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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Pensions
6:20 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Decision Could Come Today On Pension Delay

The vote in the Illinois House on the 2013 pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A hearing set for this afternoon could determine if some, or even all, of Illinois' new pension law will be suspended.

The pension law is supposed to take effect next month.

The We Are One coalition of unions wants a hold put on the entire law, until a broader lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional is resolved.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. He says once someone retires, that can't be reversed.

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Daily Egyptian
8:30 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

House Budget Plan Could Help Save SIU Student Paper

  Southern Illinois University Carbondale's financially-struggling student newspaper would get an infusion of cash under newly introduced legislation.

A spending measure filed in the Illinois House would give The Daily Eqyptian 70-thousand dollars.

The paper had asked for a nine-dollar-per-semester student fee, but the SIU Board of Trustees has not given approval.

The Daily Egyptian's faculty adviser, Eric Fidler says he's still hopeful that will happen this summer. But he says the 70 thousand dollars would be a buffer.

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Pensions
12:49 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Deal Reached On University Pensions

Gov. Pat Quinn signs the pension overhaul, known sometimes as Senate Bill 1, into law in December, 2013.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Even as the "We Are One" broad coalition of unions seeks to prevent any of the pension law from taking effect next month, a new agreement would prevent parts of it from being implemented.

It mostly affects university and community college employees nearing the end of their careers.

The deal, between the State Universities Annuitants Association and the attorney general, could put a stop to a surge of retirements at Illinois' public universities.

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Gambling expansion
5:42 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Bob Rita Makes Another Push For Gambling Expansion

Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island), worries the Casino Queen in East St. Louis is too close to horse racing track, Fairmont Park, in Collinsville, and thus would exclude Fairmont from slot machines.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

  While Illinois lawmakers continue to debate whether to extend the income tax increase. But that's not the only source of money being considered. Backers of expanding gambling also project the state would get a windfall.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) is once again taking a stab at gambling expansion.

He's got two options: Either authorizing a casino for Chicago, or a broader plan that would put casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. Horse race tracks would also be permitted to have slot machines.

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Budget FY15
5:02 am
Mon May 12, 2014

State Budget: "It's All In Such A State Of Flux"

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

After a weekend break, Senators will return to Springfield this afternoon, as the calendar draws closer to the scheduled May 31 adjournment.

While the end of the month is a key date, it's another one, about a half a year away, that will largely guide much of what happens these next few weeks: the November election.

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Poison Control vs. 911
6:37 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Senate Comes To Poison Control Center's Rescue

  Two emergency services are pit against each another in a fight for state funds. 

Illinois' Poison Control Center receives more than 82,000 calls a year. Some are from health care providers looking for expertise, but mostly they're from the general public.

"Some of them are very simple ones, like can I take Tylenol and Nyquil together? And the answer would be no," the center's director, Dr. Michael Wahl, says.

He says callers have often been waiting longer to get that advice. He says funding cuts, and the resulting staff shortages, have tripled wait times.

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Election 2014
6:31 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Nursing Home Lawsuit Dogs Rauner

GOP nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner has been able to self-fund much of his campaign. That's thanks to the fortune he made as a partner in a private equity firm. But some of his investments continue to haunt him politically.

Lawsuits attribute deaths at nursing homes to Rauner's former investment company, GTCR.

They allege that cost-cutting at one of the company's subsidiaries led to patient neglect.

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Budget FY15
5:47 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Quinn, Rauner On The Business Of The State Budget

Gov. Pat Quinn told the Illinois Manufacturers' Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants' Association that "savage" cuts will occur if his budget plan does not pass.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  The two men dueling to be Illinois' next governor tried Thursday to win over business leaders with their plans for the state's finances. They both made appearances before a joint meeting of Illinois' retailers and manufacturers in Springfield.

Quinn got a standing ovation as he took the stage, but the response after that was lukewarm.

Just before Quinn's speech, several business owners had been at the podium, complaining about Illinois' high unemployment rate, regulations and taxes.

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Term limits/Redistricting
5:12 pm
Mon May 5, 2014

Citizen Initiatives Begin Navigating Statutes, Lawsuits

Illinois State Board of Elections employees work to verify a sampling of petition signatures for two citizen-initiated constitutional amendments.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Even as a lawsuit could nullify them, the state board of elections has begun a tedious — but necessary — task of preparing a pair of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The two citizen initiatives aim to strip lawmakers of the power to draw their own maps and to limit their terms in office.

A dozen-or-so workers sit at tables at the board of elections building in Springfield.

Sliding, one at a time, more than 105,000 pieces of paper through scanners," said Rupert Borgsmiller, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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Election 2014
6:01 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Still Waiting For Comprehensive Budget Plan From Rauner

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks to Sangamon County Republicans in March.
Credit Hannah Meisel

The two men vying for governor disagree on a lot of issues, most notably what to do about Illinois' budget. Still, it's hard to compare the two, because one plan doesn't seem to exist.

It was nearly a month ago, at an event for Sangamon County Republicans that the party's nominee, Bruce Rauner, said "we'll be coming out with a comprehensive plan, that will be recommending about what we should change in our regulations and in our tax code and in our spending structure, in the, in … relatively near future."

So far, though, that hasn't happened.

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Breaking
2:31 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Motion Filed To Put Pension Law On Hold

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

A court is being asked to prevent any aspect of Illinois' pension overhaul from taking effect, until it's decided whether the law is constitutional. A motion was filed Friday in Sangamon County Court.

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Statehouse
7:06 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Remap Campaign Celebrates, Even As It's Under Attack

Director of Yes! for Independent Maps, Michael Kolenc, checks the petition.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  State elections authorities are beginning to go through 37,535 sheets of paper, filled with voters' signatures. An organization trying to change how Illinois draws legislative districts dropped off the monster petition Thursday in Springfield.

The petition made its way from Chicago to Springfield in a custom-made metal box, strapped down in a semi; it took more than a dozen workers and volunteers to carefully unload it.

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Election 2014
5:11 am
Thu May 1, 2014

Minority Groups Courted Before Redistricting Lawsuit

Attorney Mike Kasper stands at the podium, as House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Michael Madigan looks on, at a recent Party meeting in Springfield. Kasper, a Madigan ally, has been hired by a group of taxpayers seeking to dismiss two citizen's initiatives.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  A lawsuit seeking to keep two citizen's initiatives from ever coming before voters has been filed. Although the case makes no mention of how it will affect minority voters' rights, sources say organizers took pains to reach out to ethnic groups.

Two potential constitutional changes are at issue: one limiting how long legislators can be in office, the other stripping them of the power to draw their own districts.

The suit challenging them was filed by Mike Kasper, an attorney closely aligned with House Speaker Mike Madigan; the powerful Democrat is against both plans.

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Statehouse
10:56 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

A Conversation With Sen. President John Cullerton

Credit Illinois Senate

  Illinois'  General Assembly is heading into its final stretch.  They've got a lot to resolve before their scheduled adjournment at the end of this month, including what to do about Illinois' income tax rate.  It's scheduled to drop midway through the next fiscal year, but Democrats,  including Senate President John Cullerton, want to make the current, higher rate permanent.  WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke with Cullerton about it earlier this week, and about why, despite the financial fights ahead, he's proud of the state. 

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Obama library
7:11 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Committee Votes For $100 Million Toward Obama Library...Again

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  A legislative committee Wednesday voted to authorize spending $100 million to lure Barack Obama's presidential library to Chicago ... for the second time.

Before he became President, Barack Obama served as an Illinois state senator and a U.S. senator. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and taught at the University of Chicago law school.

All reasons he might locate his presidential library and museum in Illinois.

But New York and Hawaii are also in the running.

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Statehouse
6:30 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Term Limits: One Step Back, One Step Forward

The General Assembly's Republican leaders, Rep. Jim Durkin and Sen. Christine Radogno, present their constitutional amendment to hold executive officers to two terms.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Even as Democrats killed off one proposal to institute term limits in Illinois, another is moving ahead.

First, the one that for all practical purposes is dead: it was a last minute push by Republican legislative leaders to limit the governor and other executive officers to two terms.

Getting rid of well-known incumbents could be a way for Republicans, who've had a hard time winning statewide office in recent years, to make inroads.

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Deadline Missed
9:17 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Illinois Keeps Its Flat Tax, As Graduated Tax Plan Dies

Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park
Credit ILGA.gov

Illinois will keep its flat income tax, despite an effort to move to a graduated one.

Based on the General Assembly's schedule, the Senate would have had to pass the proposal Tuesday in order to meet a constitutional deadline.

Instead, senators adjourned without a vote.

The measure's sponsor, Senator Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, sticks by the plan.

He says would allow Illinois to be nimble with tax policy.

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Budget FY15
3:03 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

You First ... No, You First: Tax Hike Timing

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago
Credit ilga.gov

The Illinois House will take the lead on whether Illinois keeps its 5 percent income tax. It's scheduled to roll back at the end of this year unless legislators take action.

It's happened in the past. The Illinois Senate will pass a controversial measure -- like a tax hike -- only for it to languish in the House.

Not this time.

Senate President John Cullerton says the Senate will vote on the tax question if and only if it first passes the House.

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Redistricting / Constitutional Amendment
11:36 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Madigan Vs. The Maps

House Speaker Michael Madigan
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

House Speaker Michael Madigan is harshly criticizing of a plan that would strip him of control over how Illinois draws its legislative maps. The group backing the change has its own harsh words for Madigan.

How legislative districts are drawn sounds wonky. And it is. But it's also really important as boundaries of a district can help determine which party will win a seat.

Because they control the General Assembly and governor's office, Democrats have largely gotten to control the map-making process in Illinois, including the most recent map, drawn in 2011.

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Despite Democratic Supermajorities
1:34 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

House Holdup On Tax Hike, Minimum Wage

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago

 Two major Democratic initiatives are still short the votes needed to pass, at least in the House, as the General Assembly heads into the final stretch of its spring session.

    

How to deal with Illinois' income tax rate is arguably the biggest issue looming over Illinois politics.

The 5-percent rate is set to rollback in January, but Gov. Pat Quinn wants the higher rate extended permanently, an approach favored by the Democratic leaders of the legislature.

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Madigan: Vote Again
8:05 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Initial Obama Library Vote A "Misunderstanding"

President Barack Obama
Credit BarackObama.com

Illinois legislators will vote a second time on a plan to spend $100 million to help lure Barack Obama's Presidential Library and Museum to Chicago, following a controversy.

A lesson in politics: Whichever party is in charge can often use the rules to its advantage. Like last week, when the Obama library proposal passed out of a Democratic-controlled House committee with nine votes ... even though only five representatives were there. Republicans had skipped the hearing, and many say they're opposed to spending the money given Illinois' financial situation.

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Illinois Democratic Party
5:39 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Legislator Protests Madigan As Party Chair, Won't Say Why

House Speaker and Illinois Democratic Party chair Michael Madigan speaks at a meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee on Tuesday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The man who has led the Democratic Party of Illinois for the past sixteen years will hold onto that title, but he did face a rare display of opposition.

Party leaders met in Springfield today to re-elect House Speaker Michael Madigan as their chair.

There are those who view Speaker Madigan as an icon of all that's wrong with Illinois politics.

And then there are those who seem to see him as a Democratic demigod.

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Statehouse
6:20 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Tax Returns Revealing ... But Not Revealing Enough

Lt. Gov Sheila Simon
Credit Illinois.gov

  Gov. Pat Quinn is the latest Illinois official to disclose his tax returns. They show he paid about $29,000 federal taxes, $7,700 in taxes to the state. Still, a lot of information about politicians' finances can remain hidden.

There's no law requiring politicians make their tax returns public, though they often do.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon says that's a positive thing.

"I think it shows that people are demanding more disclosure," she says.

But Simon says it doesn't go far enough.

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Election 2014
6:13 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Quinn Releases Tax Returns; Rauner's Waiting

Credit Illinois Department of Revenue

 Gov. Pat Quinn has released his 2013 tax returns. They show basic information: like that his taxable income is $161,962.98.

That left him paying about $7,700 in state taxes, and about $29,000 to the federal government. Plus another $3,000 or so in property taxes.

But they also reveal some other insights.

As with last year, Quinn chose to put some of his refund to charity via Illinois' voluntary checkoff program: giving ten dollars to most causes, and $100 to the Military Family Relief Fund.

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Education
7:09 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Wait Continues For Schools' Fate Under Proposed New Formula

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, introduces his Senate Bill 16, which would overhaul how Illinois determines state funding of schools.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois lawmakers are considering a major change to the way local schools get money from the state. But information about how individual school districts would fare in the new system won't be ready until just before the end of the spring legislative session.

Illinois' schools are primarily funded by local property taxes, which means that there's a big disparity in how much money is spent on a student depending on her zip code.

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Statehouse Bureau
4:44 am
Thu April 17, 2014

How Much Would Your School District Lose?

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  New data suggests just how big a hit most school districts would take if Illinois' income tax rate rolls back as scheduled at the end of the year.

Illinois' budget could play out a lot of different ways. But under one scenario -- the one Gov. Pat Quinn says will be the case if tax rates aren't kept at five percent -- kindergarten through high school classrooms across Illinois will get $450 million dollars less from the state.

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Election 2014
5:48 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

The Stain Of Corruption: Candidate Endorsements

William Cellini
Credit WBEZ

  Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign is blasting his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner for getting endorsed by Springfield insider William Cellini. But Quinn has his own checkered endorsement history.

Cellini, a lifelong Republican, went to prison for his role in a campaign contribution shakedown scheme tied to the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Quinn campaign is criticizing Rauner for not doing enough to denounce Cellini, but when reporters asked him about it in the Capitol, Quinn said: "Well I don't want to get into politics here."

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Illinois Jobs Now!
4:38 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Raising Gax Tax "Unwise," Says Quinn, But Offers No Other Ideas

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announces an $8.6 billion, six-year transportation construction program, with Gov. Pat Quinn at her side.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois will invest another eight point six billion dollars into roads, bridges and other projects. It's the latest installment of a major infrastructure plan lawmakers passed in 2010. Now, Governor Pat Quinn is calling for a new one. But he's not saying where the money should come from.

The 2010 infrastructure program - known as Illinois Jobs Now! - has funded thousands of miles of road repairs so far -- paid for by higher taxes on alcohol, candy and soft drinks; a higher license plate fee; and revenue from video poker.

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Election 2014
6:31 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Rauner: "I'm Not Anti Union At All"

Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner gives a speech at the Sangamo Club in Springfield, blocks from the statehouse.
Credit Hannah Meisel

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner says common perceptions about him have it all wrong: he's not against unions and he doesn't want to take away public workers' pensions. Rauner was in Springfield Tuesday for a Sangamon County Republican Foundation fundraiser.

Unions worked hard to prevent Rauner from getting the GOP nomination --- and why not. He constantly talked during the primary about how "government union bosses" were to blame for much of Illinois' ills.

But since he became the nominee, I've yet to hear him publicly use the phrase. I asked him:

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Election 2014
12:14 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Cellini Back On The Political Scene, Backs Rauner

Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, speaks with individuals at a Sangamon County Republican Foundation reception.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is back on the political scene, following his release from prison late last year. He was found guilty of participating in an extortion scheme when Rod Blagojevich was governor.

Cellini attended a Sangamon County Republican Foundation event Tuesday night, which featured Bruce Rauner, the party's nominee for governor.

Cellini says he backed State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary race. But now he's behind Rauner.

"Well I've been a Republican all my life and he's the Republican candidate," Cellini said.

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