Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ Leadership Blog

217-206-6019

Read Amanda's "Leadership" blog.

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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Veto Session
4:52 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Plan To Hasten Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Sponsors of the same-sex marriage bill - Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy ( (D-Chicago) - approved by the General Assembly on Tuesday hand-deliver it to Gov. Pat Quinn (far left) in his ceremonial office at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gay and lesbian couples may not have to wait until June to marry in Illinois. A lawmaker is moving to accelerate when same-sex marriage becomes legal.

Already, same-sex couples are hurrying to take advantage of the marriage legislation approved on Tuesday. That very night, Rep. Sam Yingling, a Lake County Democrat who's openly gay, got engaged. "Well, we don't have a date yet, but I will certainly let you know when we do," he said.

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Gay Legislator Proposes
12:06 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Governor: Will Sign Same-Sex Marriage "Pretty Soon"

The same-sex marriage legislation approved yesterday, Nov. 5, by the Illinois General Assembly will become law by the end of the month.

Gov. Pat Quinn hosted a party last night at the executive mansion in Springfield to celebrate. The festivities morphed into an engagement party when one of a handful of openly gay legislators, Rep. Sam Yingling, D - Grayslake, proposed to his partner.

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Tax Credits
6:46 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Legislators Set To Give Tax Breaks ... But Not Yet, ADM

Director of Illinois' Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity testifies at the House revenue committee about tax incentive options offered to companies looking to locate to Illinois, or threatening to leave the state.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  State legislators are advancing a measure that attempts to lure chemical plant jobs to Illinois, but broader plans to offer companies like ADM incentives are not ready just yet. 

Archer Daniels Midland is the highest-profile case of a company looking for a tax break from the state, in exchange for creating jobs. In ADM's case, the company is looking to move its global headquarters from Decatur to ... maybe Chicago, maybe a city in another state.

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Same-Sex Marriage Vote Possible
6:22 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Heavy Veto Session Agenda

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, is a member of the conference committee tasked with negotiating a pension deal.
Credit ILGA.gov

  Illinois legislators are scheduled to finish out their veto session this week. Their back-loaded agenda ranges from dealing with budget matters to social issues.

The first week of the veto session late last month went by with little of substance accomplished.

But what the General Assembly didn't touch then is back now.

Like tax packages designed to keep companies, like Archer Daniels Midland, headquartered in Illinois.

It also appears the sponsor of stalled same-sex marriage legislation is leaning toward calling it for a vote in the House.

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Health Desk
6:10 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Mammography In 3D

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; during the fall veto session, doctors traveled to Springfield to show state legislators how 3D mammography (the scientific term is tomosynthesis) works, and its benefits.
Credit File photo

  Illinois requires insurance companies to cover routine mammograms, but that doesn't necessarily include a new method of detecting breast cancer.

A mammogram is a low-dose of x-rays doctors use to spot breast cancer. An important tool, to be sure, but one that can result in false-positives.

Dr. Sarah Friedewald says that'll happen a lot less if women also get a 3D mammogram. Likewise, she says, the new technology makes it easier to spot abnormalities.

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Fiscal Focus
4:30 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Report: Deficit Expected Even If Tax Hike Stays

Credit flickr/borman18

  Even if Illinois keeps its higher income tax rate, a new report projects the state is headed toward deficit spending. 

Illinois residents are paying a 5-percent tax on their income. It's been that way since 2011.

According to a new report from the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, that tax money helped balance Illinois' budget this year.

But economist David Merriman, who directed the project, says that won't last.

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Farm Bill And SNAP
5:19 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Food Stamp Cut "Will Affect Our Population Big Time"

The future of SNAP, the program which funds what are commonly referred to as food stamps, is up for debate as Congress attempts to authorize a new Farm Bill. An increase passed by Congress in 2009 to food stamps expires at the end of the month.
Credit Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

  Food pantries and homeless shelters say they're beginning to notice repercussions of a reduction in food stamps that will take effect Fri., Nov. 1. A temporary hike in benefits that kicked as a result of the recession expires this week.

Individuals enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, could see their benefits cut by $11 a month. A family of four could see a decrease of $36.

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Pensions
6:15 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Quinn Not Ready To Talk Taxes

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Though he supported Illinois' income tax hike in the past, Governor Pat Quinn is so far unwilling to take a stance on whether it should expire.

This fiscal year, Illinois is putting $6.8 billion toward pensions. An amount that's more than covered by how much money the state took in from a higher income tax rate -- the increase alone is projected to pull in almost $8 billion this year.

But that raises the question: how will Illinois function when the income tax revenues begin to decrease?

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Veto Session
7:08 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Legislators Skip Town Early

  Illinois legislators were supposed to meet this week for three days as part of the fall veto session; instead they left Springfield after only two.

Little was accomplished during that time. Despite competing rallies, the Illinois House did not vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, whether state agencies, including the state police, will receive additional money remains unsettled, and there was no action on Illinois' pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation.

It can give the impression that legislators are not doing their jobs.

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Same-Sex Marriage
6:27 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Rallying Cry For Marriage: One Man, One Woman

LInda Jernigan of Richton Park (a suburb of Chicago) says she used to be a lesbian, but God saved her; she says marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A day after supporters of same-sex marriage rallied at the Illinois Capitol, opponents had their turn. Thousands gathered at the statehouse Wednesday, Oct. 23, urging the Illinois House to uphold traditional marriage.

The event started with a prayer led by Monsignor Carl Kemme, of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

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Pensions And Pay
6:13 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Turning The Tables: Legislator Files To Cut Quinn's Budget

Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, says "the chief executive has attacked the legislature, which shows how dysfunctional we are. If they haven't done their job, then they shouldn't get the full appropriation that we did, and I suggest that that appropriation be cut."
Credit ILGA.gov

  Several months after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed legislators' salaries from the state budget -- one lawmaker wants to turn the tables on him.

Gov. Quinn says lawmakers shouldn't be paid until they overhaul the state's pensions. A judge rejected that move and the governor's appeal is still pending before the state Supreme Court, so lawmakers are getting their paychecks.

Nevertheless, legislators are still offended by Quinn's "attack," as Rep. David Harris, R - Arlington Heights, describes it.

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Same-Sex Marriage
5:40 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Politics, Romance, Practicality and Religion Mix in Marriage Debate

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Back on Valentine's Day, the state Senate approved legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to get married in Illinois. The hope then was that Illinois would become the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.  Eight months later, it still hasn't happened.

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Same Sex Marriage
3:59 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

March For Marriage, But No Vote Certain

Supporters of same sex marriage huddled under umbrellas as they cheered on musicians and politicians at a rally in front of the capitol Tuesday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Rain didn't stop advocates for same-sex marriage, who rallied under umbrellas by the hundreds in front of the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, Oct. 22. A measure to legalize same-sex marriage passed the state Senate earlier this year, but has stalled in the Illinois House.

There were two types of headliners:

-musicians, like Marcus Terrell, of "America's Got Talent" fame, who sang a "song about true love" ("and as we all know here today true love in any form is just natural," he said).

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Veto Session 2013
7:50 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Preview: Fall Veto Session

Advocates pass out fliers promoting it during the Pride Parade in Chicago over the summer; despite an intense campaign to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois, the legislation's sponsor remains tight-lipped about whether he has the 60 votes needed for it to pass in the House.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

For the first time since a brief special session in July,legislators will begin making their way en masse to Springfield this week, for the fall veto session. The agenda before them is relatively light. The General Assembly will likely debate some budget matters. And there's a hearing on a new type of health care coverage for retired state employees. Amanda Vinicky previews what else is ahead.

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Pension Overhaul
5:07 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Quinn Responds To Pension Absence, Begins Reach Out

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to leading Democrats in September as he seeks the state party's endorsement in his campaign for re-election; critics say the governor has been concerned about politics, rather than policy, when it comes to pensions -- for example by stripping legislators of their salaries as punishment for not passing a bill, even as he was absent from negotiations.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.

It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.

But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.

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Pension Overhaul - Updated
7:23 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Gov. Quinn "AWOL" From Pension Committee's Talks

The ten members of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee formed to come up with a pension package gather in Chicago in July, for one of the panel's few public meetings. Gov. Pat Quinn did not attend.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

As he runs for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn is staking a lot on getting something done with pensions. He making a show of asking the state Supreme Court let him cancel legislators' salaries until it's done, and he says he won't deal with other major issues before the General Assembly -- like using tax credits to keep ADM headquartered in Illinois -- until there's what he calls a "comprehensive pension solution." But it's hard to tell just what that means. Most of the ten legislators he tasked with crafting that solution don't even seem to know. They say he's been largely absent ...

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Pension Overhaul
5:24 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Pension Committee Considering Adding 401(k) Option

Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, sits on the pension conference committee. "There's some concern over ... frankly whether pension systems should get in the business of the market... and philosophically do we really want to go down this road when there's members of these systems that believe all we need to do is make our payment, rightfully so," he says of defined contribution plans.
Credit MikeZalewski.com

With an eye toward reaching an agreement in time for the upcoming veto session, legislators on a special pension committee met Friday in Chicago. The conversations focused on giving state employees and teachers a new style of retirement plan.

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Nation/World
11:53 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Former Speaker Hastert Discusses Government Shutdown

Credit npr

Denny Hastert wasn't the Speaker of the U.S. House during the last government shutdown, but he was an Illinois Congressman in 1995 and '96. He told Amanda Vinicky this time is different.

Hastert says back then, Republicans were trying to get a handle on spending. He says it worked.

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Election 2014
2:16 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Court Case Could Upend Illinois Campaign Caps

Credit flickr/borman18

The scandal that brought down former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich led to campaign-contribution caps in Illinois. Advocates of the limits are fearful a case set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday could upend their efforts.

 The campaign finance law Illinois politicians passed in 2009 restricts how much cash companies, unions and people can give to individual candidates. Theoretically, you can give that maximum contribution to every state candidate in Illinois.

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Drilling Rules In Draft Stage
5:38 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

DNR Opens Fracking Registration

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

Illinois is a ways off from allowing oil and gas drillers to begin "fracking" but companies that are interested can begin the paperwork.

Environmentalists lost their fight to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Lawmakers instead decided to open Illinois to a practice that's been an economic boon in other states.

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Pensions And Pay
4:08 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Comptroller: All Legislative Paychecks Processed

  After going without pay for three months, Illinois legislators' paychecks are in the bank.

Serving as a state senator or representative is technically a part-time job -- and for some, it is. For others, it is a full-time gig and sole source of income.

Which made it tough when Gov. Pat Quinn canceled General Assembly members' pay over the summer because they failed to pass legislation to cut pension costs.

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Obamacare Politics
6:59 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown Early Campaign Fodder

Congressman Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, issued a statement says is "ready and willing to work with my colleagues" until the government reaches a funding agreement.
Credit U.S. House

  A day into the federal government shutdown, it's already turning into campaign fodder for next year's election.

Congressman Rodney Davis is facing competition from both sides as he aims to hold onto his central Illinois seat. The Taylorville Republican is looking at a primary challenge from former Miss America Erika Harold; three candidates are trying for the Democratic nomination: University of Illinois physicist George Gollin, U of I social policy analyst David Green and former Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.

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Get Covered Illinois
5:22 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Insurance Plan Prices Under ACA Unveiled

  The most visible part of the Affordable Care Act has arrived. Today, Illinois residents without insurance will be able to go to the "Get Covered Illinois" website to begin shopping for healthcare plans.

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Pension Overhaul
6:46 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Pension Conference Committee Progress Report

Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville (left) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, discuss estimated savings of a previous plan designed to cut the state's pension costs.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

It is approaching four months since the Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session. Lawmakers have missed two paychecks since the governor decided to punish them for not passing a pension overhaul. And a special committee has been negotiating over how to solve the pension problem for more than 12 weeks. Amanda Vinicky checks in with members of that committee for a progress report.
 

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Health Desk
3:51 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

ACA Insurance Plans May Be Cheaper, But At What Cost?

Credit flickr

  Although the grand opening of the Affordable Care Act is only a week away, Illinois is still waiting on the federal government to approve the insurance plans that will be available through it.  Even so, the governor today announced it will cost less to get coverage than originally expected.

Illinois submitted 165 different insurance plans to the federal government. Until the feds sign off on them, it's impossible for someone looking to buy insurance from the Obamacare "marketplace" to know how much they should plan to spend.

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Election 2014
4:28 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Democrats To Slate ... Even Though There's No Competition

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a previous meeting of leading Democrats - the party's county chairmen - in Springfield this summer. Durbin, who's running for re-election, is expected to attend Sunday's meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee in Springfield. He faces no primary challenge.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois' leading Democrats will meet in Springfield on Sunday. They're supposed to decide endorse candidates for next year's primary election ... even though there are no longer any competitive races.

Democrats have rarely slated candidates in recent years.

But this time - with incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn facing a primary challenge from former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley - the state party was going to consider picking a favorite.

Not anymore. Daley's no longer in the running. He dropped out. Leaving Quinn without a serious challenge.

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The Underwear Test
7:35 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Resolution Calls on Governor To Live in Mansion On Session Days

In downtown Chicago, the city's flag and the state flag fly side-by-side. Gov. Quinn's office says he lives in both Chicago and in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  You never know what'll come up during a candidates' debate. Back in 2010, it was Gov. Pat Quinn's underwear.

As proof that he lives in Springfield, Quinn offered that he keeps his underwear at the governor's mansion.

It's become clear he also keeps pairs in Chicago.

Like his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, Quinn has repeatedly come under fire for not spending enough time in the capital.

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Health Desk
6:49 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Public vs. Private Job To Scrub State Medicaid Rolls

Director of Illinois' Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Julie Hamos
Credit Illinois.gov

  Illinois' attempts to remove ineligible people from the state's Medicaid rolls are on hold, as Illinois and its largest public employees' union fight over who should actually do the scrubbing. The state says it will appeal a ruling that says it has to cancel its $77 million dollar contract with an outside firm.

Big changes are ahead for Medicaid, the state's health insurance program for the poor. Hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to be added to the rolls under the federal health care law.

But first, Illinois wants to remove people who are ineligible.

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Election 2014
12:01 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Daley Drops Out Of Governor's Race

Bill Daley attended a Democratic County Chairmen Association breakfast this summer during his brief campaign for governor. Following his speech, Daley said that if Democrats again nominate Gov. Pat Quinn, Republicans will win in the general election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley will not run for Illinois governor after all. His campaign spokesman says Daley will explain more at a press conference in Chicago Tuesday morning.

Daley has flirted with running for office before, only to back out.

This time, he insisted he was in it for keeps. In a campaign video about two months ago, Daley said "I'm committed to running for governor. There is no exploratory piece in this anymore."

But Daley's campaign confirmed Monday night that he's dropping out of the race.

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Capitol Renovations
3:26 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Architect: Quinn's Comments Are "Out Of Line"

Capitol architect Richard Alsop leads a meeting Friday of the board that oversees him; the governor's criticisms were not discussed reporters asked Alsop about it after the meeting adjourned.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The architect of the Illinois Capitol is swinging back at Governor Pat Quinn's accusations that he's responsible for controversial purchases, like $670-thousand dollar copper doors for the Statehouse.

Construction crews spent years renovating the state Capitol's west wing, but its unveiling has been tarnished by reports of what the rehab included, like doors that are as expensive as a large home and chandeliers that rang up to $320,000.

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