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. 

Lisa Ryan

Gov. Bruce Rauner is ratcheting up his battle with organized labor. In a surprise move, today he issued an executive order that allows government workers to stop paying union dues.

Since taking office, Rauner talked a lot about his belief that unions’ contributions to political campaigns are a “corrupt bargain.”

The Republican governor says forcing state employees to pay union dues is a “critical cog” in that bargain, and it’s crushing taxpayers.

Reboot Illinois

Funding for everything from state-subsidized daycare to court reporters' salaries is running out in Illinois. At the same time, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner has signed on a top aide for a contract worth $30,000 a month.

Donna Arduin may not be a household name in Illinois yet, but as Rauner's Chief Financial Officer, she may become on.

Arduin has been contracted to "provide advice to the governor" on how to deal with Illinois' pending fiscal challenges.

A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed a seven year time frame to bring Illinois' minimum wage to $10 an hour. The Illinois Senate approved a plan that would make that happen by 2017.  

The Senate, or its Democrats, anyway, passed a minimum wage hike late last year. It died after stalling in the House.

Senators wasted no time in taking another swing now that a new legislative session has begun. Sen. Chris Nybo, a Republican from Elmhurst, tried to persuade the measure's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Kim Lightford, to wait.

Amanda Vinicky

For the past couple of weeks, Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner, traveled the state, giving speeches that mostly told audiences what's wrong with Illinois. Tuesday, he used his state of the state address to begin to describe what he wants to do about it.

Rauner didn't just deliver a big speech yesterday. He produced a full manifesto, complete with calls for an upheaval of Illinois' labor laws, changes to the constitution, a property tax freeze, and the hiring of more prison guards. The speech started off on a conciliatory note. Or maybe it was an invitation.

Illinois' first Republican Governor in twelve years delivered his first annual State of the State speech to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 4. In this special edition of Illinois Lawmakers, Governor Bruce Rauner called on legislators to work with him to pass economic policies aimed at improving the state's business climate.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

State employees can rest assured-- Gov. Bruce Rauner does not want to cut their salaries. But a memo sent to state legislators Monday warns of other changes the governor would like to see.

Shortly after becoming governor, Rauner tried to spread goodwill, reaching out to workers with visits to state offices.

"I want to make Illinois a wonderful place to work for everyone here. I want good, fair compensation."

Then came a series of speeches, previewing his State of the State address on Wednesday, in which he says Illinois' payroll is bloated.

WBEZ

  Gov. Bruce Rauner has announced a list of the companies that'll be able to grow and sell medical marijuana in Illinois.

Illinois law spelled out what was supposed to be a blind process to select who'd get the potentially-lucrative pot licenses. Though it appears as if former Gov. Pat Quinn's administration had selected winners, he finished his term last month without awarding any.

childcarecenter.us

Gov. Bruce Rauner has consistently said he's waiting to give details on his plans for Illinois' finances until his budget address, on February 18th. But decisions by previous lawmakers may force him to make closely-watched decisions sooner.

Illinois has a program that helps low-income parents pay for day-care. But -- because the previous General Assembly cut funding for it by millions from the current state budget - state money for has run out.

That's alarming for advocates like Emily Miller, who is with Voices for Illinois Children.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Charlie Wheeler (UIS) and Patrick Yeagle (Illinois Times) discuss Bruce Rauner's actions so far as governor of Illinois. This week he will give the State of the State, his first speech as governor.

Bruce Rauner
Alex Keefe / WBEZ

The millions of dollars Republican Governor Bruce Rauner poured into his campaign landed him near the top of a national list of last year's biggest campaign contributors to state races.

The Center for Public Integrity gathered data on political giving to state races. It then used that information to crown "sugar daddies of state politics."

Gov. Rauner and his wife, Diana, came in seventh.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner amped up his anti-union rhetoric Tuesday at a speech in Decatur, a city with deep labor roots.  The Republican bemoaned prevailing wage  requirements on public projects for costing the state extra, said Project Labor Agreements are synonymous with "uncompetitive bidding" and introduced a plan to create local right-to-work zones.  

Unions are on edge about what Rauner has in store for them. He has railed against “government union bosses,” and names Indiana's former Gov. Mitch Daniels as a political role model. It's Daniels who made Indiana a right-to-work state.

Sanchez Daniels & Hoffman LLP

An ally of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner will chair the state agency that owns the Chicago White Sox stadium and oversaw the renovations of Soldier Field, but one of former Governor Pat Quinn's closest confidants will still retain his high-paying post.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority has been home base for all sorts of political wins and losses over the years. And there's a whole roster of players.

WUIS

Illinois' director of public health under former Governor Pat Quinn has found a new job.  

Amanda Vinicky

Rail advocates are concerned Governor Bruce Rauner's executive order that puts a hold on non-essential state spending could be the end of the line for two projects that have been chugging along.

After long negotiations, Illinois has agreements to extend two passenger rail routes. One would to go Rockford, the other to the Quad Cities.

Little to no construction has been done on either so far, but head of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association Rick Harnish says 2015 was supposed to be the year.

It has been two years or so since 26 people -- most of them young children -- died in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The shooter was 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

A report studying him was released late last year by Connecticut's child advocate office; it shows problems identifying and treating his mental illness.

"There were several missed opportunities to help Lanza," said longtime Speaker of the Illinois House Michael Madigan on the opening day of the new General Assembly.

Amanda Vinicky

The fate of Illinois' pension law will stay on the fast track. Illinois' Supreme Court justices today rejected a request for a delay.

It can take a long time for a case to wend its way through the courts. But after a Sangamon County judge in November ruled Illinois' overhaul of public worker pensions unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court agreed to take up the case on an expedited basis.

On Tuesday, lawyers contesting the law tried to slow it down by a month.

isbe.state.il.us

  Even as Illinois runs ever shorter on cash, the board of education is asking for $730 million increase in state funding.

Illinois' superintendent of schools is well aware of the state's financial strain. Christopher Koch has been in charge as over the past several years, the state has failed to come through with all the money it's supposed to give to meet local district's basic needs.

But, Koch says, "education is the smartest investment we can make in the economic future of our state."

police cars
flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

Gov. Bruce Rauner is okay after he was involved in a car accident today in Chicago.

Rauner's motorcade was stopped at a red light on E. Randolph Street in Chicago, when two cars got into accident in front of him in the intersection, at Michigan Avenue. One of those cars spun out, hitting the black 2012 Ford Expedition Rauner was in, at 8:13 Wednesday morning.

State police say Rauner's fine, and the officers that are on his security detail are too. Three people did go to Northwestern Medical Center to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Hotel rooms.

Clothes.

A visit to the spa.  

Groceries. 

Alas, not my "to do" list (a visit to the spa? I wish! Though I do actually need to buy some groceries ...); that was what Alice Foss, a 53-year-old Springfield woman, admitted to buying with the $400,000 she'd embezzled from her employer, the lobbying and consulting firm Don Moss and Associates. 

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

As they seek to permanently toss Illinois' pension overhaul, state employees and retirees are asking the state Supreme Court for more time to make their arguments. Lawyers filed the request Tuesday.

It's a case that's supposed to be on the fast track: After a Sangamon County judge in November found Illinois' pension law unconstitutional, the Attorney General appealed straight to the state supreme court -- which agreed to hear it on an expedited basis.

wuis

Gov. Bruce Rauner's campaign rhetoric was a turnoff for Illinois' public employee unions; he continually blamed "union bosses" for contributing to the state's financial woes. Now Rauner's making direct appeals to workers.

It wasn't just the campaign; during his inaugural address, Rauner touched again on what labor leaders consider an anti-union theme. He said Illinois has an ethical crisis because taxpayers “see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they've spent tens of millions of dollars to help elect."

Amanda Vinicky

Much of what Pat Quinn did in his final hours as Illinois' governor has been undone. Governor Bruce Rauner immediately withdrew Quinn's 100 last-minute appointments to state boards and commissions. Now, he's rescinded Quinn's last executive orders.

It's been said that when Quinn issued his final set of executive orders, he was also laying a booby trap for the man taking his spot.

One order required the state pay contractors $10, the amount Quinn had tried to make Illinois' minimum wage -- a topic over which Rauner stumbled during the campaign.

Amanda Vinicky

When the Senators were inaugurated to the 99th General Assembly this week, President John Cullerton wasn't the only member of his family behind the podium.

Cullerton's nephew, Michael Lynch -- who starred on "The Voice" in 2013 -- sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at the beginning of the ceremony. 

Take a listen: 

Amanda Vinicky

Anyone will be able to look up the names of political appointees to state jobs under an executive order Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Thursday, Jan. 15.

  By law, the vast majority of state employees are to be hired based on merit, not their political affiliation. Higher-level jobs are the exception. A governor gets to choose whoever he wants to be in his inner circle, and in policy-driven jobs. Rauner's executive order requires the names of these political hires to be published on a state website.

Amanda Vinicky

State employees will have to be more forthcoming about their volunteer work, legal status and property holdings under an executive order Gov. Bruce Rauner signed this afternoon. At the same time, the new governor was unwilling to specify what more he'll disclose about his finances.

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Yesterday, on Mon. Jan. 12, 2015,  Illinois got a new governor:  Bruce Rauner -- the first Republican to win the governor's mansion in more than a decade.. The former private equity investor spent a record $26 million to win his first ever bid for elected office. And he didn't stop there. At the end of the year, Rauner contributed another $10 million that his spokespeople say he'll use to advance his agenda. Questions abound over what exactly that agenda is. He made a lot of campaign promises, but so far has painted his mission for Illinois in broad strokes.

Bruce Rauner at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

In one of his first acts as Illinois' new governor, Republican Bruce Rauner Monday said he'll issue an executive order requiring all state agencies to stop spending money they don't have to.

The main theme of Rauner's campaign was that Illinois' finances are a mess, need fixing, and that he's the man to do it. He continued that message during his inaugural address, saying "we have an opportunity to accomplish something historic; to fix years of busted budgets and broken government."

Governor Pat Quinn will spend his final hours in office in Chicago while Bruce Rauner is inaugurated as the State's 42nd Governor in Springfield.

Bill Wheelhouse and Amanda Vinicky discuss final actions by the outgoing Governor and the first likely actions by the incoming Governor.

WUIS will have live coverage of the inaugural at 11:50 a.m.

Say what you will about Gov. Pat Quinn, but the man has been devoted to Illinois government and politics for much of his adult life. 

www.ilga.gov

The president of the Illinois Senate is continuing to withhold a piece of legislation from Gov. Pat Quinn.

At the tail end of its session, members of the General Assembly rushed to pass a measure that makes it easier for Illinois' big utilities, Ameren and Commonwealth Edison, to charge more for delivering power.

The companies say it's necessary so they can continue to improve the electric grid. But legislators' quick action came to an abrupt halt when Senate President John Cullerton used a parliamentary maneuver to keep the measure from going to Gov. Quinn.

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