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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Illinois Issues - Leadership
7:00 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

First Quinn/Rauner Gubernatorial Debate

Gov. Pat Quinn, left, and Bruce Rauner met Wednesday in Peoria for the first debate of the fall election season.
Credit Illinois Public Broadcasting

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Bruce Rauner met for the first formal debate of the general election season Thursday in Peoria. The panel included Illinois Public Radio/WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky and Illinois Issues Executive Editor Jamey Dunn.

Watch or listen to the full debate:

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Statehouse
5:43 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Civic Federation Says Illinois Finances Headed In The Wrong Direction

Illinois is about a quarter of the way into its fiscal year and building up debt along the way.

A new report says it's a return to detrimental policies that landed Illinois in an unstable financial position in the first place.
                     
There was one, glaring question for lawmakers last spring: what were they going to do about the temporary income tax?

Illinois hiked rates in 2011, but only until midway through this fiscal year.  The 5% rate rolls back to 3.75%  in January.

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Election 2014
3:25 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Toxic Ads Scorch, Spur Defamation Suit

A screenshot of the "Daisy" ad that aired in September, 1964. It's widely believed to be the first attack ad, and a political game-changer.
Credit Daisy Ad screenshot

It was 50 years ago last month that a new type of campaign commercial aired -- one devised to make President Lyndon Johnson's opponent look bad, rather than to extol his own virtues. "Daisy" only aired once, it was so controversial: the scene of a girl pulling petals off a flower crossed into one of an exploding bomb.  That commercial changed the political landscape. Any inhibitions campaigns may have had in 1964 have long since vanished. Now, negative ads are the norm. It's gotten to the point that a candidate for State Representative this week filed a lawsuit over it.

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Latino Voter Drive; Time Left For Procrastinators

Martin Torres has lead the Latino Policy Forum's voter registration drive this fall.
Credit Latino Policy Forum website

As candidates hustle for voters' support, interest groups are working to drum up numbers of their own, with voter registration drives. The deadline is tomorrow.

Martin Torres has been all over Chicago lately, holding voter registration events. It's the Latino Policy Forum's goal to sign up 5,000 voters.

He says Latinos make up 16-percent of the state's population, but the community's political influence hasn't kept up.

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Election 2014
1:27 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Gov. Quinn: No Regional Minimum Wage

"West Wing" actor Martin Sheen, left, wades into real-life politics, as he stumps for Gov. Pat Quinn a month before the election.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

First, the President held a $50,000 a head fundraiser for Pat Quinn.  This week, First Lady Michelle Obama and Gloria Steinem are scheduled to be in Illinois to stump for him.  Over the weekend, it was actor Martin Sheen's turn to campaign alongside the Democratic governor.

According to the trade magazine "Variety," Martin Sheen made as much as $300,000 an episode for his role as Democratic Pres. Jeb Bartlet in the show "West Wing."

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Dept. of Corrections
9:56 am
Thu October 2, 2014

After A Prisoner Escapes

Marcus Battice, the 21-year-old man who escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center on Sept. 23.
Credit Illinois Department of Corrections

The state agency that oversees prisons does not expect to make significant changes to its operations, following the escape of an inmate last week from a minimum security prison located about an hour east of St. Louis.

Officials issued an alert when 21-year-old Marcus Battice escaped from Vandalia Correctional Center, where he was serving time for stealing a car. Battice turned up the next morning, about three-and-a-half miles away.

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Statehouse
6:31 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Quinn Lauds Affordable Care Act, Backs Down From State Marketplace

Credit flickr

In recognition of the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Pat Quinn is touting its success, while at the same time backing away from having Illinois take a greater role in the program.

At first, Gov. Quinn was all about Illinois creating its own "exchange" -- a technical word for the portal where people can shop for coverage.

Instead, insurance companies and healthcare advocates couldn't agree on how to set one up. Timid lawmakers, afraid to look like they were embracing Obamacare ahead of the 2012 election, didn't help either.

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Election 2014
2:23 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Bruce Rauner, Before He Was A Candidate (Author Interview)

Credit Chicago Magazine

Though Gov. Pat Quinn remains largely private about his personal life, he has been in the public eye for decades -- there were unsuccessful bids for treasurer, Secretary of State and the U.S. Senate, as well as successful ones for Illinois Treasurer, Lieutenant Governor and, most recently, for Governor.

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Carbon Emissions Cuts
1:06 am
Wed October 1, 2014

Clearing The Air On Clean Air Plan

Environmental advocates met at the state capitol to thank Gov. Quinn for his support of the federal proposal requiring states to curb carbon emissions from coal power plants, and asked that he put an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois regulators are continuing to develop a plan to reduce the state's output of greenhouse gasses. Environmentalists say they have the Pat Quinn to thank. Or do they?

Illinois has had clean energy targets for years, but this latest effort isn't part of that. Rather, the state's Environmental Protection Agency and commerce commission are preparing for a proposed federal rule. It would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.

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Pensions
4:54 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Pensions: Vexing Illinois Politicians Since 1917

The tally in the Illinois House on the pension overhaul law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The underfunding of the state's pensions have grabbed headlines the past several years, and finally reached the political tipping point late last year when legislators passed an overhaul of the systems. It's a recent response to a very old problem.

It was Gov. Pat Quinn who signed the law that reduces state workers' and most public school teachers' pensions -- a controversial plan that's at the center of a lawsuit.

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Election 2014
8:34 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Share Hazy Stance On Decriminalizing Pot

Credit Thinkprogress.org

It's hard to find common ground between Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, but when it comes to decriminalizing marijuana, they're on the same page. Both have a stance that's well, hazy.

"It's worthy of looking at," Quinn said about the idea of reducing penalties for people caught with small amounts of pot."It's basically something I think the legislature should have hearings on. I think a lot of people should have input on. I do think that it's worthy of consideration."

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State Hiring
2:51 am
Thu September 25, 2014

IDOT Layoffs Halted, But Quinn Wants To Proceed

Gov. Pat Quinn was at an unrelated appearance in Springfield when he was asked about the timing of the IDOT layoffs.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gov. Pat Quinn wants to proceed with getting rid of dozens of Illinois Department of Transportation employees. The layoffs won't happen for at least another month.

Gov. Quinn doesn't claim the layoffs as his idea; rather, he says it was his newly-appointed IDOT Secretary, Erica Borggren, who came up with the "reorganization" that'll leave some 58 employees out of work.

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Election 2014
2:14 am
Tue September 23, 2014

A Redo On Redistricting

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Advocates seeking to change how Illinois draws its legislative districts are following through on a promise to keep trying, even after getting knocked off of this year's ballot.

Members of the "Yes for Independent Maps" effort cheered when they turned in half million signatures to state elections authorities in May.

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Election 2014
3:39 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Polls Showing Illinois Governor's Race A Draw

Bruce Rauner; Gov. Pat Quinn
Credit WUIS

Illinois' race for governor is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the nation. And it's impossible to tell who's winning.

For a while, Bruce Rauner was ahead. The Republican private equity investor kept besting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in every poll.

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Education Desk
5:42 am
Mon September 22, 2014

More Campuses "Ready To Respond"

Richland Community College
Credit Richland.edu

College students are back on campus and classes are underway. Parents at some Illinois schools have extra assurance their kids will be safe when they're at school.

Universities and colleges are often ranked, making "best of" lists for one program or the other. 

But only a couple in Illinois have achieved the designation of becoming a "Ready to Respond" campus -- a title given by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency after the school has met criteria, like developing a violence prevention plan and going through training exercises. 

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Election 2014
1:18 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Governor's Race Has A Third Contender; Judge Keeps Libertarians On Ballot

The Libertarian slate faced several obstacles to make it on the ballot; here, candidates hold a press conference to show how many more signatures they had to turn in to the state elections board, compared with Democrats and Republicans. The party's candidate for governor, Chad Grimm, is just to the left of the podium.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Democrats succeeded in getting a slate of Green Party candidates wiped from the November ballot. But the Libertarian Party had enough signatures to withstand a Republican challenge before the State Board of Elections. And now the Libertarians have withstood a court challenge as well.

Sometimes you can actually hear the smile in someone's voice. I didn't actually see Chad Grimm's face upon hearing the news that he'll remain on the ballot as the Libertarian nominee for governor. But, he sure sounded happy.

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Health Desk
10:11 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Despite Outbreak, Illinois Virus Cases Remain Low - Why?

A rare respiratory illness continues to spread. The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first case in New Jersey. But it's hard to tell the status of the outbreak in Illinois. The state was one of the first to have confirmed cases of the enterovirus strain.

It was in mid-to-late August when a Chicago hospital noticed a surge in patients with respiratory problems. The Centers for Disease Control confirmed that of the 14 specimens submitted, 11 tested positive for what is known as enterovirus D68.

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Website Debuts (In Time For The Election)
11:53 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Cullerton: I LIKE Illinois!

The new logo for Senate Democrats' "I Like Illinois" website and project.

Did you know that Betty White was born in Illinois? This, and other tidbits about Illinois' successes, are the subject of a new website. It's intended to counteract some of the negativity that has swirled this election cycle ... and to defend lawmakers' policies. 

No, it's not a project born by the state's tourism department. 

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Statehouse
4:31 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Fracking Rules Action Delayed; Could Be A Sign Of Revision

Activists opposed to fracking in Illinois gather at the state capitol rotunda, prior to passage of the 2013 law.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

It will be at least another month before legislators take up regulations of hydraulic fracturing. The Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, or JCAR -- a bipartisan panel -- voted Tuesday to spend more time reviewing, and potentially rewriting, them.

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Election 2014
1:44 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

AFSCME Puts Aside Differences, Endorses Quinn

There was once a time, such as during a protest at the Illinois State Fair in 2012, that union members were comparing Gov. Pat Quinn to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; labor's wrath has turned to Bruce Rauner since he became Republican's nominee for governor.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public employees union has made an about-face in its attitude toward Governor Pat Quinn. Over the weekend, AFSCME leaders endorsed him during a meeting in Peoria. It's a classic case of going with "the devil you know."

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Election 2014
4:11 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Quinn Defends Public Education, Though He's A Product of Private Schools

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

Who Illinois voters choose to be their next governor could make a big difference in how Illinois funds schools, and even where students can go to get an education.

Quinn's agenda seems to leave things basically as-is; taxpayer dollars flow to public schools:

"I believe that the public system of education is the best way to go," Quinn told the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board last week.

Not that he has much personal experience in the system.

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Public Safety
5:00 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Plan Would Give Police Cameras, Raise Fines

Credit flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

The question of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri before the shooting death of Michael Brown has renewed a push in Illinois to equip police with cameras.

Body and dashboard cameras for police isn't a new idea;  President of the Illinois's NAACP chapter, George Mitchell, says his organization has been supportive of the concept as far back as 2001.

But he says Ferguson shows why. Mitchell says had the Brown incident been on tape, much of the controversy could have been avoided.

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Election 2014
5:00 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Attacks Get Personal Between Quinn, Rauner

  They no longer had to do it through campaign commercials. Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner faced one another in a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board Tuesday. So far, Quinn, a Democrat, and businessman Rauner, Republican's nominee, have contested one another from a distance. At this appearance, though, they were seated side-by-side.

At times, that led to heated discussions; often the candidates talked over one another.

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Pensions
11:31 pm
Sun September 7, 2014

Moody's: Illinois' "Daunting Pension Challenges" Faced By Its Local Governments Too

Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston
Credit ILGA.gov

A new report from Moody's investors service says Illinois still faces "daunting pension challenges" despite a 2013 law intended to curb the state's pension costs. So do its cities. 

The Moody's report lays it out starkly: Illinois' pension burden is significantly higher than other states. And yet Illinois' legal framework gives "very limited" flexibility for dealing with that.

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Town's 175th Anniversary
4:59 am
Fri September 5, 2014

The Secret Ingredient in Arenzville's Burgoo

Burgoo needs to simmer for at least 12 hours, though Soup Master Tony Thomas says it's like chili -- "the longer it cooks, the better it gets."
Credit Amanda Vinicky

There's a farm town about 50 miles to the west of Springfield, in between Jacksonville and Beardstown, called Arenzville. Only about 400 people live there. It's the sort of place where old men gather at the only restaurant in town every Saturday morning for coffee. The sort of place where many of the last names carved into the tombstones at the local cemetery are the same as the last names a teacher is reading off of the class list when she takes attendance at school each morning.

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Election 2014
6:28 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Property Tax Freeze Idea Gives Local Government The Chills

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though your property taxes pay for local services -- not state ones -- they've become an issue in Illinois' race for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner don't agree on much, but both clearly see a winning strategy in promising lower property taxes.

Quinn earlier this year proposed offsetting a higher income tax rate by sending homeowners (not renters) a $500 property tax rebate (though his plan didn't materialize).

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Historic Preservation
5:46 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Dana Thomas House Drying Out, But More Water Works Needed

An old photo of the Dana Thomas House, which Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1902, courtesy of the Dana Thomas House Foundation website.
Credit Dana Thomas House Foundation / http://www.dana-thomas.org/About.aspx

The Dana Thomas House in Springfield is still drying out, after it was closed because of flooding last Thursday. It's a short-term problem that raises a longer-term concern.

The site's manager, Justin Blandford, says the Frank Lloyd Wright designed home is back open to visitors -- though the tours that resumed on Sunday did not go through the basement.

Blandford says the home is in a "drying out" period.

The situation raises broader concerns about what can be done to better protect and preserve the historic home. Blandford says improvements are needed.

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Fracking
3:17 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

DNR Releases Fracking Rules

Credit wikimedia commons

  Drillers and environmentalists alike have been waiting for Illinois to come out with its guidelines for "fracking." The state's Department of Natural Resources finally published its draft Friday.

Hydraulic fracturing has been legal in Illinois for over a year; Governor Pat Quinn signed the law allowing it last June. Speculators began buying up properties in southern Illinois, where it's believed the land has deposits of oil and natural gas, deep under beds of shale. But without specific rules in place, they haven't been able to drill.

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Election 2014
7:30 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

How Politics Steered The Uber Bill

Credit Taxi by Ben Fredericson Ipad wallpaper

Gone are the days of standing outside, in the rain, hoping a taxi will pass by. Ridesharing services allow anyone with a smart-phone to download an app and get setup with a ride ... at least in the Chicago where it's available. It hasn't taken off yet elsewhere in Illinois. Even so, the General Assembly this spring passed a controversial measure that would regulate ridesharing statewide. Monday morning, Governor Pat Quinn vetoed it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on why.

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Election 2014
1:07 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

The Real Driver Behind Quinn's Rideshare Regulation Veto

Credit Mike/anotherpintplease via Flickr Creative Commons

Rideshare services have scored a win against Chicago's taxi industry in a battle that began in the legislature and moved on to the race for Illinois governor. Gov. Pat Quinn this morning vetoed a plan that would have established statewide regulations for the on-demand driving service, that let passengers call for rides via smart phone apps.

The minimum wage and what to do about Illinois' income tax are big campaign issues in the race between Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican rival Bruce Rauner.

No surprise: these sorts of policy issues will have a big impact statewide.

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