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. 

The current situation at the Illinois Statehouse as lawmakers and the Governor enter the scheduled closing weekend of the legislative session.  Rick Pearson of The Chicago Tribune joins the panel this week.

Parts of Illinois Democrats' $36 billion budget have now been approved by the General Assembly. But that doesn't mean they're going to the governor - at least not yet.

Think back civics class. You know the drill: in order for a bill to become a law, it has to first pass the legislature, and then be signed by the executive branch.

The first part is getting done - by Democrats, who control Illinois' General Assembly.

A new plan to expand gambling in Illinois is emerging, but it could get caught up in a larger battle. Details are expected to surface on Thursday.

Illinois would get five new casinos under Sen. Terry Link's latest proposal. They'd go to Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. It could also add so-called "satellite" casinos in places like Decatur.

As with previous proposals, horse race tracks would be able to get slot machines.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's office appears to be preparing in case there's a strike. The state's contract with its largest public employees' union, AFSCME, expires on June 30, when the state's fiscal year ends.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a plan that seeks to curb the abuse of heroin and painkilling drugs.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Heavyweights from each of Illinois' public universities gathered for a rare meeting at the state Capitol yesterday.

It's thought to be the first time leaders from all nine state schools have collectively met with the governor's office and the leaders in the General Assembly.

Dry casks containing radioactive waste
WUIS/Illinois Issues

With the legislative session nearing a close, the plug has been pulled on efforts to prop up renewable, coal and nuclear power.

A lot of, well, energy was put into energy policies this legislative session.

Illinois Democrats have begun to unveil their new state spending plan, which looks a lot like the current one. That's despite Illinois having billions of dollars less, thanks to a rollback of the income tax rate in January. Even before the details were made public, Gov. Bruce Rauner's office was out with a statement tearing into the proposal, and its architect, House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Democrats are moving forward with a new state budget-- one that closely mirrors the current one. However, it does make cuts nearly across the board, save for education through high school. The Republican governor is already expressing his frustration.

The issue is, Illinois' income tax rate has dropped, so the state's missing out on billions of dollars. Gov. Bruce Rauner had proposed massive cuts to make up for it.

Illinois legislators are back in session Monday as they look toward a May 31 adjournment date. Gov. Bruce Rauner recently sent a direct, and public, message to them about how he wants things to go.

In a recent op-ed penned in the capital city's newspaper, Gov. Bruce Rauner wrote that "Illinois needs a turnaround." He went on to say, "The public understands that, but it appears many state elected officials do not."

That column was a way for Rauner to speak to his supporters.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Illinois legislators are taking a weekend break, though there are major issues unresolved heading toward their May 31 adjournment.

After long last, a handful of Gov. Bruce Rauner's initiatives were just introduced -- term limits, restrictions on where lawsuits can be filed, minimizing what companies are responsible for when it comes to workers' compensation claims, and a property tax freeze.

"It's time that we get down to business and really start making a difference in how we do business in the state," Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said.

As the May 31st deadline for passing a new budget looms, Governor Rauner and the Legislature continue to bicker.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel this week.

flickr/borman18

As Illinois lawmakers grapple with a budget shortfall, a measure to impose a tax on millionaires' income came up short.

Adding a surcharge to income over a million dollars to raise more money for Illinois schools was a concept Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced last year, but there wasn't enough support.

Now, as Illinois faces a $6 billion budget gap, he's brought it back.

"We're simply asking those that have done well in life to help our educational system," Madigan said.

But his effort came up short, by three votes.

public domain

Bobcats, beware. Illinois lawmakers have renewed their call to lift a ban on hunting bobcats.

Former Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a previous attempt in one of his last acts as governor.

Bobcats are off limits to hunters now. Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora wants to keep it that way.

"There isn't a need to get rid of this animal, which is a native predator species in the state," Holmes said.

She says the bobcat population is fragile, and unlike hunters' other prey, which carnivorous eaters can turn into a meal, bobcats are solely hunted as trophies.

WUIS

By the end of this month, Illinois legislators are slated to be done with their work. That means passing a new budget. Amanda Vinicky checks in with how that's progressing -- including in the eyes of the state's new governor. 

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has stayed out of the public eye for the past couple of days. But he's making his feelings on the budget known in an op-ed that came out late Wednesday night.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the wealthy should take on a bigger tax burden.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan first surged the idea before last year's election, when .01-percenter Bruce Rauner was just a candidate.

Now, with Rauner as governor and calling for widespread cuts, Madigan has brought it back. He proposes adding a three-percent surcharge on all income over a million dollars, with the revenue going to schools.

The Illinois House chamber uses a ventilation system that circulates air from columns in the chamber to the attic, where the air is filtered and dispersed over the lawmakers’ desks.
Bethany Jaeger / WUIS/Illinois Issues

With just a dozen days until the General Assembly is set to adjourn, there is a crescendo of partisan accusations. Republican and Democratic legislators both continue to publicly say they hope to reach a bipartisan budget solution, even as both sides accuse the other of bargaining in bad faith.

Amanda Vinicky

Look at the photo on this post; it's the board of the Illinois House after representatives voted on House Speaker Michael Madigan's version of Gov. Bruce Rauner's local right-to-work zones. 

Michael J. Madigan headshot
ilga.gov

This week, Illinois House Democrats defeated Governor Rauner's "Right to Work" agenda.  Also, with the Illinois Supreme Court's decision last week, the future of state pension funding is still in question.

WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Democrats have knocked one of the new Republican governor's top priorities down to an easy defeat. The Illinois House yesterday voted against Bruce Rauner's notion of local right-to-work zones. The issue is highly contentious on its own. But a broader division was also at play. Before we get to the right-to-work debate, it's important to rewind some.

Zach Bernard

New ways to tackle Illinois' underfunded pension systems could be emerging, as the Republican governor appears to be backing away from his plan.

There's good reason many lawmakers are feeling flummoxed. Illinois' budget is already sagging. And with last week's state Supreme Court decision tossing a major pension law, the deficit is larger still.

The court decision was unequivocal - it's not constitutional to cut state employees' retirement benefits.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner's right-to-work proposal will get a hearing today in the Illinois House. Unions are putting pressure on lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

Though the Illinois House is set to vote on the Republican governor's idea of local right-to-work zones, it's not because Rauner's pushing for a vote.

Gov. Rauner unveiled the concept in late January, during an appearance in Decatur, and has talked about it a lot since. But no actual legislation's been introduced. There are only weeks left in the legislative session.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The former chairman of Amtrak told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that service cuts are inevitable should Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 40 percent funding cut takes effect.

Fifty-six Amtrak trains run daily in Illinois. They run from Chicago to St. Louis, to Carbondale, to Quincy and up to Milwaukee, and more travelers are riding them.

Amtrak's former chairman Thomas Carper says he can't say how many, or which of those routes will be dropped.

But he says that will happen if Illinois doesn't come through with about $42 million.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though John Cullerton went along with the pension law that on Friday was found by the state's high court to be unconstitutional, the Illinois Senate President had always favored another approach. Now he's saying (well, not exactly in these exact words ... ) "I told you so." In this episode of The Players -- a podcast about who's who in Illinois politics and what they're up to -- Amanda Vinicky spoke with the Senate's top Democrat about his plans to try again.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Illinois House today held a special hearing known as a committee on the whole, centered on part of Gov. Bruce Rauner's "Turnaround Agenda" -- this time, centered on what business interests call "tort reform." Critics say it's tort deform.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

It took legislators years of talking about Illinois' pension problem before they did much about it. There was a 2011 law that affects state employees, university professors, and public school teachers hired after that time. Then in 2013 they passed a law that reduced current workers' and retirees' benefits. Nearly immediately, workers and their unions sued, calling the law unconstitutional. 

Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have had swift reactions to Friday's state Supreme Court decision that found Illinois' 2013 pension law unconstitutional.

Illinois' was expecting to save billions by reducing state workers, teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits. But not anymore, thanks to an unanimous decision by the state's high court tossing the law.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the 2013 pension legislation that would have cut retirement benefits for state wokers.  Meanwhile, the House began debating the governor’s "Turnaround Agenda."  And Governor Rauner personally addressed the Chicago City Council.  Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn joins the panel discussion.

House floor
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal to cut the state budget took a spectacular fall Wednesday in the Illinois House.

The new Republican governor's plan reduces Illinois' budget by $6 billion for the next fiscal year.

That means doing away with, or spending less, on everything from healthcare for the poor, autism services and support for older foster kids.

No GOP legislator has actually introduced a bill that would precipitate those cuts. So in a surprise move, the Democratic Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan, took it upon himself.

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