Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ The Players Blog


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. 

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Details are out on what the leaders of Illinois' General Assembly want to do to the state's retirement systems. They've released an outline of their deal.

After years of debate about what to do about the $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability Illinois has racked up for its pension systems, legislative leaders announced on Wednesday they had agreed to a deal. But they were tight-lipped about what all it involved.

That information has now been spelled out in a one-page overview, a memo passed out to members of the House and Senate.

Amanda Vinicky

  The leaders of Illinois' General Assembly have reached a deal on pensions. But now they have to persuade legislators to go along with it. The House and Senate will meet in Springfield Tuesday (12/3) to debate the measure.

It's the first time the four leaders of the House and Senate have come together on a plan dealing with the state's pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation. Details are forthcoming, but House Speaker Michael Madigan came out of a meeting in Chicago saying it will save $160 billion.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Pat Quinn has been surpassed as the nation's least-liked governor, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling. Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania's Republican Gov., Tom Corbett, can now claim that title. But the new poll shows Quinn could still have a hard time holding on to his seat.

It was about this time last year, that numbers from Public Policy Polling showed Democrat Pat Quinn as the most unpopular governor in the country.

Amanda Vinicky

  Candidates looking to run in the March primary began filing their paperwork today (11/25) with the State Board of Elections. Anyone who was in line by 8 a.m. gets a chance at the top spot on the ballot. Six men who want to be Illinois' next governor made that deadline.

Campaigns waited in a long line, despite a forecast of snow, so that they could get their petitions in. Some candidates send staffers as surrogates, including Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and one of his four Republican challengers, Bruce Rauner.

Bruce Rauner
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner continues to rake in major contributions since he lifted Illinois' new campaign finance cap last week. While Rauner's opponents are freed from caps as well, he's the been the only one to get such major, and immediate, benefit.

State filings from yesterday (11/21) afternoon show Illinois' richest man, Ken Griffin, pitching in $250,000 to Rauner's campaign.

It's the second time this week Rauner received a donation worth a quarter of a million dollars.

Amanda Vinicky

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, an occasion observed at the start of the day at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

There's a line in the Gettysburg Address, where Lincoln wrote "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."

And yet, 150 years later, a Lincoln impersonator was repeating the 16th President, reenacting the brief, yet poignant, speech, at the stroke of midnight.

Sean Powers/WILL

  State officials say victims of yesterday's (Nov. 17) storms should take extra care in documenting their material losses. Illinois learned the hard way why that can be important.

About two years ago, seven people died in the tornadoes that rocked Harrisburg, in deep southern Illinois. And yet the state was denied a request for federal assistance. That meant home and business owners could not get federal loans, grants and other aide.

Amanda Vinicky

  After Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act did not work, Congressman Aaron Schock says lawmakers need to lift requirements on insurance policies. Today (Nov. 11) he toured his district, in an attempt to prove his point.

Congressman Aaron Schock, R - Peoria, says the Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health insurance more affordable, "and yet millions of Americans are seeing their health insurance do exactly the opposite -- and that is to go up."

Amanda Vinicky

  Another legislative session has gone by without a solution in place to bring down the amount Illinois owes the state's retirement systems. Given the clamoring from the governor, business leaders and credit rating agencies for lawmakers to do something about it, legislators mentioned relatively little about pensions before adjourning from their fall veto session last week ... which may well be a sign that something is afoot; there's talk of legislators returning before the year's end to deal with pensions.

 Overhauling Illinois' pension systems is no longer in the hands of the special committee of legislators that met all summer. How to reduce the state’s $100 billion of long-term pension debt is now in the hands of the General Assembly's four leaders.

All summer long, state employees and retirees concerned about their retirement benefits had their eyes on a bipartisan conference committee, but insiders say even the key panel members are no longer part of discussions.

The General Assembly's four leaders (who are really always in charge) are taking the reins.

Bridgeport Public Schools (

Governor Pat Quinn has finally named his running mate. It's a once-notable Illinois politician who's been out-of-state for the past decade.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor. Conventional, political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has selected former head of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas as his running mate.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor.

Conventional political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

Instead, the governor surprised observers and picked Paul Vallas.  

Amanda Vinicky

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he has not visited since his son reported to federal prison late last month.

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is serving two-and-a-half years in a North Carolina penitentiary. He was convicted of corruption for spending $750,000 of his campaign fund on personal spoils.

"Well his health has been recovering and that has been, as father, the most important thing to me. He has been diligent in doing his work. And I have nothing further to say about that," Rev. Jackson said at the Capitol Thursday (11/7).

Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators wrapped up their two-week veto session this afternoon (Nov. 7), though they may be back in Springfield before the year's end.

The General Assembly knocked one, big item off its to-do list: same-sex marriage. After intense lobbying on both sides, lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor a measure that will allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The rest of the major issues on the General Assembly's agenda remain:

-a tax package crafted to ensure Archer Daniels Midland keeps its headquarters in Illinois is on hold

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.

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.

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.

  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.

Mammography In 3D

Oct 30, 2013
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.


  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.

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.

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?

  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.

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.

  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.

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.

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 ...