Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief / Reporter

217-206-6019

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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Election 2014
3:39 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Polls Showing Illinois Governor's Race A Draw

Bruce Rauner; Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS

Illinois' race for governor is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the nation. And it's impossible to tell who's winning.

For a while, Bruce Rauner was ahead. The Republican private equity investor kept besting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in every poll.

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Education Desk
5:42 am
Mon September 22, 2014

More Campuses "Ready To Respond"

Richland Community College
Credit Richland.edu

College students are back on campus and classes are underway. Parents at some Illinois schools have extra assurance their kids will be safe when they're at school.

Universities and colleges are often ranked, making "best of" lists for one program or the other. 

But only a couple in Illinois have achieved the designation of becoming a "Ready to Respond" campus -- a title given by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency after the school has met criteria, like developing a violence prevention plan and going through training exercises. 

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Election 2014
1:18 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Governor's Race Has A Third Contender; Judge Keeps Libertarians On Ballot

The Libertarian slate faced several obstacles to make it on the ballot; here, candidates hold a press conference to show how many more signatures they had to turn in to the state elections board, compared with Democrats and Republicans. The party's candidate for governor, Chad Grimm, is just to the left of the podium.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Democrats succeeded in getting a slate of Green Party candidates wiped from the November ballot. But the Libertarian Party had enough signatures to withstand a Republican challenge before the State Board of Elections. And now the Libertarians have withstood a court challenge as well.

Sometimes you can actually hear the smile in someone's voice. I didn't actually see Chad Grimm's face upon hearing the news that he'll remain on the ballot as the Libertarian nominee for governor. But, he sure sounded happy.

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Health Desk
10:11 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Despite Outbreak, Illinois Virus Cases Remain Low - Why?

A rare respiratory illness continues to spread. The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first case in New Jersey. But it's hard to tell the status of the outbreak in Illinois. The state was one of the first to have confirmed cases of the enterovirus strain.

It was in mid-to-late August when a Chicago hospital noticed a surge in patients with respiratory problems. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed that of the 14 specimens submitted, 11 tested positive for what is known as enterovirus D68.

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Website Debuts (In Time For The Election)
11:53 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Cullerton: I LIKE Illinois!

The new logo for Senate Democrats' "I Like Illinois" website and project.

Did you know that Betty White was born in Illinois? This, and other tidbits about Illinois' successes, are the subject of a new website. It's intended to counteract some of the negativity that has swirled this election cycle ... and to defend lawmakers' policies. 

No, it's not a project born by the state's tourism department. 

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Statehouse
4:31 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Fracking Rules Action Delayed; Could Be A Sign Of Revision

Activists opposed to fracking in Illinois gather at the state capitol rotunda, prior to passage of the 2013 law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

It will be at least another month before legislators take up regulations of hydraulic fracturing. The Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, or JCAR -- a bipartisan panel -- voted Tuesday to spend more time reviewing, and potentially rewriting, them.

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Election 2014
1:44 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

AFSCME Puts Aside Differences, Endorses Quinn

There was once a time, such as during a protest at the Illinois State Fair in 2012, that union members were comparing Gov. Pat Quinn to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; labor's wrath has turned to Bruce Rauner since he became Republican's nominee for governor.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public employees union has made an about-face in its attitude toward Governor Pat Quinn. Over the weekend, AFSCME leaders endorsed him during a meeting in Peoria. It's a classic case of going with "the devil you know."

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Election 2014
4:11 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Quinn Defends Public Education, Though He's A Product of Private Schools

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

Who Illinois voters choose to be their next governor could make a big difference in how Illinois funds schools, and even where students can go to get an education.

Quinn's agenda seems to leave things basically as-is; taxpayer dollars flow to public schools:

"I believe that the public system of education is the best way to go," Quinn told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board last week.

Not that he has much personal experience in the system.

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Public Safety
5:00 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Plan Would Give Police Cameras, Raise Fines

Credit flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

The question of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri before the shooting death of Michael Brown has renewed a push in Illinois to equip police with cameras.

Body and dashboard cameras for police isn't a new idea;  President of the Illinois's NAACP chapter, George Mitchell, says his organization has been supportive of the concept as far back as 2001.

But he says Ferguson shows why. Mitchell says had the Brown incident been on tape, much of the controversy could have been avoided.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Attacks Get Personal Between Quinn, Rauner

  They no longer had to do it through campaign commercials. Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner faced one another in a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board Tuesday. So far, Quinn, a Democrat, and businessman Rauner, Republican's nominee, have contested one another from a distance. At this appearance, though, they were seated side-by-side.

At times, that led to heated discussions; often the candidates talked over one another.

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Pensions
11:31 pm
Sun September 7, 2014

Moody's: Illinois' "Daunting Pension Challenges" Faced By Its Local Governments Too

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston
Credit ILGA.gov

A new report from Moody's investors service says Illinois still faces "daunting pension challenges" despite a 2013 law intended to curb the state's pension costs. So do its cities. 

The Moody's report lays it out starkly: Illinois' pension burden is significantly higher than other states. And yet Illinois' legal framework gives "very limited" flexibility for dealing with that.

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Town's 175th Anniversary
4:59 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in Arenzville's Burgoo

Burgoo needs to simmer for at least 12 hours, though Soup Master Tony Thomas says it's like chili -- "the longer it cooks, the better it gets."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

There's a farm town about 50 miles to the west of Springfield, in between Jacksonville and Beardstown, called Arenzville. Only about 400 people live there. It's the sort of place where old men gather at the only restaurant in town every Saturday morning for coffee. The sort of place where many of the last names carved into the tombstones at the local cemetery are the same as the last names a teacher is reading off of the class list when she takes attendance at school each morning.

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Election 2014
6:28 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Property Tax Freeze Idea Gives Local Government The Chills

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though your property taxes pay for local services -- not state ones -- they've become an issue in Illinois' race for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner don't agree on much, but both clearly see a winning strategy in promising lower property taxes.

Quinn earlier this year proposed offsetting a higher income tax rate by sending homeowners (not renters) a $500 property tax rebate (though his plan didn't materialize).

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Historic Preservation
5:46 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Dana Thomas House Drying Out, But More Water Works Needed

An old photo of the Dana Thomas House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1902, courtesy of the Dana Thomas House Foundation website.
Credit Dana Thomas House Foundation / http://www.dana-thomas.org/About.aspx

The Dana Thomas House in Springfield is still drying out, after it was closed because of flooding last Thursday. It's a short-term problem that raises a longer-term concern.

The site's manager, Justin Blandford, says the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home is back open to visitors -- though the tours that resumed on Sunday did not go through the basement.

Blandford says the home is in a "drying out" period.

The situation raises broader concerns about what can be done to better protect and preserve the historic home. Blandford says improvements are needed.

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Fracking
3:17 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

DNR Releases Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Drillers and environmentalists alike have been waiting for Illinois to come out with its guidelines for "fracking." The state's Department of Natural Resources finally published its draft Friday.

Hydraulic fracturing has been legal in Illinois for over a year; Governor Pat Quinn signed the law allowing it last June. Speculators began buying up properties in southern Illinois, where it's believed the land has deposits of oil and natural gas, deep under beds of shale. But without specific rules in place, they haven't been able to drill.

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Election 2014
7:30 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

How Politics Steered The Uber Bill

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Gone are the days of standing outside, in the rain, hoping a taxi will pass by. Ridesharing services allow anyone with a smart-phone to download an app and get setup with a ride ... at least in the Chicago where it's available. It hasn't taken off yet elsewhere in Illinois. Even so, the General Assembly this spring passed a controversial measure that would regulate ridesharing statewide. Monday morning, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on why.

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Election 2014
1:07 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

The Real Driver Behind Quinn's Rideshare Regulation Veto

Credit Mike/anotherpintplease via Flickr Creative Commons

Rideshare services have scored a win against Chicago's taxi industry in a battle that began in the legislature and moved on to the race for Illinois governor. Gov. Pat Quinn this morning vetoed a plan that would have established statewide regulations for the on-demand driving service, that let passengers call for rides via smart phone apps.

The minimum wage and what to do about Illinois' income tax are big campaign issues in the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner.

No surprise: these sorts of policy issues will have a big impact statewide.

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Rutan Flouted
8:21 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Inspector's Report Reveals Clout Hiring At IDOT

The Office of Executive Inspector General released a lengthy report detailing hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation that defy the spirit of rules set up to separate political allegiances from employment decisions.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' Executive Inspector General says he has not spoken with federal prosecutors about a 245 page report released Friday. It details a swath of hiring mismanagement at the state's transportation department.

Inspector General Ricardo Meza took the unusual step of holding a press conference to explain the report, which focuses on a practice for which Illinois government has become infamous: patronage.

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Statehouse
3:02 pm
Sun August 24, 2014

Term Limits: The Walking, Talking Dead Constitutional Amendment

Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for governor, tried to put public pressure on the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the term limits case; it didn't work. The Court issued a brief memo on Friday saying simply that it would not hear Rauner's appeal of a lower court ruling that found the question unconstitutional.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

You may know by now that a question regarding term limits has been knocked off the ballot by the courts, but do you know why? Regardless of the court rulings, don't expect the issue to go away.

Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner and his attorneys say they tried to write a proposal that could pass constitutional muster.

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Election 2014
4:06 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

IL Supreme Court Won't Hear Term Limit Question Before Ballot Deadline

Workers load thousands of pages, containing more than 600,000 signatures, of Bruce Rauner's term limit initiative petition onto a truck, for delivery to the State Board of Elections.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Voters will not have a chance to weigh in on legislative term limits in November.

The Illinois Supreme Court this Friday afternoon issued a brief order saying it will not hear the case.

That leaves in place the decision of two lower courts that ruled the question unconstitutional.

In a statement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said that "Springfield career politicians" — like his Democratic opponent, Governor Pat Quinn — won.

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Term limits
3:45 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Appellate Court Confirms: Term Limits Not Eligible For Ballot

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  For the second time, a court has deemed unconstitutional a citizen's initiative to would limit how long Illinois lawmakers can serve.

First, it was a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Now, the decision is from a state appellate court.

Both say the question of term limits for state legislators should not go before voters on the November ballot.

The state Constitution says citizen's initiatives, like this one, must be limited to "structural and procedural" changes to the legislature.

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Statehouse
6:34 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Illinois Takes First Step Toward Drafting Greenhouse Gas Plan

Credit http://franky242.net/shop/image/pile-of-black-coal/

State regulators are beginning to discuss how Illinois will meet new federal requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When energy experts say things are going to get complicated: well, that's saying something. That's pretty much how Jim Ross, an air pollution control manager with Illinois' Environmental Protection Agency, summed up his briefing on the new standards.

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Statehouse
6:21 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Could Illinois Guard Be Called In To Ferguson?

Missouri's governor has brought in the National Guard to help to help deal with rioting in Ferguson, outside of St. Louis. Protests that erupted there over the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, African American teenager, have frequently turned violent.

When there's an extreme emergency, Illinois National Guard units have gone to other states to help. Thousands of troops were sent to New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, for example.

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Statehouse
11:38 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

Why The Rush? Term Limits Decision Time Deadline, Explained

Credit brucerauner.com

Even though Illinois' general election is months away, a controversial ballot question could be answered by the end of this week. Friday is the deadline for a term limits initiative to make it on the ballot.

Republican's nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, has made instituting term limits for legislators a central plank of his campaign.

That would require a constitutional amendment. Rauner funded an effort to collected a half million signatures, so that the question could go before voters this fall.

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Statehouse
12:25 am
Fri August 15, 2014

(Cow) Tipping The Governor's Race

The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, gives a rousing speech at the Illinois State Fair GOP Day. For the first time, gubernatorial candidates chose their running mates.
Credit Hannah Meisel

Politicians are supposed to apologize when they mess up, but typically that doesn't involve saying "I'm sorry" to cows. That's what Governor Pat Quinn says his opponent's running mate needs to do.

Before Republican Bruce Rauner asked her to be his running mate, attorney Evelyn Sanguinetti had made inquiries about getting a job with the state.

Lee Enterprises newspaper reporter Kurt Erickson uncovered that inquiry; which was made via email, to state employee whom Sanguinetti supposedly went to law school with.

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Statehouse
12:03 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Riding A Harley ... To A Republican Victory?

Bruce Rauner rallies Republicans at the Illinois State Fair.
Credit Hannah Meisel

  With summer coming to an end, and the November election getting ever closer, Gov. Pat Quinn and other Illinois Democrats gathered Wednesday in Springfield, for an annual party meeting and rally. But Thursday, Republicans had their day. The GOP hopes it'll be their year.

There's no "normal" way to get to the area on the Illinois State Fairgrounds where Republicans had their gathering.

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Election 2014
9:29 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Mascots, Class Warfare, Rallies: Democrats Fight To Hold Onto Power

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state. Illinois sends double as many Democrats to Washington as it does Congressional Republicans. The state legislature tips heavily in favor of Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities. And it has been more than a decade since a Republican last sat in Illinois' governor's seat.

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Election 2014
2:12 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

White Calls Governor's Contest "A Dog Race"

Jesse White

One of Illinois' most popular Democrats is expressing doubts about Governor Pat Quinn's chances.  It's an annual event; hundreds of Democrats get together at a Springfield hotel for breakfast and speeches, before heading out to the state fairgrounds.  It's part reunion, part rally.

But as he headed into the event, Secretary of State Jesse White was candid about his fears that November's election may not go well for Democrats ... or at least for the Democrat near the top of the ticket, Gov. Pat Quinn.

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Illinois State Fair
1:56 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Doilies, Christmas Trees, and Magnets: Judging The Fair's Contests

A sheep gets ready to be shown off for an Illinois State Fair contest -- one of the more popular ones, a livestock competition.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

For most of the thousands of people who go to the Illinois State Fair each summer, it's about fun -- the carnival rides, and corn dogs. But for others it's about competition. There are awards given for everything from longest ponytail to -- feminists, beware! --husband-calling. Not to mention the livestock events, which crown the best of the breeds. But what grabbed my attention was the "hobbies," where bakers, crafters and collectors have their chance at glory. First, they have to win over the judges.

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Election 2014
9:55 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Rauner: "Nothing Sinister" About Cayman Investments

Republican candidates for governor Bruce Rauner, a former private equity investor, answers questions from the media at the Illinois State Fair Thursday evening.
Credit John Knowles

Bruce Rauner says there's "nothing sinister" about venture capital firms using the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter, but says he has never used the investment vehicle for his personal benefit. 

A recent report by the Chicago Sun-Times details that a portion of his earnings have connections to the Cayman Islands -- considered a tax haven for the wealthy.

Until he stepped down to run for governor, Rauner was head of a capital investment firm, GTCR, which has several investment pools there.

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