Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief/ The Players Blog

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. 

With the election arriving next Tuesday, a handful of candidates and their "dark money" supporters were spending millions of dollars on just a handful of campaigns. Meanwhile, Gov. Bruce Rauner once again went on the attack against Democrats, and university presidents began making a more forceful case for state funding.

Jason Gonzales campaign website

House Speaker Michael Madigan has won the Democratic primary, and subsequent general election, nearly two dozen times -- usually sailing to victory without serious opposition. But this year there are powerful forces trying to topple him. He's facing a well-funded challenge in the March 15 primary.

Amanda Vinicky

Nine months into a stalemate that's left Illinois without a budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner Tuesday let loose on House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Amanda Vinicky

If you vote in Illinois March 15, most of the names you'll see at the top of the ticket are well-known. Others, less so.

Hillary Clinton is not the only candidate with Illinois ties running for President; Illinois Democrats next week can also cast a vote for Willie Wilson.

In Chicago, the name "Willie Wilson" may ring a bell; he finished a distant third in the city's race for mayor last year.

Now, he's aiming for the White House.

Barack Obama
Pool photo by Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

A candidate for the Illinois House has gotten help from an unlikely, high-level political figure.

With the race for the White House and control of the U.S. Senate on the line (not to mention leading the free world) President Barack Obama surely has plenty on his mind this election cycle. Evidently, that includes a contentious, and expensive, primary race for the Illinois House.

He's voiced an ad, asking voters to support Juliana Stratton.

Amanda Vinicky

A week from Tuesday, Illinois voters will have their chance to help determine who is the next President of the United States. Candidates are planning last minute campaign stops here.

It’s been 247 days since the state of Illinois had a budget. In that time, the nation of Iran struck a deal with America to limit its nuclear program and the United States reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba. But in Springfield there is still no peace.

Illinois Lottery

Even as Illinois scrounges for money it appears as if the state will let revenue slip away, albeit only a tiny slice of revenue. Legislators' delay also means that by the end of this month, Lottery fans won't be able to buy tickets online.

Years ago, Illinois authorized online Lottery sales --- but only on a temporary basis. That authority expires March 25.

Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Republican from Lake County,  introduced legislation to make the program permanent, "because it's a process that has done well, and it's done well for bringing money into our schools."

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

  A majority of Illinois voters do not believe that Illinois is headed in the right direction. That's according to a new poll, from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

One thousand voters were asked if they believe Illinois is on the "right track." Eighty-four percent of them answered "no." It comes as Illinois is in the midst of a historic budget impasse.

Even as Illinois scrounges for money, it appears as if the state will let a small slice of revenue slip away.

The latest effort to fund Illinois' financially-starving universities and colleges may be dead on arrival. Republicans are giving early indications they're not buying a last-minute offer unveiled just Wednesday night and slated for debate Thursday.

Republicans have rebuffed Democrats' other attempts at funding higher education because they say it would add to the state's deficit, including a measure lawmakers spent much of Wednesday debating.

WIUM

Higher education continues to be caught in Illinois lawmakers' political crossfire.

State lawmakers Tuesday voted to reopen a prison work camp in deep southern Illinois, but the governor's office says the attempt is politically-motivated.

University of Illinois Public Affairs

The vitriol and finger-pointing over the gridlock in state government has amplified. University leaders are trying to keep their distance, even as they fight for funding.

csu.edu

A crisis management team has been formed to help Chicago State University navigate budgetary peril. State higher education leaders are working to prevent CSU from closing, after eight months of waiting on state funding.

All of Chicago State University’s 900 employees are on notice – they’ll lose their jobs if the governor and lawmakers don’t come through with cash.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Doing something about Illinois' underfunded retirement systems remains an immediate goal for Gov. Bruce Rauner but despite a loose agreement with a leading Democrat, that plan has stalled.

Springfield may be a desert when it comes to budget deals but it seemed like there was a small oasis -- an agreement between Gov. Rauner and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton on pensions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner stumped across Illinois to drum up support for education funding — K-12 education finding, at least. College students, particularly from low-income backgrounds, have no such luck.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Days after vetoing a measure to help low-income college students, Gov. Bruce Rauner signaled he's open to another way of making it happen.

Rauner's reason for rejecting the Democrats' funding plan was that it would have sent Illinois deeper into debt.

But Rauner -- a Republican -- has said he'd be OK with an alternate GOP approach -- because it's paired with money to back it up. The governor's doubling down on that notion.

Creative Commons: Chris He, 2009

Journalists in Illinois have come up short trying to get information about Governor Bruce Rauner's state email. Wednedsay, the governor gave his explanation for why.

State transparency laws mean requests for emails in which Rauner had done state business should have yielded something.   

Unless, of course -- even in this age of digital everything -- there aren't any.

"I have no email. None whatsoever," Rauner says.

Gov. Rauner says an email-free existence has improved his quality of life, and increased his productivity.

Barack Obama, Michael Madigan and John Cullerton
Pool photo by Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

Illinois' leaders are still stuck in a budgetary quagmire, weeks after President Barack Obama came to Springfield to call for less polarization in politics.

For this episode of The Players: Your look into who's who in Illinois politics and what they're up to (or more precisely this time around -- your look into who's who in national politics and what they were up to when they visited Illinois).

Illinois lawmakers are beginning to craft a new state budget even though there still isn't one eight months into this fiscal year. There's no precedent for handling this murky situation. It go go any number of ways.

One option would have politicians craft a spending plan to cover this, the 2016 fiscal year ending June 30, before moving on. "I think we've kind of blown past that deadline already," Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said Wednesday following GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address.

WIU students demonstrating.
Rich Egger / Tri States Public Radio

Low-income college students promised state help paying for tuition will continue to go without it. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has followed through on his pledge to reject funding for the Monetary Award Program.

Gov. Rauner vetoed Democratic-backed legislation to pay for so-called "MAP grants" Friday afternoon. Students had traveled to Springfield in recent days to rally in support of the plan.

Amanda Vinicky

Anti-smoking advocates want to raise the age for buying tobacco to 21, in an attempt to dissuade teenagers from picking up the habit.

You can vote at the age of 18, join the military, and for now buy cigarettes. Legislation (SB3011)  introduced by Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, would require young adults to wait another four years.

Governor Bruce Rauner addressed the Illinois General Assembly this week with his vision for the next fiscal year, despite still having no agreement on a spending plan for the current year.  John O'Connor of the Associated Press joins the panel.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says it's shocking and unacceptable that the state is in its eighth month without a budget. Wednesday, he laid out his vision for finally ending the political stalemate that has paralyzed state government. The Republican's language was more conciliatory, but the ideas remain the same.

Illinois government has never gone this long without a budget. The big question going into the speech was -- would the governor say anything to change the dynamic that's brought about this historic impasse?

Education may once again receive special treatment from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. He's set to unveils his plans for the state budget later Wednesday.

Rauner is in an unprecedented position: he's required to present a plan for a new, balanced state budget when Illinois is eight months into its current fiscal year without one and is running a $6 billion deficit.

But a document from Rauner's office shows he'll again propose a windfall for pre-K through high schools.

T-shirts are sold on the first day of the September 2012 teachers’ strike.
Chicago Teachers Union

Despite unions winning a small victory Tuesday in the Illinois House, state workers' future salaries, benefits and even a potential strike remain in limbo.

Amanda Vinicky / NPR | Illinois Public Radio

A just-issued court order does away with a law that third-party candidates say makes it difficult to run for certain offices in Illinois.

A tight contest for the Presidential nomination and competitive races for seats in the General Assembly could make for a gripping primary in Illinois next month. Deadlines loom if you plan to be a part of it.

Barack Obama
Pool photo by Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

On Feb. 12 -- Abraham Lincoln's birthday -- officials released plans to salute another President with state ties.

Just days ago, on Wed., Feb. 10, President Barack Obama gave a major speech in Springfield, at the capitol, where he'd once served in the state Senate.

"Thank you for such a warm welcome as I come back home," he said to legislators' applause and hoots.

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