Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief / Reporter

217-206-6019

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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Statehouse
4:41 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Quinn Picks Budget Chief To Be Temporary Comptroller

Jerry Stermer (left) with Gov. Quinn
Credit Illinois Issues

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has chosen longtime friend Jerry Stermer -- his former chief of staff and current budget director -- to take over as Illinois' Comptroller.

Quinn had to choose someone for the position, following the unexpected death last week of Republican Judy Baar Topinka.

Stermer will only hold the job for 24 days; he says he'll step down January 12th, Quinn's last day as governor. That will allow Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to appoint someone else as comptroller, for what would have been Topinka's next term.

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Judy Baar Topinka
11:39 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Parties' Power Grabs In Battle For Comptroller; Quinn Calls Legislators Into Special Session

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's unexpected death has caused a political furor, as Illinois leaders disagree over a succession plan.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Judy Baar Topinka, who died of a stroke last week, was no stranger to the dizzying world of Illinois politics. The state comptroller had also been state treasurer, served in the legislature and lost a race for governor to Rod Blagojevich. So it's easy to imagine that Topinka would not be surprised at the ongoing furor and partisan divide over how to replace her.

It was just Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn praised Topinka at her memorial service, saying "she's done so much for all the people of Illinois. And I think there's a hole in the hearts of the people of our state."

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Statehouse
7:32 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Illinois Republican: Cuba Agreement "Good First Step"

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Ill., differs from many other Republicans in his reaction to Pres. Obama's lifting U.S. diplomatic restraints with Cuba.
Credit U.S. House

Illinois' Congressional delegation has mixed reviews on the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba. Like many key Republicans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk denounced President Barack Obama for setting what he called a "dangerous precedent" by conceding to a dictator. But another Republican, Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville, says lifting outdated trade restrictions will strengthen Cuba's middle class, and weaken Raoul Castro's regime. Davis also says it'll open the market for Illinois' agricultural commodities. U.S.

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Pensions
1:43 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Rauner Named Nation's Most Influential Pension Figure

Credit npr.org

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

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Statehouse
11:00 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Rauner Favors Merging Comptroller, Treasurer. Just Not Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took a handful of questions from reporters following his appearance Tuesday at a Better Government Association in Springfield; the audience was delighted to hear that he'll live in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

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Budget FY15
6:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Agencies To Ask For More, Rauner Says ... Without Giving An Opinion On If They Deserve It Or Not

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, right, speaks before a full crowd at the Sangamo Club on Tues., Dec. 16 as part of a Better Government Association event on Illinois' finances.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has already tried to make the case that that Illinois' finances are worse than he thought. Now he's adding to his list of examples.

"What we've learned here in recent days, and I'm here to get more of the detail on ... there's $760 million of what they're calling - what I guess, I'm learning the lingo - supplemental appropriations, about to be requested," he said.

Basically, it means that state agencies are going to be asking for an additional $760 million to get them through this budget year -- or, as Rauner put it, they want to go "over budget."

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Hail A Cab, App An Uber
3:01 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Online Ads Hint At Rideshare Expansion Downstate

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Hints are popping up that the controversial rideshare service called Uber may be expanding its reach in Illinois.

Uber is riding a wave of victory in Illinois. The company fended off regulations it said were too onerous, and helped the General Assembly craft a compromise measure instead. That's awaiting action from the governor.

But the rideshare service may already be making good on plan to grow outside the Chicago region.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:07 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

House Adjourns For Good ... ?

Speaker Michael Madigan on the House's final day of the 98th General Assembly ... unless he and Senate Pres. John Cullerton agree to return for a special session, or the General Assembly is called into one by Gov. Pat Quinn, whose last full day in office is Jan. 13.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House has adjourned its two-year legislative session for good, without a vote on a minimum wage hike - meaning that Representatives will not be back in Springfield before Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes over.  But backers of an increase are raising the possibility that the proposal isn't quite dead yet.

In Latin, "Sine Die" means “without a date," so when House Speaker Michael Madigan said "I move that we adjourn Sine Die," he meant that current makeup of the Illinois House was adjourning for good - with no intent to meet again.

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Veto Session
5:57 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Businesses Get Tax Break With New Minimum Wage Plan

Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, holds a press conference in November; she has campaigned for years fon a minimum wage increase.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A revamped statewide minimum wage hike is in the works, following Chicago's passage of one for the city. As the legislative session nears its end, specifics are developing.

Backers of a higher minimum wage are doing what they can to get it through the General Assembly.

That means phasing it in over a longer period of time --- so it'd go up to $9 in July, instead of $10, then notch up each summer by 50 cents, until it reaches $11 in 2019. They're also adding on a tax credit for small businesses, to ease the cost of paying workers more.

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Veto Session
12:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

FOIA Firestorm Sparked

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, declined to call a bill that makes controversial changes to the Freedom of Information Act during a House Executive committee meeting Monday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

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Judicial System Threatened?
12:21 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Karmeier Keeps Seat ... Barely, After Big Money Race

Justice Lloyd Karmeier
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The sole Illinois Supreme Court justice who was on the ballot in last month's election was sworn in for a second term this morning. Official results released last night by the Illinois State Board of Elections show just how close Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was to losing his seat, after an election that saw hefty spending on both sides.

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FOIA
6:26 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Last Minute Rush To Change Freedom Of Information Act

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate Is Churned Up At The State And Federal Levels

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

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Pensions
5:42 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Pension Ruling "Credit Negative," But No Ratings Change

The final Illinois House vote on the 2014 pension overhaul.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have taken notice of the court ruling on Friday that tossed out Illinois’ law reducing workers’ pensions. But they’re not worried enough to lower the state’s rating.

Illinois’ credit rating remains unaffected by last week’s court ruling, which found a landmark pension law to be unconstitutional. But agencies are watching.

Credit ratings are important as, the lower the rating, the more it costs the state to borrow.

It’s also an important indicator of a state’s relative fiscal health.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:53 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Who Will Work In A Rauner Administration?

Credit WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on his ability to spur job creation in Illinois. He'll get a head start -- of sorts -- choosing hundreds of new state employees.

To the victor go the spoils, and in state government, that means jobs. 

While a governor is boss of all state employees, he doesn't get to choose most of them (the majority of workers stay on no matter who is in charge; politics are supposed to stay out of hiring). 

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Pensions
1:17 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Ears Turn To Supreme Court For Next Pensions Cue

Gov. Pat Quinn is surrounded by legislative leaders and lawmakers who helped write the pension plan, as he signs it into law.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

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Breaking
5:24 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Judge Finds Reductions In Pension Benefits Unconstitutional

Several legal challenges to the pension law were consolidated in Sangamon County. The county's courthouse is in downtown Springfield.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

An Illinois judge has ruled that a law intended to fix the nation's worst-funded state employee pensions violates the state Constitution. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled Friday in favor of state employees and retirees who sued to block the state's landmark pension overhaul.

At issue was whether lawmakers defied the Illinois Constitution by passing a law that reduces state workers', public school teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:38 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Rauner To Quinn: Freeze Hiring. Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner holds his first press conference at the state capitol; it was right outside the Comptroller's office ... and the offices of Gov. Pat Quinn's senior staff.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' incoming governor has asked the outgoing one to put state hiring on hold for the remainder of his term.

Even as he was being impeached, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich kept making key appointments. A new Dept. of Natural Resources chief; Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat.

Gov. Pat Quinn is by no means under that sort of dark cloud.

And Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says he has no reason to believe Quinn's doing anything inappropriate.

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Minimum Wage
2:43 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Latest Minimum Wage Hike Goes To Eleven

Gloria Davis says she won't give the temp agency she works for the satisfaction of publicly stating its name. She says her $8.25 wage isn't enough for her to afford housing in Chicago. She's calling for legislators to raise Illinois' minimum wage.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The sponsor of a minimum wage hike says she'll push to get it passed during the legislature's veto session, which began today, Tues. Nov. 19.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, pointed to the results of a non-binding referendum. Sixty-seven percent of Illinois voters said “yes," Illinois should raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The current rate is $8.25.

Results showed support for an increase in much of the state, including traditionally Republican areas, like the Chicago suburbs and downstate.

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Computer Glitch Fixed
9:11 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Drivers' License Facilities Back, Open For Business

Credit Creative Commons: Chris He, 2009

  Drivers' license facilities across Illinois are up and running again this morning, following a computer glitch that disrupted services much of Wednesday.

Driver's license facilities operated old-school yesterday, using paper forms whenever possible, because their computers were down.

Turns out the problem was like so many others in life: miscommunication.

The mainframe computer in Springfield "wasn't properly communicating with and recording data entered from the computer terminals at the facilities," said Sec. of State spokesman Henry Haupt.

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Opposition Softens Some
5:04 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

Most Illinois Residents Oppose Tax Hike

Credit flickr/jmorgan

A hike in Illinois’ income tax rate will begin rolling back at the end of this year, and a majority of Illinois voters are alright with that.

A new poll shows 56-percent of voters oppose making the increase permanent.

Respondents to the survey, which was done before the election by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University, were asked that question fairly directly.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
6:11 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Lukewarm Ideas On Property Tax Freeze

Bruce Rauner, in his first appearance since being elected, held to his pledge to freeze property taxes, but he says he'll form a task force to figure out how.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

When he was a candidate, Bruce Rauner promised that if elected, he would freeze property taxes. Now that he's won the race for governor, he's holding off on details about how.

It was a campaign promise that struck a chord.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
7:18 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Madigan Wants To Split Lincoln Library, But Why The Rush?

A wax model of Pres. Abraham Lincoln and his family greet visitors to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
Credit ill.gov

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is reviving his end-of-session effort to make the Springfield-based Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum its own state agency. As first reported by the website Capitol Fax, the Speaker filed new legislation Thursday.

The last minute move by House Speaker Madigan in late May to separate the Library from the Historic Preservation Agency y seemingly came out of nowhere, and pretty much went nowhere. The plan passed the House, but went no further before the General Assembly adjourned.

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Minimum Wage
5:54 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Rauner Wants Lame Ducks To Lay Off

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner stands before his newly-announced transition team; days after the election he said lawmakers should hold off making major decisions until he takes over.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Even though the race for Illinois governor is over, Gov. Pat Quinn and Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner continue to be at odds, this time over the minimum wage.

When he made his brief concession speech, Quinn said there was one goal he'd like to accomplish before leaving office: increasing the minimum wage.

But Rauner (who says he has not spoken with Quinn since the election) says lawmakers should hold off making any major policy changes until he takes over early next year.

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Business
3:57 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Illinois Fracking Rules Approved

A coalition lobbying for a fracking moratorium protested Illinois' pending legislation during the 2013 General Assembly session.
Credit WUIS

A fracking law passed in 2013 could soon finally take effect in Illinois -- it's expected drillers will find oil and gas in southern Illinois. A bipartisan legislative committee Thursday gave its okay to a revised set of regulations. 

The long wait is an indication of how controversial hydraulic fracturing is; supporters hail its opportunity to spur economic growth while environmentalists decry the potential damage it may cause.

Passing a law was supposed to be the hard part, but the two sides came to a compromise. It's over the details since that they've departed. 

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
8:55 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Dems Keep Super-Majority, As Madigan Machine Works Its Magic

House Speaker Michael Madigan speaks on the Illinois House floor in the final days of the end of the spring session, that ended in May.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

With Bruce Rauner's win, Illinois Republicans have something to celebrate. But they failed to make gains in the General Assembly, which could have big repercussions for Rauner down the line.

Two years ago, Illinois Democrats gained historic super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

There were more than enough Democrats in the Senate, and just enough (71) Democratic members of the House, to override a governor's veto.

Then, the governor was also a Democrat -- Pat Quinn.

Next year, Illinois Democrats will once again hold veto-proof majorities.

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Election 2014
3:06 pm
Tue November 4, 2014

Yes, You Can Still Register To Vote Today

Credit wikimedia

If you're still looking to get in on today's election day action, but aren't registered to vote, you're in luck. For the first time, Illinois is making "grace period" registration available today, on election day.

But the Illinois State Board of Election's Jim Tenuto warns that you can't just show up at any precinct's polling place.

Tenuto advises voters to call first to find out where they can still register, and what identification they need to bring.

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Election 2014
6:34 am
Tue November 4, 2014

Election 2014: What's At Stake

Credit wttw Chicago Tonight

Illinois voters have until seven tonight, when the polls close, to help decide the state's future.

Let's begin with the top of the ballot, with two proposed constitutional amendments. One would create protections for voters against discrimination; the other would give crime victims more rights, like a guarantee they be notified when a perpetrator is released.

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Election 2014
6:12 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Election Eve: Sounds From The Campaign Trail

If you believe the polls, the race for Illinois governor continues to be a virtual tie. The candidates spent the last day before the election trying to build momentum, and to gain any last minute support.

Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner both began their mornings in Chicago before heading downstate. "Illinois jobs are up an unemployment's down. If you're breathing, we want you working in Illinois," Quinn told supporters, repeating one of his catchphrases, at a campaign office on the city's South Side.

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Election 2014
5:50 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Tally's In: Early Voting Up Thirty Percent

Candidates get-out-the-vote efforts appear to have worked. Elections officials are reporting an increase in early voting numbers.

Even before Election Day, more than a half million people will have cast their ballots.

That's according to a final tally of early votes gathered by the state elections board. It's a jump of 118,000 from the last midterm election and governor's race, four years ago.

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