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. 

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.

IDES

With national unemployment at its lowest level since the start of the Great Recession, the numbers keep going the wrong way in several parts of Illinois.

Peoria, Danville, and Decatur all saw unemployment increase by more than a percentage point.

Still, Gov. Pat Quinn defends his administration's efforts at building the economy.  Thursday, he announced that a German manufacturer will move its U-S headquarters to Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, a move Quinn says could create 40 jobs.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public pension fund hit a major low in 2012, its rate of return was less than one percent.  But an early analysis shows the last fiscal year was better than expected. The success isn’t expected to make much of a dent in Illinois’ nearly $100 billion dollar pension liability, however, which lawmakers thus far have failed to tackle.   

flickr/theeggplant

Illinois' top speed limit will go up on many highways beginning in January.  Governor Pat Quinn has signed a new law increasing the speed limit from 65 to 70 m.p.h.                
Quinn bucked the advice of his Department of Transportation, which opposed the legislation.
IDOT says a higher speed limit will raise average speeds leading to more crashes and fatalities.
But the measure's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Costello (D_Smithton) says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds ... not because of higher speeds.

ILGA.gov

Tossing trash anywhere besides a garbage will soon cost you no matter where you are in Illinois.  A new law imposes a statewide fine for littering.

State Senator Bill Haine hates litter, saying "it's irresponsible, it pollutes beautiful environments, God's creation, it creates ugliness."

He hates it so much, he says he goes around his neighborhood in Alton, picking it up himself.

"We don't have a dog anymore, but I use a Pooper Scooper, which is a remarkably efficient way to pick up litter," he says.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

 A year-and-a-half after his stroke, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk returned to central Illinois for the first time this week.  Members of his party gave him a warm welcome at a Republican rally Thursday at the Illinois State Fair. 

Senator Kirk made his way slowly across the stage, aided by a cane. It has been a long, slow, partial recovery since his stroke last January.

Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois Democrats put on happy faces Wednesday in Springfield for one of the party's biggest annual gatherings.  But even as they brushed off suggestions of turmoil and division within their ranks, a prominent member of the party was being sentenced to prison, another didn't show up and there's a battle for the top of the state Democratic ticket.  

A state fair is a place for tradition: carnival rides, corn dogs, barnyard animals.  And politicians.

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn already has one primary challenger, but there's talk he may get more. 

A lot of politicians are heading to the capital city this week; it's the State Fair, and a time for annual political meetings and rallies.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul was driving down from Chicago Tuesday afternoon, in time for his fundraiser last night at a Springfield bar.

Illinois' public universities could have to share more of their research, under a new state law. 

Pick a subject. Any subject.  And two things are likely true:

-someone at a university is researching it, and

-the results of that research are getting published, probably in a scholarly journal.

There's the journal of Sewage and Industrial Wastes. Contemporary European History. The African Music Society Newsletter ...  all of which gets the information out to experts in the given field.

Amanda Vinicky

  The state fair got its start Thursday night with the Twilight parade through the north end of the capital city.  It's an annual tradition.  But indications are that another tradition -- a Democratic party rally  -- will not continue this year.  

There were cheerleaders, bands, children scrambling for candy, and of course, a parade of politicians.

The Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, Lieutenant Governor were all there.

First in that line: Governor Pat Quinn and an army of supporters and staffers, wearing his trademark kelly green campaign t-shirts.

Medical marijuana may be legal in his home state, but the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate says that shouldn't be a national policy.  

It'll be awhile before patients with certain diseases will actually be able to use pot to ease their symptoms - the Illinois law doesn't take effect until January, and state regulators have to put rules in place.

Even so, clinics  - including one in Chicago  - are already beginning to open.

Of course, it defies federal law.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's not ready for the feds to change course.

Medical marijuana may be legal in his home state, but the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate says that shouldn't be a national policy.
It will be awhile before patients with certain diseases will actually be able to use pot to ease their symptoms - the Illinois law doesn't take effect until January, and state regulators have to put rules in place.
Even so ... clinics ... including one in Chicago ... are already beginning to open.
Of course, it defies federal law.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's not ready for the feds to change course.

Illinois' prison systems have misplaced $200,000 of computer equipment.  As Amanda Vinicky reports, the state's auditor general says that poses security risks. 

105 laptops are missing from the Illinois Department of Corrections - plus an additional 51 desktops.

According to a new audit,there's a risk confidential information stored on the computers could be exposed.

But D.O.C. spokesman Tom Shaer says that's not likely.

"We don't believe that these computers are laying around somewhere compromising security."

Secretary of State's Office

Jesse White was first elected Secretary of State in 1998 - a position he's running for again in 2014. 

The Chicago Democrat told Amanda Vinicky that's what's determining his stance on the race at the top of the ballot, as Governor Pat Quinn faces primary opposition from Bill Daley.  

But before they talked politics, White told Vinicky about why he believes three new laws the governor signed Monday, August 5th will make the roads safer:

Secretary of State's Office / Secretary of State

  Illinois has a trio of new laws that officials say will make the roads safer.  But the governor has yet to act on other measures that could have a significant impact on drivers.

Two of the new laws apply to people who've already had traffic troubles, like one named after 15-year-old Kelsey Little, who was seriously hurt in 2011 when she was hit by a teen just learning how to drive.

Illinois legislators were supposed to get their next monthly paycheck on Thursday, August 1st.  But Governor Pat Quinn vetoed their salaries out of the budget.  Amanda Vinicky reports on how lawmakers may be able to get by.

Many legislators won't feel the pinch too deeply.

Serving in the General Assembly is technically a part-time occupation ... and many own businesses, are partners at law firms, or have other government jobs.  

But many don't, and are their family's sole breadwinner.

igpa.uillinois.edu/person/christopher-z-mooney

University of Illinois Springfield political scientist Chris Mooney will take over next month as the head of U of I's Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

WUIS listeners know Mooney as a frequent panelist on State Week in Review.

Mooney says the Institute's researchers and professors can bring together the university's resources to help lawmakers deal with the state's problems.

An influential group of business executives is declining to comment on the possibility it helped to lower Illinois' credit rating. But public employees’ unions are calling for an investigation.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago — and one of its leaders, former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner — were early leaders of the charge to do something about the state's underfunded pensions.

Fahner's been one of the most vocal advocates of doing not just something, but something major, to bring down the state's pension costs.

Amanda Vinicky

  A former state legislator is the latest in a string of Illinois politicians to come under federal scrutiny for misconduct.  Wednesday,  longtime Rep. Connie Howard pleaded guilty to mail fraud.  

Though she'd served since 1995, Connie Howard is no longer a member of the House. 

Wednesday is the last day individuals affected by extreme flooding in the spring can apply for federal assistance.
Towns were evacuated.  Homes destroyed.  Fields turned to swamps. Rivers reached historic crests.
Flooding that hit Illinois this spring was bad enough that President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for certain counties.
Now is the deadline for Illinois residents impacted by flash and river flooding from April 16 to May 5 to get government help with recovery.
Individual assistance - which businesses can also apply for - is available to residents of 35 counties.  That's to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses.
Five additional counties are eligible for public assistance - that's for the state, local governments and certain non-profit groups, who can use the money to help with debris removal and to help repair damaged public facilities.
The application is at disasterassistance.gov.

Even as Congress looks to further roll back President Barack Obama's signature health care program, his home state is officially implementing a key part of it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on a new Illinois law expanding Medicaid.

                                                          

For the first time, low-income adults without children will be eligible for Medicaid.

Specifically ... adults within 138-percent of the poverty level, so someone making just under $16,000.

A somewhat unlikely coalition is calling on Illinois' Congressional delegation to support an overhaul of the nation's immigration policy.       

                                                                           

At a Springfield roundtable discussing immigration, Mark Peters, an attorney with Peoria-based Caterpillar, started off his remarks by saying: "This would be a ... a really bad preface to a poor joke about a sheriff, a lawyer and a priest going into a bar..."

Crain's Chicago Business

WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky speaks with John Kohlhepp, the newly selected Campaign Director for Illinois Unites for Marriage.  The coalition is pouring about $2M into a new push to get same-sex marriage legislation approved in the Illinois House. 

Amanda Vinicky

  With Attorney General Lisa Madigan out of the race for Governor,  incumbent Pat Quinn turned his focus to another potential opponent,  Bill Daley.  It's an early indication of the campaign to come.

                                           

Republicans have a somewhat crowded field of four candidates hoping to be Illinois' next Governor.

For now, though, Democrats have only two: former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Governor Pat Quinn.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan
flickr.com/jrockefelleriv

After months of speculation that Gov. Pat Quinn would face a primary challenge from Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General announced Monday she would not run for governor.

Madigan says she will seek a fourth term instead of challenging Quinn for the Democratic nomination.

ammoland.com

Illinois lawmakers thought they were in the clear after meeting a federal court's deadline to pass a concealed carry law by Tuesday.  But the Illinois State Rifle Association says that's not good enough.

The Rifle Association believes lawmakers did not meet their deadline because the state's ban on carrying guns outside the home remains in effect.

Amanda Vinicky

  Governor Pat Quinn had harsh criticism for a bipartisan panel of legislators assigned to draft a new plan to reduce the state's pension costs.  He wanted legislation passed Tuesday.  Lawmakers say they're close, but Quinn is not helping.  

Quinn was quick to criticize lawmakers' failure to pass pension legislation in time to meet his July 9 due date.

Sen. Kwame Raoul
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says his July 9 deadline for a pension overhaul stands, even though the leader of a special legislative panel formed to come up with a solution says there's no way to meet it.

It was a similar story about this time last year. 

Concealed carry debate
Chris Slaby/WUIS

With a week to go before a deadline requiring Illinois allow people to carry guns in public, Gov. Pat Quinn today vetoed the legislation that would have authorized concealed carry.  The Democrat claims he's concerned about public safety, but he's already under fire by critics who say it's a political stunt. The measure's sponsor has already filed paperwork to override Quinn's changes.

Illinois is the only state in the nation without some form of concealed carry.

A concealed firearm.
Mark Holloway via Flickr

  Illinois is quickly approaching a federal court's deadline of July 9 for the state to have a concealed carry law.

Every other state has some type of law that lets an average person carry a gun in public. But not Illinois where only those in certain professions can - namely police, retired law enforcement and security guards on the job.

Illinois is under a court order to lift that ban.

Legislators crafted a plan for how they want it done.   Now everyone's waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn to take action.

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