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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Election 2014
5:37 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Dodging DUIs: Secretary of State Candidates Faceoff

Polls put Republican Sec. of State candidate Mike Webster, making a speech at GOP Day at the Illinois State Fair this summer, way behind incumbent Jesse White.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

How to keep drunk drivers off the roads has become an issue in the race for Secretary of State.

Illinois has strict DUI laws ... if you're convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Therein lies the problem, says Republican's nominee for Secretary of State Mike Webster: once someone has been arrested, the legal system takes over.

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Election 2014
2:49 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

The Choice Of Choice: Gov. Candidates On Abortion

Credit WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn used the issue of abortion to win votes from suburban women in his election four years ago. This time, his Republican opponent says he's pro-choice. But it's not that cut-and-dry.

Republican nominee Bruce Rauner, like Quinn, classifies himself as pro-choice. He's also said he doesn't have a “social agenda."

That hasn't satisfied Terry Cosgrove, of Personal PAC, which has endorsed Quinn.

"While Bruce Rauner may say he doesn't have a social agenda, that is not true when you look at his actions," Cosgrove said.

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Election 2014
6:20 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

The Lone Justice Fighting For Retention

Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who was elected a decade ago, is now up for retention; an organization calling itself "Campaign 2016" is trying to unseat him.
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

There's a last-minute push to unseat one of Illinois' Supreme Court justices. That's difficult to do -- a sitting judge doesn't have to win a race. He just has to get 60-percent of voters' to agree to his retention.

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Election 2014
12:58 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Madigan Vs. The Marine

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is escorted by American Legion members at a 2014 convention in Springfield; she's seeking a fourth term.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Lisa Madigan was the first woman elected to be Illinois' Attorney General, in 2003. After flirting with a run for governor, Madigan, the daughter of House Speaker Michael Madigan -- is instead seeking a fourth term as the state's top lawyer. Amanda Vinicky starts off this extended interview asking Madigan what she has accomplished that makes her deserving of another four years.

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Election 2014
5:44 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Ebola Strikes Race For Governor

Credit Brett Levin / Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/scubabrett22/6044203012/in/photolist-nRM8aA-nRM9cA-6W3y3x-iSCMSX-ad77YL-ombQ4H-3cF2NM-8hAiN6-6W7Bsm-csFVES-grKEtn-9ZSWDs-fArP8e-niwAQi-89m25F-9ZT3kf-9ZQc52-n8xZJj-9ZT3Q3-9ZSikY-9ZPp8z-9ZSj83-csFRxN-ff

Illinois'  O'Hare Airport is one of five in the nation where travelers from West Africa must undergo extra screening for Ebola. But now the state has additional guidelines to prevent the virus' potential spread. What to do is the latest disagreement in an already adversarial race for governor.

Even as New Jersey releases a nurse forced into quarantine upon her return from Sierra Leone, Gov. Pat Quinn is standing by a similar policy for Illinois.

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Sec. of State
5:19 am
Mon October 27, 2014

Immigrant Rights Groups: Demand Oustrips Slots For Driver's Licenses

Illinois offers a "TVDL," or temporary visitor driver's license, to undocumented immigrants and non-visa seeking residents who have lived in the state at least one year, but advocates say the wait for an appointment is often too long.
Credit Secretary of State's Office

Immigrant rights groups say Illinois needs to improve its program for issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. The program started last December.

When Illinois created a special drivers license for people without permission to be in the country, supporters said it would make the roads safer. In order to get one, an applicant has to have auto insurance and pass a driving test.

As of the end of September, more than 64,600 people had succeeded. But activists like Martin Torres, with the Latino Policy Forum, say others are being held up.

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Election 2014
11:50 am
Thu October 23, 2014

Oberweis Would Back Federal Same Sex Marriage Law

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove
Credit Oberweis for US Senate

The Republican nominee for U.S. Senate has switched his stance on same-sex marriage.

Only a few Republican members of the General Assembly voted for Illinois' law that has, since June, allowed two men or two women to marry one another.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis wasn't one of them. He voted no.

But the Sugar Grove Republican, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, says he would go along with a federal law permitting same sex marriage.

Here's how he answered a question about it Wednesday's debate.

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Election 2014
7:54 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Small Campaign Contributions Amount To Chump Change

Credit flickr/borman18

  The race for Illinois governor is one of the most expensive match-ups in the nation. A new report shows that most of that comes from relatively few donors.

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Budget FY15
4:30 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Civic Fed: Lawmakers Once Again Taking Illinois Down Bad Budget Path

Credit wnij

Illinois is about a quarter of the way into its fiscal year and building up debt along the way. A new report from the Civic Federation says it's a return to detrimental policies that landed Illinois in an unstable financial position in the first place.

There was one, glaring question for lawmakers last spring: what were they going to do about the temporary income tax?

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Election 2014
3:25 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Earlier Than Ever

Pres. Barack Obama visited Chicago Sunday, to encourage Illinois residents to vote, and to do it early. Early voting begins today, and runs until just before election day. That could change campaigns' strategies, or expand the electorate.

It used to be that campaigns geared up for one day: Election Day. Starting in 2006, Illinois residents were given the option of casting an early, in-person ballot. That used to last for a two-week span. Not this election. Voters have from today until Nov. 2 to vote early.

Look for people to take advantage of it.

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Election 2014
5:10 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Illinois' Medical Marijuana Program At Odds With Federal Policy

Judge Ann Callis, who is Democrats' nominee for the the 13th Congressional district, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, hold a press conference in Springfield Monday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

As Illinois begins to allow people with certain diseases to use cannabis as medicine, the state will be running afoul of federal law.

It may be spring before patients will be able to buy medical marijuana (the application process is going on now). Whenever it happens, the state will be in tricky territory: the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.

That raises challenges, like: can an business in the cannabis industry deposit money in federally-regulated banks?

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Election 2014
12:52 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Politicians On Parade

Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up to a child at Pilsen's Mexican Independence Day parade.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Children across Illinois had the day off from school Monday in honor of Columbus Day. Despite soggy weather, both Governor Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner celebrated by walking down State St., for Chicago's Columbus Day parade. In an age when campaigns are increasingly high-tech, Amanda Vinicky took to the streets to find out why so many politicians spend so much time pounding the pavement.

Candidates have less than a month left to complete their missions. Grasping for your attention, and convincing you to vote for them on election day.

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Election 2014
8:19 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Agree: No To Education Funding Plan

Both of the major party candidates for governor say Illinois should put more money into education. But neither are ready to embrace a controversial plan that would change how state money is distributed to schools.

There's been an uproar in some Chicago suburbs lately, over a proposal that's already passed the Illinois Senate. Under it, many districts there would see cuts in state funding, because they're in wealthier areas.

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Election 2014
5:07 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Removing The Pension Protection Clause

Credit Hannah Meisel

Illinois' ability to change retirement benefits of government workers is limited because of a provision in the state Constitution. But what about trying to make that a non-issue, by doing away with that clause?

Article XIII, Sect. 5 of the Illinois Constitution is direct: pension benefits, it says, "shall not be diminished or impaired."

Nevertheless, a law passed last year cuts benefits for current workers and retirees. Whether that squares with the Constitution is currently the subject of a lawsuit.

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Election 2014
4:30 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Rauner Runs Up Endorsements; Quinn Says No Surprise

Gov. Pat Quinn (left) and Bruce Rauner shake hands before their Oct. 9 debate in Peoria.
Credit Hannah Meisel

Although he's dipping in polls, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner is picking up newspaper endorsements.

The Daily Herald was first out of the gate with an endorsement for Rauner; saying that "installing a Republican governor while both houses of the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court remain solidly Democratic" will at least give Illinois "a fighting chance" for change.

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Statehouse
5:43 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Civic Federation Says Illinois Finances Headed In The Wrong Direction

Illinois is about a quarter of the way into its fiscal year and building up debt along the way.

A new report says it's a return to detrimental policies that landed Illinois in an unstable financial position in the first place.
                     
There was one, glaring question for lawmakers last spring: what were they going to do about the temporary income tax?

Illinois hiked rates in 2011, but only until midway through this fiscal year.  The 5% rate rolls back to 3.75%  in January.

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Election 2014
3:25 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Toxic Ads Scorch, Spur Defamation Suit

A screenshot of the "Daisy" ad that aired in September, 1964. It's widely believed to be the first attack ad, and a political game-changer.
Credit Daisy Ad screenshot

It was 50 years ago last month that a new type of campaign commercial aired -- one devised to make President Lyndon Johnson's opponent look bad, rather than to extol his own virtues. "Daisy" only aired once, it was so controversial: the scene of a girl pulling petals off a flower crossed into one of an exploding bomb.  That commercial changed the political landscape. Any inhibitions campaigns may have had in 1964 have long since vanished. Now, negative ads are the norm. It's gotten to the point that a candidate for State Representative this week filed a lawsuit over it.

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Latino Voter Drive; Time Left For Procrastinators

Martin Torres has lead the Latino Policy Forum's voter registration drive this fall.
Credit Latino Policy Forum website

As candidates hustle for voters' support, interest groups are working to drum up numbers of their own, with voter registration drives. The deadline is tomorrow.

Martin Torres has been all over Chicago lately, holding voter registration events. It's the Latino Policy Forum's goal to sign up 5,000 voters.

He says Latinos make up 16-percent of the state's population, but the community's political influence hasn't kept up.

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Election 2014
1:27 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Gov. Quinn: No Regional Minimum Wage

"West Wing" actor Martin Sheen, left, wades into real-life politics, as he stumps for Gov. Pat Quinn a month before the election.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

First, the President held a $50,000 a head fundraiser for Pat Quinn.  This week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Gloria Steinem are scheduled to be in Illinois to stump for him.  Over the weekend, it was actor Martin Sheen's turn to campaign alongside the Democratic governor.

According to the trade magazine "Variety," Martin Sheen made as much as $300,000 an episode for his role as Democratic Pres. Jeb Bartlet in the show "West Wing."

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Dept. of Corrections
9:56 am
Thu October 2, 2014

After A Prisoner Escapes

Marcus Battice, the 21-year-old man who escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center on Sept. 23.
Credit Illinois Department of Corrections

The state agency that oversees prisons does not expect to make significant changes to its operations, following the escape of an inmate last week from a minimum security prison located about an hour east of St. Louis.

Officials issued an alert when 21-year-old Marcus Battice escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center, where he was serving time for stealing a car. Battice turned up the next morning, about three-and-a-half miles away.

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Statehouse
6:31 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Quinn Lauds Affordable Care Act, Backs Down From State Marketplace

Credit flickr

In recognition of the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Pat Quinn is touting its success, while at the same time backing away from having Illinois take a greater role in the program.

At first, Gov. Quinn was all about Illinois creating its own "exchange" -- a technical word for the portal where people can shop for coverage.

Instead, insurance companies and healthcare advocates couldn't agree on how to set one up. Timid lawmakers, afraid to look like they were embracing Obamacare ahead of the 2012 election, didn't help either.

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Election 2014
2:23 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Bruce Rauner, Before He Was A Candidate (Author Interview)

Credit Chicago Magazine

Though Gov. Pat Quinn remains largely private about his personal life, he has been in the public eye for decades -- there were unsuccessful bids for treasurer, Secretary of State and the U.S. Senate, as well as successful ones for Illinois Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor and, most recently, for Governor.

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Carbon Emissions Cuts
1:06 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Clearing The Air On Clean Air Plan

Environmental advocates met at the state capitol to thank Gov. Quinn for his support of the federal proposal requiring states to curb carbon emissions from coal power plants, and asked that he put an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois regulators are continuing to develop a plan to reduce the state's output of greenhouse gasses. Environmentalists say they have the Pat Quinn to thank. Or do they?

Illinois has had clean energy targets for years, but this latest effort isn't part of that. Rather, the state's Environmental Protection Agency and commerce commission are preparing for a proposed federal rule. It would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.

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Pensions
4:54 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Pensions: Vexing Illinois Politicians Since 1917

The tally in the Illinois House on the pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The underfunding of the state's pensions have grabbed headlines the past several years, and finally reached the political tipping point late last year when legislators passed an overhaul of the systems. It's a recent response to a very old problem.

It was Gov. Pat Quinn who signed the law that reduces state workers' and most public school teachers' pensions -- a controversial plan that's at the center of a lawsuit.

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Election 2014
8:34 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Share Hazy Stance On Decriminalizing Pot

Credit Thinkprogress.org

It's hard to find common ground between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, but when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana, they're on the same page. Both have a stance that's well, hazy.

"It's worthy of looking at," Quinn said about the idea of reducing penalties for people caught with small amounts of pot."It's basically something I think the legislature should have hearings on. I think a lot of people should have input on. I do think that it's worthy of consideration."

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State Hiring
2:51 am
Thu September 25, 2014

IDOT Layoffs Halted, But Quinn Wants To Proceed

Gov. Pat Quinn was at an unrelated appearance in Springfield when he was asked about the timing of the IDOT layoffs.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn wants to proceed with getting rid of dozens of Illinois Department of Transportation employees. The layoffs won't happen for at least another month.

Gov. Quinn doesn't claim the layoffs as his idea; rather, he says it was his newly-appointed IDOT Secretary, Erica Borggren, who came up with the "reorganization" that'll leave some 58 employees out of work.

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Election 2014
2:14 am
Tue September 23, 2014

A Redo On Redistricting

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Advocates seeking to change how Illinois draws its legislative districts are following through on a promise to keep trying, even after getting knocked off of this year's ballot.

Members of the "Yes for Independent Maps" effort cheered when they turned in half million signatures to state elections authorities in May.

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Election 2014
3:39 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Polls Showing Illinois Governor's Race A Draw

Bruce Rauner; Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS

Illinois' race for governor is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the nation. And it's impossible to tell who's winning.

For a while, Bruce Rauner was ahead. The Republican private equity investor kept besting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in every poll.

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Education Desk
5:42 am
Mon September 22, 2014

More Campuses "Ready To Respond"

Richland Community College
Credit Richland.edu

College students are back on campus and classes are underway. Parents at some Illinois schools have extra assurance their kids will be safe when they're at school.

Universities and colleges are often ranked, making "best of" lists for one program or the other. 

But only a couple in Illinois have achieved the designation of becoming a "Ready to Respond" campus -- a title given by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency after the school has met criteria, like developing a violence prevention plan and going through training exercises. 

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Election 2014
1:18 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Governor's Race Has A Third Contender; Judge Keeps Libertarians On Ballot

The Libertarian slate faced several obstacles to make it on the ballot; here, candidates hold a press conference to show how many more signatures they had to turn in to the state elections board, compared with Democrats and Republicans. The party's candidate for governor, Chad Grimm, is just to the left of the podium.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Democrats succeeded in getting a slate of Green Party candidates wiped from the November ballot. But the Libertarian Party had enough signatures to withstand a Republican challenge before the State Board of Elections. And now the Libertarians have withstood a court challenge as well.

Sometimes you can actually hear the smile in someone's voice. I didn't actually see Chad Grimm's face upon hearing the news that he'll remain on the ballot as the Libertarian nominee for governor. But, he sure sounded happy.

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