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. 

capitol
Hannah Meisel/WUIS

Illinois legislators will return to Springfield this week after a two-week break. There's some suggestion it will have been their last hiatus for a while.

Legislators are set to spend much of the next seven weeks in session.

There's a lot to do: Gov. Bruce Rauner is pushing a massive agenda. He wants to overhaul the workers' compensation system, and to give municipalities the ability to rein in labor unions. Plus, there's dealing with a $6 billion deficit.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week Rahm Emanuel was re-elected Mayor of Chicago, which (like the state itself) is facing a huge budget deficit.   Also, Governor Rauner declared the Illinois Supreme Court part of a "corrupt" political system.   WBEZ's Lauren Chooljian joins the panel for discussion of these and other topics on this edition of the program.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner says he choose to award business tax credits to uphold Illinois' trustworthiness with companies, but the Republican's critics are calling it "beyond the pale."

Social service organizations are still reeling from the unexpected news they received a week ago that Gov. Rauner was immediately cutting off their state grants. No longer would there be money to bury the indigent. Funding for The Autism Program, eliminated. Funding stripped from addiction prevention. Cuts totaling $200 million.

State of Illinois

The state official who led an investigation into political hiring under former Governor Pat Quinn's administration is resigning.

Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza is stepping down this month, after more than four-and-a-half years investigating allegations of misconduct in the governor's office, 40 state agencies and public universities.

Much of what Meza's office does is kept secret, like investigations that don't produce findings of wrongdoing. Even some of those that do can be kept confidential.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Illinois has been "smoke free" since 2008, when a state law banned anyone from lighting up within 15 feet of public places and businesses. Now legislators are considering broadening where smoking is prohibited.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read "At Least I Can Still Smoke In My Car." Not for long, if a measure that recently got the approval of a Senate committee continues to advance.

The proposal would forbid adults from smoking if anyone under the age of 18 is in the car; doing so would trigger a $100 fine.

ilga.gov

Illinois' powerful House speaker is staking an early claim in what's sure to be a contentious budget battle.

Billions of dollars in cuts proposed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner already have spurred rallies at the capitol, and groups foretell of grave consequences.

House Speaker Michael Madigan says he acknowledges Illinois is in a difficult budget situation, but there's one area in particular he wants to spend more on: state crime labs.

Tammy Duckworth

U.S Sen. Mark Kirk will face a challenge from Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who announced Monday she'll run for the seat. It's unknown who else will vie for the spot, but it's already expected to be a tight race.

Duckworth, who was elected to the U.S. House in 2012, took to YouTube to declare her candidacy.

"I'm running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 because it's time for Washington to be held accountable, and to put Illinois' families and communities first," she said in the video.

Amanda Vinicky

He was 23. 

I was 23. 

He was in the early stages of a quick run up the political ladder, and after a hard-fought election becoming a full-fledged member of the Illinois House.

I was an intern for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio, days (literally) into my first attempt at covering state government and politics. 

Doing a profile of the youngest-ever legislator elected to the General Assembly on his inauguration day, on Jan. 12, 2005 seemed a fitting assignment.  

The Blen / Creative Commons, flickr

 Legislators are trying to protect kids from measles, without offending anti-vaccine parents.

The outbreak of measles at a Palatine learning center in February has lawmakers wanting to protect children, but it's a politically sensitive topic.

When Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno presented her proposal to a legislative committee, she was upfront about her desire to not step on the toes of with parents who choose to not vaccinate their kids, while at the same time wanting to protect children.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The Illinois General Assembly this week approved a fix for Illinois short-term budget problems, but deeper issues remain. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock took his final vote in Congress and gave a farewell address. Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell joins the panel to discuss that and other topics on this week's edition of State Week.

Amanda Vinicky

Republican Bruce Rauner has signed a temporary budget fix -- his first law since becoming governor earlier this year. 

Illinois' budget has a $1.6 billion dollar gap --- the result of a spending plan Democrats passed in the spring; some had hoped then for a post-election tax increase that never came to fruition.

Democratic Senator Heather Steans of Chicago says this will fill that gap.

Lee Strubinger/WUIS

Illinois' Congressional delegation is trying to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to revise how it distributes aid after natural disasters. As WUIS has previously reported, the lawmakers tried before to no avail.

When a tornado touched down in southern Illinois several years ago, devastating the small town of Harrisburg, FEMA turned down Illinois' request for disaster assistance.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A temporary budget fix is in the hands of Illinois Senators, who are expected to vote on the plan tomorrow. County courts, daycare providers who care for low-income kids, and the department of corrections' payroll for guards -- are nearing the end of their budget ropes.

After weeks of deliberations, the House on Tuesday hurriedly passed a stopgap for the $1.6 billion hole in the current year's budget, which ends June 30.

The Senate appears poised to do the same; though leaders, like Senate Pres. John Cullerton, say they're still working to get the votes.

Amanda Vinicky

There's a reason analysts say Illinois has the nation's lowest credit rating. It has the nation's largest unfunded pension liability. A 2013 law that’s facing a challenge before the Illinois Supreme Court is intended to help.

Illinois is facing a budget hole in the billions, thanks to a rollback of the income tax. If the high court tosses out the pension law, there'll be more fiscal pressure.

Analysts like Moody's Ted Hampton say the rating won't likely drop further, even if the justices toss the law because the rating already presumes the law cannot be implemented.

Chicago Vs. Illinois

Mar 23, 2015
flickr/Daniel X. O'Neill

In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the “minor leagues.” This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.

But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.

So that begs the question: What’s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?

Aaron Schock
Aaron Schock / Instagram

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock resigned this week amid questions about his spending of taxpayer money. When the news broke, political reporter Chris Kaergard of the Peoria Journal Star was in the Republican's Downton Abbey-inspired office, waiting for a previously scheduled interview.

Bruce Rauner
brucerauner.com

Union members and state employees can expect another pension battle ahead, regardless of what the state Supreme Court says about Illinois' landmark 2013 law. 

Amanda Vinicky

The many years legislators spent crafting a measure to rein in the state's pension costs came to a head yesterday in 52-and-a-half minute hearing before the Illinois Supreme Court. It's now up to the seven justices whether a law that reduces employees' and retirees' benefits is constitutional.

Even before then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension overhaul into law just over a year ago, everyone knew it would come to this.

Lisa Madigan at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

A legal battle over union fees is brewing, between Illinois Republican governor and Democratic Attorney General.

Illinois' Attorney General says Gov. Bruce Rauner had no authority to bring a fight over union dues to federal court. She's trying to dismiss the case.

Republican Gov. Rauner is trying to get rid of so-called "fair share" dues on two fronts: he's ordered state agencies to stop collecting them, and he's suing in federal court to toss out the underlying state law that requires them.

wuis

Unions are taking Gov. Bruce Rauner to court over his attempt to get rid of so-called "fair-share" dues.

Illinois law requires workers who are not members of unions to nonetheless pay a fee, for the benefits unions secure on their behalf.

Rauner had issued an executive order eliminating that requirement.

But labor leaders says that's a violation of the separation of powers; in other words, a governor can't unilaterally toss out a state law.

Amanda Vinicky

Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner unveiled his budget --- chock full of cuts to state programs. But now it's the legislature's turn to take a swipe at a state spending plan. Amanda Vinicky reports on a hearing, at which the governor's office had to testify before lawmakers about its own budget.

Given the widespread frustration by Democrats at the huge cuts Rauner, a Republican, has proposed, you may expect a hearing like this to get a bit tense. But House members were relatively easy on the governor's top aides, who say the governor's office is cutting its budget by ten percent.

Little_brown_bat;_close-up_of_nose_with_fungus,_New_York,_Oct._2008._(5765048289).jpg

A disease responsible for the deaths of millions of bats has spread in Illinois.

The white-nose syndrome gets its name from a fungus that grows on affected bats' noses. Scientists say infected bats often show odd behavior - like taking daytime flights - when they're supposed to be hibernating. It's suspected that depletes their fat reserves, and causes the bats to become emaciated, and eventually die. 

Amanda Vinicky

Sweeping legislation intended to combat a heroin epidemic has been introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators.

Before he became a state legislator, Republican Rep. John Anthony was a cop in Champaign, and a sheriff's deputy in Kendall County.

Gov. Pat Quinn has called for the closing of Tamms Correctional Center.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Some of the main architects of the Illinois law that seeks to save the state money by reducing workers' pensions have begun collecting pensions of their own.

On March 11, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against the pension overhaul signed into law late in 2013 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. If it succeeds, Quinn, like other retired state employees, will see his the size of his future retirement benefits shrink, as the law does away with compounded cost-of-living increases.

Host Amanda Vinicky and guests Andy Maloney (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin) and Patrick Yeagle (IL Times) discuss issues with the 2015 Budget, runoff in Chicago Mayoral race, and Exelon's nuclear prop-up plan.

CapitolView is a production of WSEC-TV/PBS Springfield, Network Knowledge.

Amanda Vinicky

After issuing warnings it may have to close down half its nuclear fleet, Exelon today introduced a proposal it says would keep them open. It signals the start of what's expected to be a long debate over Illinois' energy policy. 

Exelon is one of Illinois' biggest, and most powerful corporations.

Amanda Vinicky

Just over 50 top state officials came together this afternoon for their first cabinet meeting with Illinois' new governor, Bruce Rauner. Journalists were invited to hear the Republican's opening remarks.

Rauner's Cabinet gathered in one of the capitol's largest, and nicest, committee rooms; members milled about, making small talk and introductions.

Some were recently appointed by the governor and are new to Illinois government; others are holdovers from former Gov. Pat Quinn's administration.

flickr/dborman

A major credit rating agency has come out with a blunt assessment of Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget for Illinois.

The budget Rauner presented last week calls for massive cuts in state spending -- without any increase in taxes.

Moody's Investor Service dismisses the chance that parts, let alone all, of the plan will ever become a reality.

Illinois' new governor has his first opportunity to determine the fate of legislation. Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision could affect how much you're paying for electricity.

The measure at hand, House Bill 3975, took a strange and winding path to get to Governor Bruce Rauner's desk, beginning with one governor and one General Assembly, and carrying over into another administration and new legislative session. The plan allows Ameren and Commonwealth Edison to continue asking customers to pay for upgrades to the electric grid; in many cases that means a higher electric bill.

Pensions' big day before the Illinois Supreme Court has been set for next month, on March 11. 

I was honored to be on a panel recently (before Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget address, so no talk about his latest proposal), along with the Civic Federation's Laurence Msall, Sen. Daniel Biss D-Evanston and Sen. Matt Murphy R-Palatine, to discuss one of the state's most controversial, pressing and expensive issues.  

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