's office found that the former head of the state board of higher education abused public resources and wasted state funds, among other findings.

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Statehouse
4:07 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Illinois Overuses Nursing Homes: AARP

Credit flickr

The AARP says Illinois has improved opportunities for elderly people to remain in the community. But it says there are still too many living in nursing homes who need not be.

There are good reasons for helping seniors to stay independent, or at home, getting help -- and out of long-term care facilities.

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Election 2014
4:24 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

"Fair Maps" Group Gets Some Latitude In Fight For Ballot Spot

Twenty-seven feets' worth of voter signatures may still not be enough for a redistricting group's effort to make it on the November ballot.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A struggling effort to change how Illinois draws its legislative districts will live another day. State election authorities Tuesday (6/17) voted to give it some extra time to prove it deserves to make it on the November ballot.

Supporters were joyous last month when a semi-truck pulled into the state board of elections' parking lot in Springfield.

A campaign to overhaul the state's redistricting process was dropping off a 27-foot-long document, filled with a half million signatures.

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IEMA
12:20 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Illinois Test Runs Earthquake Response

IEMA Director Jonathon Monken
Credit http://www.iema.illinois.gov/about/Director.asp / IEMA, Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Monken

The Midwest isn't typically thought of as a place at risk of a major earthquake. Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Jonathon Monken says the chances are higher than most people would estimate. He says the U.S. Geological Survey says that in the next 50 years, there is a 10-percent chance that Illinois could experience an earthquake of the magnitude emergency responders are running practice exercises for this week. It's meant to test capabilities in the event of a quake in the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones.

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Budget FY15
5:56 am
Fri May 16, 2014

House Democrats Pass Spending Plan (Barely)

Illinois is beginning to work on its budget for Fiscal Year 2015.
Credit wnij

How much you'll pay in state taxes next year remains an open question, even as the Illinois House Thursday approved dozens of spending bills, that rely on a permanently higher tax rate. It sets the stage for a budget battle, just weeks before legislators are set to adjourn for the summer.

The Illinois House convened at 8 o’clock Thursday morning, and spent most of a very long day on the budget. Lawmakers began with a debate on funding Illinois' public education system, giving schools a slight increase over this year.

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Statehouse
8:05 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Rating Agencies Not Worried About Pension Hold

Credit ILGA.gov

Illinois' pension overhaul might be on hold, but credit ratings agencies say they're not concerned. A Sangamon County judge Wednesday ruled that reductions to public employees' retirement benefits will not go into effect next month, as planned.                                                  

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Economy
9:38 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Business Groups Pan Madigan's EDGE Tax Credit Changes

Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Whitley and the Illinois Manufacturers' Association's Mark Denzler, from left, testified against House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to change EDGE tax credits - changes Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Adam Pollet backs.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  One of Illinois' main tools for attracting and retaining companies in the state would get a revamp under a plan unveiled yesterday by the Speaker of the Illinois House. It drew immediate criticism from business groups.

More than 700 companies have what are known as EDGE tax credits, given in exchange for keeping, or creating new, jobs.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says his aim in changing it is to "insure that he program is being run in a way that benefits both the recipients and the taxpayers of Illinois."

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Pensions
4:58 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Hold Placed On Illinois Pension Law

  A judge has blocked Illinois pension overhaul from taking effect next month. It's a temporary victory for government employees who say the law is unconstitutional.

State employees, teachers and university workers were supposed to begin seeing changes to their retirement plans in June. It's part of a sweeping pension overhaul passed late last year.

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Budget FY15
1:04 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Speaker Madigan's Budget Plan

House Speaker Michael Madigan

Members of the Illinois House are spending Wednesday afternoon in a series of budget hearings. The House Speaker says that's meant to lead the way to an income tax vote.

The hearings all focus on one thing: Illinois' next spending plan.

In particular, one that spends money as if Illinois' income tax rate is still 5-percent -- even though the rate is set to drop halfway through the next fiscal year.

Critics say it's illegal for the House to go forward spending at higher levels, without first voting to extend the higher tax.

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