Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ Leadership Blog

217-206-6019

Read Amanda's "Leadership" 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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Frerichs: Eliminate Comptroller
3:52 pm
Tue January 6, 2015

Options Beyond A 2016 Special Election

Rather than combine the comptroller and treasurer's offices, Tres.-elect Mike Frerichs, a Democrat, proposes eliminating the comptroller's position; that would allow him to stay on as Illinois' sole fiscal officer for the next two years.
Credit ilga.gov

Legislators will be back in Springfield Thursday for a special session. They're set to debate holding a special election for the office of Comptroller. But other ideas are on the table too.

The stir over what to do about the Comptroller's office began when, just before she was to be sworn in for a second term, Judy Baar Topinka suddenly passed away.

Next week, Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner will appoint Leslie Munger, a businesswoman and failed candidate for state representative, to fill Topinka's spot for the next four years.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
11:51 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

State Police Forbidden From Making Arrests Based On Immigration Status

Lawrence Benito, the CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, says he didn't know in advance Gov. Pat Quinn was going to issue the executive orders, but he applauds the action.
Credit Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, http://icirr.org/content/lawrence-benito

Immigration status alone will no longer be a valid reason for the Illinois State Police to detain someone, under an order issued Mon., Jan. 5 by Gov. Pat Quinn.

In the executive order, Gov. Quinn says that "community policing efforts are hindered" when immigrants who are victims of, or witness to, crimes are wary of cooperating for fear they'll be deported.

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Comptroller Appointment
3:51 pm
Mon January 5, 2015

Rauner Chooses Topinka Successor

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's choice as successor to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Leslie Munger of Lincolnshire.
Credit Munger '14 Campaign Website http://votemunger.com/about-leslie/

  Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has announced his choice for Illinois' next comptroller -- someone who, like himself, is a relative newcomer to state politics.

Residents of Illinois' 59th House district are probably familiar with the name Leslie Munger: their mailboxes, no doubt, were flooded all fall with campaign brochures featuring her name.

Her failed, but tight, race against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Carol Sente of Carol Stream was chalked up to be one of the slimiest of the season.

Despite that loss, Munger will be coming to Springfield.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

Introducing The 'Leadership' Blog

Credit mattpenning.com 2010 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor's Note:
January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative."

ILLINOIS LEADERSHIP
Politicians:  Just Like Us
Amanda Vinicky

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:00 am
Thu January 1, 2015

No. 42 - What Will Bruce Rauner Do?

Bruce Rauner
Credit Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

“I just wanna save our state,” Bruce Rauner says in a matter-of-face tone, his wife Diana’s hand resting on his khaki-clad knee. He shakes his head side-to-side, at once casual but firm: “I’m not runnin’ ’cause I want a political career.”

This is the Bruce Rauner you likely have “met” on your television screen. He’s friendly. Pragmatic. Warm. A family man.

Normal. Just like you. Except that this guy, uninterested in a political career, was in the midst of spending more than $27 million to launch one.

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Statehouse
5:47 pm
Wed December 31, 2014

Rauner Pitches In $10 Million To Push Agenda

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner funneled record-setting amounts of his own money to win November's election. Paperwork filed with the state late in the afternoon on Wed., Dec. 31 shows he isn't stopping there.

Rauner is capping off 2014 with a massive infusion of cash into his campaign fund. He reports about $20 million in the final days of December, from just five contributors.

As with his campaign for governor, Rauner's biggest contribution to himself, comes from himself. The private equity investor gave another $10 million to his "Citizens for Rauner" fund.

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New Law
5:31 pm
Mon December 29, 2014

Revenge Porn Bill Signed Into Law

Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, is sponsor of Illinois' new revenge porn law.
Credit ilga.gov

Taking a bad breakup to the Internet could result in a felony conviction. Gov. Pat Quinn Mon., Dec. 29 signed a law intended to protect against so-called "revenge porn."

Illinois already makes it illegal to distribute explicit sexual images or videos taken without permission, but Sen. Michael Hastings, a Democrat from Tinley Park, says there was a loophole for photos or videos that were taken with consent -- say by romantic partner -- then later publicly distributed without permission.

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Pensions
5:53 am
Mon December 22, 2014

Will Stermer's Promotion Bring A Pension Bump Too?

Gov. Pat Quinn Friday appointed Jerry Stermer as comptroller.
Credit Illinois Issues

It was long a practice of Illinois politicians: Give a buddy a short-term job at the end of his career in order to boost his pension. Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law that's supposed to put an end to that practice. But what about the friend who Quinn just gave a promotion?

The elevation of Jerry Stermer from the governor's budget director to Illinois' comptroller will bring with it a raise of ten thousand dollars for a full year's work.

Gov. Quinn on Friday (12/19) appointed Stermer to temporarily serve as comptroller following Judy Baar Topinka's death.

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Statehouse
4:41 pm
Fri December 19, 2014

Quinn Picks Budget Chief To Be Temporary Comptroller

Jerry Stermer (left) with Gov. Quinn
Credit Illinois Issues

Democratic Governor Pat Quinn has chosen longtime friend Jerry Stermer -- his former chief of staff and current budget director -- to take over as Illinois' Comptroller.

Quinn had to choose someone for the position, following the unexpected death last week of Republican Judy Baar Topinka.

Stermer will only hold the job for 24 days; he says he'll step down January 12th, Quinn's last day as governor. That will allow Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner to appoint someone else as comptroller, for what would have been Topinka's next term.

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Judy Baar Topinka
11:39 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

Parties' Power Grabs In Battle For Comptroller; Quinn Calls Legislators Into Special Session

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's unexpected death has caused a political furor, as Illinois leaders disagree over a succession plan.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Judy Baar Topinka, who died of a stroke last week, was no stranger to the dizzying world of Illinois politics. The state comptroller had also been state treasurer, served in the legislature and lost a race for governor to Rod Blagojevich. So it's easy to imagine that Topinka would not be surprised at the ongoing furor and partisan divide over how to replace her.

It was just Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn praised Topinka at her memorial service, saying "she's done so much for all the people of Illinois. And I think there's a hole in the hearts of the people of our state."

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Statehouse
7:32 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Illinois Republican: Cuba Agreement "Good First Step"

Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Ill., differs from many other Republicans in his reaction to Pres. Obama's lifting U.S. diplomatic restraints with Cuba.
Credit U.S. House

Illinois' Congressional delegation has mixed reviews on the United States moving to normalize relations with Cuba. Like many key Republicans, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk denounced President Barack Obama for setting what he called a "dangerous precedent" by conceding to a dictator. But another Republican, Congressman Rodney Davis of Taylorville, says lifting outdated trade restrictions will strengthen Cuba's middle class, and weaken Raoul Castro's regime. Davis also says it'll open the market for Illinois' agricultural commodities. U.S.

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Pensions
1:43 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Rauner Named Nation's Most Influential Pension Figure

Credit npr.org

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

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Statehouse
11:00 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Rauner Favors Merging Comptroller, Treasurer. Just Not Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner took a handful of questions from reporters following his appearance Tuesday at a Better Government Association in Springfield; the audience was delighted to hear that he'll live in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

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Budget FY15
6:46 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Agencies To Ask For More, Rauner Says ... Without Giving An Opinion On If They Deserve It Or Not

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner, right, speaks before a full crowd at the Sangamo Club on Tues., Dec. 16 as part of a Better Government Association event on Illinois' finances.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has already tried to make the case that that Illinois' finances are worse than he thought. Now he's adding to his list of examples.

"What we've learned here in recent days, and I'm here to get more of the detail on ... there's $760 million of what they're calling - what I guess, I'm learning the lingo - supplemental appropriations, about to be requested," he said.

Basically, it means that state agencies are going to be asking for an additional $760 million to get them through this budget year -- or, as Rauner put it, they want to go "over budget."

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Hail A Cab, App An Uber
3:01 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Online Ads Hint At Rideshare Expansion Downstate

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Hints are popping up that the controversial rideshare service called Uber may be expanding its reach in Illinois.

Uber is riding a wave of victory in Illinois. The company fended off regulations it said were too onerous, and helped the General Assembly craft a compromise measure instead. That's awaiting action from the governor.

But the rideshare service may already be making good on plan to grow outside the Chicago region.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:07 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

House Adjourns For Good ... ?

Speaker Michael Madigan on the House's final day of the 98th General Assembly ... unless he and Senate Pres. John Cullerton agree to return for a special session, or the General Assembly is called into one by Gov. Pat Quinn, whose last full day in office is Jan. 13.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois House has adjourned its two-year legislative session for good, without a vote on a minimum wage hike - meaning that Representatives will not be back in Springfield before Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner takes over.  But backers of an increase are raising the possibility that the proposal isn't quite dead yet.

In Latin, "Sine Die" means “without a date," so when House Speaker Michael Madigan said "I move that we adjourn Sine Die," he meant that current makeup of the Illinois House was adjourning for good - with no intent to meet again.

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Veto Session
5:57 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Businesses Get Tax Break With New Minimum Wage Plan

Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, holds a press conference in November; she has campaigned for years fon a minimum wage increase.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A revamped statewide minimum wage hike is in the works, following Chicago's passage of one for the city. As the legislative session nears its end, specifics are developing.

Backers of a higher minimum wage are doing what they can to get it through the General Assembly.

That means phasing it in over a longer period of time --- so it'd go up to $9 in July, instead of $10, then notch up each summer by 50 cents, until it reaches $11 in 2019. They're also adding on a tax credit for small businesses, to ease the cost of paying workers more.

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Veto Session
12:13 am
Tue December 2, 2014

FOIA Firestorm Sparked

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, declined to call a bill that makes controversial changes to the Freedom of Information Act during a House Executive committee meeting Monday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Advocates for government transparency still have a fight ahead over the state's Freedom of Information Act. That's despite a temporary reprieve yesterday.

Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, of Chicago, caught transparency advocates off guard last week, with just a handful of days remaining in the legislative session. She introduced a plan that would make it harder for members of the public to obtain government information. It would also make it harder for citizens to recover legal fees when governments illegally withhold documents.

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Judicial System Threatened?
12:21 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Karmeier Keeps Seat ... Barely, After Big Money Race

Justice Lloyd Karmeier
Credit Illinois Supreme Court

The sole Illinois Supreme Court justice who was on the ballot in last month's election was sworn in for a second term this morning. Official results released last night by the Illinois State Board of Elections show just how close Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier was to losing his seat, after an election that saw hefty spending on both sides.

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FOIA
6:26 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Last Minute Rush To Change Freedom Of Information Act

Credit flickr/Sean MacEntee

Illinois residents could have a harder time accessing government information under new legislation before the General Assembly. 

The plan, SB2799, makes it harder for people to get repaid legal costs when a government wrongfully denies access to public documents. 

At the same time, it makes it easier for governments to keep certain information off-limits.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate Is Churned Up At The State And Federal Levels

This story first appeared in the April 2014 issue.

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event.

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Pensions
5:42 pm
Tue November 25, 2014

Pension Ruling "Credit Negative," But No Ratings Change

The final Illinois House vote on the 2014 pension overhaul.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Credit ratings agencies have taken notice of the court ruling on Friday that tossed out Illinois’ law reducing workers’ pensions. But they’re not worried enough to lower the state’s rating.

Illinois’ credit rating remains unaffected by last week’s court ruling, which found a landmark pension law to be unconstitutional. But agencies are watching.

Credit ratings are important as, the lower the rating, the more it costs the state to borrow.

It’s also an important indicator of a state’s relative fiscal health.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
4:53 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Who Will Work In A Rauner Administration?

Credit WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner campaigned on his ability to spur job creation in Illinois. He'll get a head start -- of sorts -- choosing hundreds of new state employees.

To the victor go the spoils, and in state government, that means jobs. 

While a governor is boss of all state employees, he doesn't get to choose most of them (the majority of workers stay on no matter who is in charge; politics are supposed to stay out of hiring). 

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Pensions
1:17 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Ears Turn To Supreme Court For Next Pensions Cue

Gov. Pat Quinn is surrounded by legislative leaders and lawmakers who helped write the pension plan, as he signs it into law.
Credit Harvey Tillis / Illinois Information Service

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

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Breaking
5:24 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Judge Finds Reductions In Pension Benefits Unconstitutional

Several legal challenges to the pension law were consolidated in Sangamon County. The county's courthouse is in downtown Springfield.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

An Illinois judge has ruled that a law intended to fix the nation's worst-funded state employee pensions violates the state Constitution. Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz ruled Friday in favor of state employees and retirees who sued to block the state's landmark pension overhaul.

At issue was whether lawmakers defied the Illinois Constitution by passing a law that reduces state workers', public school teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
12:38 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

Rauner To Quinn: Freeze Hiring. Now.

Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner holds his first press conference at the state capitol; it was right outside the Comptroller's office ... and the offices of Gov. Pat Quinn's senior staff.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois' incoming governor has asked the outgoing one to put state hiring on hold for the remainder of his term.

Even as he was being impeached, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich kept making key appointments. A new Dept. of Natural Resources chief; Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat.

Gov. Pat Quinn is by no means under that sort of dark cloud.

And Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner says he has no reason to believe Quinn's doing anything inappropriate.

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Minimum Wage
2:43 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Latest Minimum Wage Hike Goes To Eleven

Gloria Davis says she won't give the temp agency she works for the satisfaction of publicly stating its name. She says her $8.25 wage isn't enough for her to afford housing in Chicago. She's calling for legislators to raise Illinois' minimum wage.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The sponsor of a minimum wage hike says she'll push to get it passed during the legislature's veto session, which began today, Tues. Nov. 19.

Sen. Kim Lightford, a Democrat from Maywood, pointed to the results of a non-binding referendum. Sixty-seven percent of Illinois voters said “yes," Illinois should raise its minimum wage to $10 an hour by Jan. 1, 2015. The current rate is $8.25.

Results showed support for an increase in much of the state, including traditionally Republican areas, like the Chicago suburbs and downstate.

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Computer Glitch Fixed
9:11 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Drivers' License Facilities Back, Open For Business

Credit Creative Commons: Chris He, 2009

  Drivers' license facilities across Illinois are up and running again this morning, following a computer glitch that disrupted services much of Wednesday.

Driver's license facilities operated old-school yesterday, using paper forms whenever possible, because their computers were down.

Turns out the problem was like so many others in life: miscommunication.

The mainframe computer in Springfield "wasn't properly communicating with and recording data entered from the computer terminals at the facilities," said Sec. of State spokesman Henry Haupt.

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Opposition Softens Some
5:04 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

Most Illinois Residents Oppose Tax Hike

Credit flickr/jmorgan

A hike in Illinois’ income tax rate will begin rolling back at the end of this year, and a majority of Illinois voters are alright with that.

A new poll shows 56-percent of voters oppose making the increase permanent.

Respondents to the survey, which was done before the election by the Paul Simon Institute at Southern Illinois University, were asked that question fairly directly.

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Illinois Issues - Leadership
6:11 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Lukewarm Ideas On Property Tax Freeze

Bruce Rauner, in his first appearance since being elected, held to his pledge to freeze property taxes, but he says he'll form a task force to figure out how.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

When he was a candidate, Bruce Rauner promised that if elected, he would freeze property taxes. Now that he's won the race for governor, he's holding off on details about how.

It was a campaign promise that struck a chord.

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