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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Rutan Flouted
8:21 am
Mon August 25, 2014

Inspector's Report Reveals Clout Hiring At IDOT

The Office of Executive Inspector General released a lengthy report detailing hiring practices at the Illinois Department of Transportation that defy the spirit of rules set up to separate political allegiances from employment decisions.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' Executive Inspector General says he has not spoken with federal prosecutors about a 245 page report released Friday. It details a swath of hiring mismanagement at the state's transportation department.

Inspector General Ricardo Meza took the unusual step of holding a press conference to explain the report, which focuses on a practice for which Illinois government has become infamous: patronage.

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Statehouse
3:02 pm
Sun August 24, 2014

Term Limits: The Walking, Talking Dead Constitutional Amendment

Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for governor, tried to put public pressure on the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the term limits case; it didn't work. The Court issued a brief memo on Friday saying simply that it would not hear Rauner's appeal of a lower court ruling that found the question unconstitutional.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

You may know by now that a question regarding term limits has been knocked off the ballot by the courts, but do you know why? Regardless of the court rulings, don't expect the issue to go away.

Republican nominee for governor Bruce Rauner and his attorneys say they tried to write a proposal that could pass constitutional muster.

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Election 2014
4:06 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

IL Supreme Court Won't Hear Term Limit Question Before Ballot Deadline

Workers load thousands of pages, containing more than 600,000 signatures, of Bruce Rauner's term limit initiative petition onto a truck, for delivery to the State Board of Elections.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Voters will not have a chance to weigh in on legislative term limits in November.

The Illinois Supreme Court this Friday afternoon issued a brief order saying it will not hear the case.

That leaves in place the decision of two lower courts that ruled the question unconstitutional.

In a statement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner said that "Springfield career politicians" — like his Democratic opponent, Governor Pat Quinn — won.

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Term limits
3:45 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Appellate Court Confirms: Term Limits Not Eligible For Ballot

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  For the second time, a court has deemed unconstitutional a citizen's initiative to would limit how long Illinois lawmakers can serve.

First, it was a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

Now, the decision is from a state appellate court.

Both say the question of term limits for state legislators should not go before voters on the November ballot.

The state Constitution says citizen's initiatives, like this one, must be limited to "structural and procedural" changes to the legislature.

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Statehouse
6:34 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Illinois Takes First Step Toward Drafting Greenhouse Gas Plan

Credit http://franky242.net/shop/image/pile-of-black-coal/

State regulators are beginning to discuss how Illinois will meet new federal requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When energy experts say things are going to get complicated: well, that's saying something. That's pretty much how Jim Ross, an air pollution control manager with Illinois' Environmental Protection Agency, summed up his briefing on the new standards.

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Statehouse
6:21 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Could Illinois Guard Be Called In To Ferguson?

Missouri's governor has brought in the National Guard to help to help deal with rioting in Ferguson, outside of St. Louis. Protests that erupted there over the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed, African American teenager, have frequently turned violent.

When there's an extreme emergency, Illinois National Guard units have gone to other states to help. Thousands of troops were sent to New Orleans, following Hurricane Katrina, for example.

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Statehouse
11:38 pm
Sun August 17, 2014

Why The Rush? Term Limits Decision Time Deadline, Explained

Credit brucerauner.com

Even though Illinois' general election is months away, a controversial ballot question could be answered by the end of this week. Friday is the deadline for a term limits initiative to make it on the ballot.

Republican's nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, has made instituting term limits for legislators a central plank of his campaign.

That would require a constitutional amendment. Rauner funded an effort to collected a half million signatures, so that the question could go before voters this fall.

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Statehouse
12:25 am
Fri August 15, 2014

(Cow) Tipping The Governor's Race

The Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, gives a rousing speech at the Illinois State Fair GOP Day. For the first time, gubernatorial candidates chose their running mates.
Credit Hannah Meisel

Politicians are supposed to apologize when they mess up, but typically that doesn't involve saying "I'm sorry" to cows. That's what Governor Pat Quinn says his opponent's running mate needs to do.

Before Republican Bruce Rauner asked her to be his running mate, attorney Evelyn Sanguinetti had made inquiries about getting a job with the state.

Lee Enterprises newspaper reporter Kurt Erickson uncovered that inquiry; which was made via email, to state employee whom Sanguinetti supposedly went to law school with.

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Statehouse
12:03 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Riding A Harley ... To A Republican Victory?

Bruce Rauner rallies Republicans at the Illinois State Fair.
Credit Hannah Meisel

  With summer coming to an end, and the November election getting ever closer, Gov. Pat Quinn and other Illinois Democrats gathered Wednesday in Springfield, for an annual party meeting and rally. But Thursday, Republicans had their day. The GOP hopes it'll be their year.

There's no "normal" way to get to the area on the Illinois State Fairgrounds where Republicans had their gathering.

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Election 2014
9:29 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Mascots, Class Warfare, Rallies: Democrats Fight To Hold Onto Power

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state. Illinois sends double as many Democrats to Washington as it does Congressional Republicans. The state legislature tips heavily in favor of Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities. And it has been more than a decade since a Republican last sat in Illinois' governor's seat.

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Election 2014
2:12 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

White Calls Governor's Contest "A Dog Race"

Jesse White

One of Illinois' most popular Democrats is expressing doubts about Governor Pat Quinn's chances.  It's an annual event; hundreds of Democrats get together at a Springfield hotel for breakfast and speeches, before heading out to the state fairgrounds.  It's part reunion, part rally.

But as he headed into the event, Secretary of State Jesse White was candid about his fears that November's election may not go well for Democrats ... or at least for the Democrat near the top of the ticket, Gov. Pat Quinn.

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Illinois State Fair
1:56 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Doilies, Christmas Trees, and Magnets: Judging The Fair's Contests

A sheep gets ready to be shown off for an Illinois State Fair contest -- one of the more popular ones, a livestock competition.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

For most of the thousands of people who go to the Illinois State Fair each summer, it's about fun -- the carnival rides, and corn dogs. But for others it's about competition. There are awards given for everything from longest ponytail to -- feminists, beware! --husband-calling. Not to mention the livestock events, which crown the best of the breeds. But what grabbed my attention was the "hobbies," where bakers, crafters and collectors have their chance at glory. First, they have to win over the judges.

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Election 2014
9:55 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Rauner: "Nothing Sinister" About Cayman Investments

Republican candidates for governor Bruce Rauner, a former private equity investor, answers questions from the media at the Illinois State Fair Thursday evening.
Credit John Knowles

Bruce Rauner says there's "nothing sinister" about venture capital firms using the Cayman Islands as a tax shelter, but says he has never used the investment vehicle for his personal benefit. 

A recent report by the Chicago Sun-Times details that a portion of his earnings have connections to the Cayman Islands -- considered a tax haven for the wealthy.

Until he stepped down to run for governor, Rauner was head of a capital investment firm, GTCR, which has several investment pools there.

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Top Democrats Request More Routes
8:46 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Full Steam Ahead For Amtrak

An Amtrak train stops to drop off and pick up passengers at the Springfield station.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Amtrak ridership in Illinois has risen in recent years; it's up almost 85 percent from 2006 through last year. That trend developed after the rail service added routes. The train service could grow more in the future.

In 2006, lines branching out from Chicago that went to Carbondale, Quincy and St. Louis added trips.

Then there's the ongoing construction on tracks, that's supposed to make way for so-called "high speed rail" on line that runs through Bloomington and Springfield, and into Missouri. There's a potential for more expansion going forward.

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Election 2014
5:57 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Doesn't Take The Election To Change General Assembly's Makeup

Chris Nybo will be sworn in Wedneday afternoon to the Illinois Senate.
Credit ILGA.gov

Illinois' General Assembly will get a new member Wednesday afternoon. Chris Nybo will take the oath of office, even though the election is still several months away.

Nybo, an Elmhurst attorney, will have to beat out Democrat Suzanne Glowiak of Western Springs to win a full term in the State Senate.

But the Republican will represent the western suburbs for now.

Nybo's replacing Kirk Dillard, who stepped down as a Senator to chair the Chicago area's mass transportation agency, known as the RTA.

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Statehouse
10:39 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Dillard Resigns To Chair RTA; Says No More Runs For Office In His Future

Longtime Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, who stepped down to chair the RTA.
Credit dillard.senategop.org

 

After nearly two decades as an Illinois Senator, Kirk Dillard has stepped down. The Hinsdale attorney has taken over as chairman of northeastern Illinois' public transit system, known as the RTA.

Even before he became a Senator in 1995, Dillard was a known name in Illinois government; he was Chief of Staff to former Gov. Jim Edgar. Dillard twice tried to win the state's top job for himself, but narrowly missed winning the GOP nomination this year; in 2010 he came within 193 votes.

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Budget FY15
6:32 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

Why Illinois Is Cutting Hours At Some Historic Sites, And Sparing Others

The Old State Capitol in Springfield is a popular tourist destination - it's where Abraham Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech, but it will only be open to the public four days a week starting next month.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Monday announced that it's scaling back hours at more than a dozen of its sites.

Lincoln's New Salem in Petersburg, the former statehouse in Vandalia, and Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville are also affected.

Spokesman Chris Wills blames a 20 percent cut in state funding.

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IDOT
6:56 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

Inspector General Discloses Political Hiring Investigation

Attorney Michael Shakman's lawsuit accuses Gov. Pat Quinn's administration of political hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which until late June was headed by Anne Schneider. In this photo, taken in April, Schneider is introducing a state roads plan with Quinn by her side.
Credit WUIS

  As Gov. Pat Quinn battles a lawsuit accusing his administration of political hiring, the state watchdog charged with investigating ethics violations is asking to get involved.

Confidentiality restrictions prevent the Inspector General from saying what he is or isn't looking into.

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Pensions
6:29 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Illinois' Credit Prognosis: Negative

Wall Street's view of Illinois' financial health has taken a hit, thanks largely to the state budget that took effect at the start of this month. Pensions also continue to be a drag. 

When Illinois Democrats passed the state's latest budget, many seemed to hold their nose. Credit ratings agencies are more direct: Standard & Poors has revised Illinois' credit outlook to "negative." 

It says the new budget "is not structurally balanced and will contribute to growing."

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Statehouse
12:12 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Trucker Asks: Are Police Above The Law?

A screenshot of the video Brian Miner posted of being pulled over in June by an Illinois State Trooper.
Credit Brian Miner, You Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-dJgFdfl3I)

It has been just over half a year since Illinois made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. There are some exceptions: you can hold your phone if your car is stopped -- say at a railroad crossing for a freight train -- and in park or neutral, or if you pull off onto the shoulder. The law also makes an exemption for law enforcement. A recent YouTube sensation that raises the question: should police get special treatment?

    

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Guns
12:06 am
Mon July 21, 2014

Attorney General Wants To Send Concealed Carry Cases Out Of Court

Credit flickr

Illinois gun owners who've been denied a concealed carry permit can appeal. But instead of going through the courts, Illinois' Attorney General wants a state panel to decide those cases.

There are about 200 concealed carry denials before Illinois courts, brought by people who say they shouldn't have been deemed dangerous or a threat to public safety by Illinois' Concealed Carry Licensing Review Board.

Until recently, applicants didn't actually know why they were rejected.

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Election 2014
5:26 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

No School For Kids On Election Day

Credit wikimedia

Illinois students could get a day off of school come election day. Schools are often at the heart of a community, metaphorically, if not literally. That's part of the reason they've long been voting sites.

But with shootings at schools across the country, some lawmakers are concerned the practice is dangerous.

Most of the time visitors need to sign in before entering a school; they say allowing anyone in on election day is asking for trouble.

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Statehouse
5:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Supreme Court Won't Take Up Term Limits

Credit Illinois Supreme Court

  An effort to institute term limits in Illinois has hit a major road block. The state Supreme Court says it will not rush to hear the case.

 The Supreme Court's decision could be the end of Republican Bruce Rauner's term limits initiative.

Limiting how long legislators can be in Illinois' General Assembly has been a staple of his campaign for governor.

That takes a change in the constitution. Rauner's group collected over a half million signatures so that question could be put to voters on the November ballot.

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New Law
6:52 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Illinois To Require Bulletproof Vests

Credit flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

A new law signed Wednesday is intended to keep police officers safe, by requiring they get protective gear.

A bulletproof vest will become part of an officers' standard equipment issue. Contingent on money, of course.

The new law includes provisions to help ensure there is funding.

It law requires communities and the state apply for a federal grant, that provides matching funds specifically for the purchase of bullet proof vests.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
6:02 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Election-Year Fight Over What's Next In Probe Of Quinn's NRI

After a day-long meeting Wednesday, a legislative commission will meet again Thursday morning in Chicago. They're set to begin with a call to the U.S. Attorney's office. Democrats and Republicans are at a standstill over what to do next in their probe of Gov. Pat Quinn's controversial anti-violence program.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
12:31 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Republicans Call "Contempt" As Witnesses Fail To Show At NRI Hearing

A legislative hearing convened to probe a troubled anti-violence program run by Gov. Quinn is underway in Chicago. Federal prosecutors have asked lawmakers to hold off taking testimony, because it may obstruct their investigation. 

It all goes back to a program called the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, which debuted in 2010, when Quinn was in the midst of a tight race for governor against Republican Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. A state audit showed it was rife with mismanagement, and Republicans say that's because Quinn was trying to use it to boost his campaign.

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Neighborhood Recovery Initiative
9:36 am
Wed July 16, 2014

How The NRI Hearing Could Play Out For Quinn's Campaign

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program will be in the spotlight today (7/16) when a bipartisan legislative commission meets in Chicago.  

It's not yet clear how lawmakers will proceed, given that the federal government wants them to put a hold on their investigation until mid-October, just before the November election, when Quinn will face Republican Bruce Rauner.

Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown says that's what Quinn's campaign wants.

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Statehouse
6:07 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Applicants Denied Concealed Carry Licenses Will Learn Why Under New Emergency Rules

Credit http://www.adamsguns.com

  A year after Illinois legalized concealed carry, new rules are out to determine the process for deciding who can't carry a gun in public. The Illinois State Police issued the emergency rules Monday 7/14 afternoon.

Not just anyone can carry a gun right off the bat. You have to get a license, which entails passing muster with local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police; they can deny applicants.

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Budget FY15
8:12 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Bill Backlog Improvement Could Be Temporary

Credit flickr/dborman

  The amount of money Illinois owes to companies and organizations that have provided goods and services for the state is at its lowest level since 2010, but that improvement could be short-lived.

At one point, Illinois had a stack of overdue bills totaling about $10 billion.

It took so long for the state to pay back its vendors that some were forced to close their doors - they couldn't pay their bills.

But that was at the height of the recession, and before Illinois' hike in the state income tax.

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Election 2014
7:20 am
Mon July 14, 2014

Republican Bruce Rauner Defends His Personal Tax Bill

Bruce Rauner
Credit WUIS

Bruce Rauner -- the Republican nominee for Illinois governor -- says he followed the letter of the law when filing his taxes.  But he won't say whether it was fair.

Rauner, a businessman, has said his wealth puts him in the top .01%.
Even so, a Chicago Tribune analysis showed that in several recent years, he paid no Social Security or Medicare taxes.
Rauner has released limited parts of his tax returns.

It's believed he took advantage of I-R-S rules to legally cut his tax burden.
Rauner defended that ...

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