Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ The Players Blog

217-206-6019

Read Amanda's "The Players" 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. 

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).

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.

Gov. Pat Quinn
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.

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 ...

Mike Zalewski
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.

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.

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.

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.

  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.

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.

  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.

Reps. Darlene Senger (left) and Elaine Nekritz discuss pensions in a Statehouse conference room.
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.
 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

flickr/r.nial.bradshaw

The price of insurance policies that will be offered under the federal health care overhaul remain a mystery, even to state officials.

Oct. 1 will be a big day across the country for President Barack Obama's signature health care law. It's the launch date for insurance marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act's term for where people without insurance will be able to shop for coverage.

Amanda Vinicky

  The Governor says he's put a hold on future renovations of Illinois' Statehouse, a move his challenger calls too little, too late.

The fuss over how much money the state has spent redoing the west wing of the Illinois Capitol continues to brew. Some of the $50 million dollar project was done to fix ventilation issues and bring the building up to fire code, but $323,000 paid for gargantuan chandeliers created to look like antiques, and nearly $700,000 was spent on a set of copper doors.

Amanda Vinicky

As gas prices rise and fall, there's one constant: however much you pay to fill your gas tank, it's taxed. Several proposals would change how.

In Illinois, gasoline is taxed twice.

"What we have in Illinois is a tax on a tax," Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) says. "Which is just wrong. Because right now we get charged with the motor fuel tax. But then on top of that, they charge a sales tax."

Amanda Vinicky

After twelve years as President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Doug Whitley's retiring next year.

Whitley says he's leaving disappointed, as the latest data showed Illinois with the second highest unemployment in the nation, behind Nevada.

And he says political leaders haven't done enough about it, except for one - Chicago's mayor: "With the exception of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I don't hear any other political leaders in our state talking about jobs, trying to recruit jobs, trying to announce new jobs and showing a sincere concern with unemployment," Whitley says.

ILGA.gov

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work.

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it - saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits. Business groups say it doesn't go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

Amanda Vinicky

  This week officially kicks off campaign season. Tuesday was the first day candidates could begin collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot. Still some of the leading candidates can't start yet.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates have to prove voters want them there. In the case of Democrats and Republicans running for governor, that means getting signatures from no less than 5,000 and no more than 10,000 members of his party.

Amanda Vinicky

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.   He says he'll donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort.   Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview:

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Gaming Board is set to consider lifting a restriction that forbids casinos from staying open 24 hours a day. 

Illinois' casinos have previously tried, and failed, to get the okay to keep their doors open 24-7. Now they're trying again. The Gaming Board will consider a proposal Sept. 14.

Reps. Jim Durkin and Raymond Poe
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  In a rare turn of events, Illinois' General Assembly will have a leadership change mid-way through the two-year legislative session. It's set in motion by House Republican Leader Tom Cross's decision to step down, he's expected to soon announce a run for state treasurer. Republican members of the House met Thursday in Springfield to choose his replacement. Longtime Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) claimed the title.

It wasn't supposed to happen so fast.

Amanda Vinicky

   For the first time, candidates for governor in Illinois will choose their second in command. They used to get stuck with whomever primary voters choose for lieutenant governor -- whether the two got along or not. It's an opportunity for candidates to find a running mate they work well with, or perhaps someone to balance out the ticket. Still, the new selection process might have unintended consequences.

 

Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, Raymond Poe
Illinois House of Representatives

Republicans in the Illinois House will meet Thursday afternoon in Springfield to select a new leader. A letter obtained by WUIS says finding a replacement for outgoing Minority Leader Tom Cross is "of the utmost urgency."

It was less than a week ago that Minority Leader Tom Cross announced he was stepping down — he's expected to instead run for state treasurer.

Seventeen House Republicans signed a letter officially scheduling the meeting Thursday. They say there's no time to waste in electing Cross' successor.

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