Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief / Reporter

217-206-6019

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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Election 2014
12:14 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Cellini Back On The Political Scene, Backs Rauner

Bruce Rauner, the GOP nominee for governor, speaks with individuals at a Sangamon County Republican Foundation reception.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Springfield powerbroker William Cellini is back on the political scene, following his release from prison late last year. He was found guilty of participating in an extortion scheme when Rod Blagojevich was governor.

Cellini attended a Sangamon County Republican Foundation event Tuesday night, which featured Bruce Rauner, the party's nominee for governor.

Cellini says he backed State Senator Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary race. But now he's behind Rauner.

"Well I've been a Republican all my life and he's the Republican candidate," Cellini said.

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IHSA
12:18 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Lawmaker Wants Closer Oversight Of IHSA

  Illinois lawmakers want to take a closer look at the Illinois High School Association ... the organization that sanctions spots and extracurricular competitions statewide. Critics fear it will end in a takeover.

Football, chess and water polo matches — not to mention band, drama and scholastic bowl competitions — are all governed by the IHSA. It's a non-profit-group, based in Bloomington.

But while it's not government-run, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, says it was created by the General Assembly.

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Constitutional Amendment
6:35 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Legislators Vote Against Capping Their Careers

Credit flickr/danxoneil

  Voters may still get the chance to decide if they want to limit how long legislators can serve ... but no thanks to legislators themselves.

Although elections have been compared to popularity contests, as a whole, "politicians" aren't all that popular.

Which may be way polls show voters find the idea of term limits so appealing.

Unless, of course, you're a legislator.

Senator Darin LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, nonetheless introduced a term limits plan.

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Education
1:46 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Senator Suggests Switching School Funding Distribution

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, says his kids' art classes are held in a former janitors' closet -- a sign of what happens as a result of Illinois' school funding formula.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

    

Critics of the way Illinois funds schools say it's wrong that the quality of a child's education is based largely on her zip code.

That's because schools are mostly funded by local property taxes. While Illinois takes that into account when determining how much state money to give each district, it's not the predominant factor.

A new proposal, backed by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, would make local need the number one test.

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Minimum wage debate
12:27 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Madigan Throws Support Behind Raising Minimum Wage

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  House Speaker Michael Madigan says there is "strong support" in the chamber for a hike in Illinois' minimum wage. That's one of the big issues in the governor's race.

Businesses don't like it, but a plan to raise Illinois' minimum wage from $8.25, to $10.65 an hour, is before the General Assembly.

Advocates continue to try to drum up the necessary votes.

It appears they'll have help from the powerful Illinois House Speaker. Madigan says it's a matter of "fairness" and "equity."

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Voting rights
12:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Madigan's Voting Rights Law Makes Strides

  As other states enact stricter voting restrictions, Illinois lawmakers are looking to protect against suppression. A House committee Tuesday advanced the constitutional change.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was hard pressed when asked to give an example of a case in Illinois when an eligible voter was denied access to register or to take a ballot.

"I'm not in the position to cite examples ..."

But Madigan says it has happened in states that have attempted to enact voter ID laws that discriminate against minorities, or that cut early voting periods short.

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate is Churned Up at the State and Federal Levels

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event. 

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Illinois Issues
12:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Minimum Wage: The Debate is Churned Up at the State and Federal Levels

Gone are the days a candidate can make a campaign appearance before a friendly crowd of party faithful, nearly a year before an election, and think his remarks will fade from memory as fast as the mass-produced fried chicken or roast beef the audience was likely served during the event. 

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Budget address
2:39 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Quinn's Proposed Bump In Education Funding Not Immediate

  Governor Pat Quinn is selling his budget plan — with its extension of Illinois' income tax increase — as a way to better fund schools. But that boost doesn't come right away.

During his budget address, Gov. Quinn introduced big plans for education: modernizing classrooms. A "birth to five" early learning intiative. And more money for elementary and high schools.

"Over the next five years, my plan calls for the biggest education investment in state history," he said. "Every child should have an excellent school."

Notice he said "over the next five years."

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Hunting regulations
4:49 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Bobcat Hunting Measure Passes House

Credit flickr/stevendepolo

  Hunters and trappers could harvest bobcats, under a measure that got approval from the Illinois House.

Hunting bobcats has been illegal in Illinois for decades.

But now that Department of Natural Resources numbers show the population growing, especially in southern and western parts of the state, Rep. Wayne Rosenthal wants that ban lifted.

His plan passed the House 91 to 20. Rosenthal, a Republican from Morrisonville, says his critics ask:

"Why do you want to get rid of these pretty, little kitties?"

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Election 2014
11:22 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Green Party Candidates Seek Place on November Ballot

Scott Summers, the Green Party's nominee for Illinois governor in 2014
Credit Illinois Green Party website

  Illinois Republicans and Democrats chose their party's nominees last week. Third-party candidates are working to join them on the November ballot.

Before they can even think about winning a statewide election, independent candidates and those from third parties have to make it on the ballot, which requires collecting at least 25,000 valid signatures, by mid-June.

Green Party candidates are beginning their petition drive.

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Illinois Budget FY15
12:00 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Quinn Tax Hike Plan Sets Stage For Governor's Race

Gov. Pat Quinn delivers his annual budget address on the House floor Wednesday. In his speech, Quinn called for extending the 2011 income tax hike.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Plenty can, and will, happen before voters go to the polls in November to chose their next governor. But a central theme of the campaign emerged Wednesday, when Gov. Pat Quinn proposed making permanent what was supposed to have been a temporary hike in the state's income tax. His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner, favors letting the increase lapse. Their competing visions mean a lot is at stake ahead of the upcoming election, as well as for the state's future.

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Budget address
1:45 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Gov. Quinn Calls For Keeping Higher Income Tax Rate

Illinois residents would continue paying a 5-percent income tax rate under the much-anticipated budget proposal Governor Pat Quinn presented today. 

Illinois' income tax rate is supposed to expire in January, midway through the fiscal year.

Gov. Quinn says that would cause "savage cuts" to schools and other critical state services.
Instead, Quinn wants to make the higher income tax rate permanent.

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Budget address
10:32 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Gov. Quinn's Budget Address Could Answer Income Tax Question

  In a speech that could be pivotal for both his re-election campaign and for the state's finances, Governor Pat Quinn will Wednesday present his annual budget proposal. His administration is tight-lipped about what he has in mind. 

Illinois lawmakers — at least most of them — have agreed the state has about $35 billion dollars to spend next year.

But as House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says,

"How we distribute that money and divvy it up is a whole different analysis."

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Income tax
10:23 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Ill. Voters Don't Want Tax Increase, Even If It Means Losing Services

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois voters want the temporary income tax increase to rollback in January, as scheduled, even if it means sizable cuts in state spending.

Just over a quarter of voters surveyed favor making the current income tax rate permanent, while 60 percent oppose it.

The current 5 percent rate will drop at the end of the year unless lawmakers intervene.

The public's opposition is still strong — stronger even — when voters are told lowering the tax rate will add billions of dollars to the state budget deficit.

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Governor's Budget
10:11 am
Sun March 23, 2014

A Possible Six-Month Budget From Gov. Quinn?

  More than a month after he was supposed to outline his financial agenda for the state, Governor Pat Quinn will deliver his budget address this week. He has promised to give a long-term plan as well. But some legislators fear Illinois will go the opposite route and adopt a partial-year budget.

During his budget speech Wednesday, Gov. Quinn will presumably answer the question he has avoided answering for months: what should Illinois do about the temporary income tax increase, set to rollback in January? That's midway through the next fiscal year.

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Election 2014
7:56 pm
Sat March 22, 2014

Rauner Introduces Democratic, Indpendent Backing

Bruce Rauner stands with wife Diana on election night. Diana Rauner calls herself a "lifelong Democrat," and is one of a couple dozen Democratic supporters Rauner announced Thursday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  The Republicans' nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, announced a round of new endorsements Thursday, but not from members of his own party.

Rauner is suspect in the eyes of some Republicans for his ties and campaign contributions to leading Democrats, like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

That may have been why his wife, Diana, wasn't often seen with him on the campaign trail leading up to the primary.

"This morning I'm here as a lifelong Democrat ..."

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Minimum wage debate
9:45 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Gov. Quinn Shops The Gap To Promote Raising Minimum Wage

Gov. Pat Quinn shops at the downtown Chicago location of The Gap to promote raising the minimum wage in Illinois.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  As legislators who'll have to vote on a minimum wage increase began debating the issue in Springfield, Governor Pat Quinn was in Chicago promoting it.

Gov. Quinn has been relentless, lately, about increasing Illinois' minimum wage up from $8.25.

His latest push involved going shopping at The Gap for gifts for his nieces. He invited the media to witness it.

Quinn paid $77.49 — cash — for three sweaters.

The Gap's moving to pay its employees $10 an hour. Quinn says Illinois should follow that example.

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Statehouse
4:28 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Rep. Farnham Steps Down; Cites Health Reasons

Rep. Keith Farnham

A day after the primary race, a member of the Illinois House has stepped down.  The legislator is under federal scrutiny.

Representative Keith Farnham, a Democrat from Elgin, gave no reason in his one-sentence resignation letter.

But in a statement, Farnham says he has been battling serious health issues for years, and in coming months those health issues will require his full attention. 

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Election 2014
12:57 pm
Wed March 19, 2014

Fresh From Win, Candidate Bruce Rauner Backs Off Government Union Rhetoric

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Now that he's the Republicans nominee, it seems like Bruce Rauner is backing away from a campaign mantra.

During the primary race, Rauner consistently repeated these three words:

"Government union bosses."

But that wasn't part of his victory speech Tuesday night. Nor did he single out unions at the GOP's unity lunch the next morning. Rather, Rauner seemed to be trying to make nice with labor.

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Election 2014
12:28 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Rauner Nabs Republican Nomination, But Not The Dominant Win Predicted

Bruce Rauner and wife Diana celebrate at his election night party. Rauner won the GOP gubernatorial nomination by a closer margin than was expected.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Bruce Rauner narrowly won the Republican primary for governor. He'll face Governor Pat Quinn, who is aiming for a second full-term. Neither of the wins were surprising, but the margins were.

Quinn was basically guaranteed Democrat's nod, after former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley dropped out of the running in September.

Still Quinn's so-called "token" opponent, Tio Hardiman — who had no money to really run a campaign — grabbed 28 percent of the vote. That's largely being viewed more as "anti-Quinn" than "pro-Hardiman."

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Election 2014
6:51 am
Mon March 17, 2014

Candidates Hope For Luck O' The Irish

The four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for governor: Sen. Bill Brady, Sen. Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner and Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Candidates are making their final pushes for support ahead of Tuesday's elections. It's all about getting out the vote.

As they travel the state on St. Patrick's Day, each of the Republicans seeking the party's nomination for governor are hoping for some luck they can carry over to election day.

While polls show private equity investor Bruce Rauner ahead, Sen. Kirk Dillard has seen his support rise in recent weeks. At an Dillard rally last night in Springfield, his onetime boss, former Gov. Jim Edgar, said primary results are hard to predict by polls.

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Election 2014
6:30 am
Wed March 12, 2014

"The Limit Is Winning The Race"

The Republican candidates for governor: Sen. Bill Brady, Sen. Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner, Treasurer Dan Rutherford
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

  Illinois had long been the holdout: a state without any limits on campaign contributions. Prosecutors say former Governor Rod Blagojevich took full advantage of that freedom, as he solicited donations in exchange for favors and state jobs. His arrest spurred lawmakers into action.

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Gun Control
6:11 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Majority Feel Less Safe Since Concealed Carry Law

As Illinois gun owners increasingly are allowed to carry their firearms as they go about their daily lives -- a new poll shows half of Illinois voters feel less safe. Qualifying gun-owners began receiving their licenses to carry loaded firearms earlier this month.

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Election 2014
6:59 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Big Opportunity For Republicans As Poll Shows Quinn "Dread"

  The Republican race is heating up as the March 18 election nears, but Gov. Pat Quinn faces only nominal primary opposition. He's likely safe for now, but a new poll shows Quinn could have trouble holding onto his seat come the general election.

"The Walking Dread." That's the headline "We Ask America" used on its website to announce the results of its latest Illinois poll, a brief survey of just over 1,100 likely Democratic voters. As in, probable members of Quinn's own party.

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Election 2014
5:15 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

Dillard Campaign Gets On TV: Watch

Senator Kirk Dillard, R- Hinsdale, who's trying for the second time for the GOP nomination for governor.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

With less than two weeks until the primary election, Bruce Rauner will no longer be the only candidate airing self-promotional T-V ads in Illinois. Senator Kirk Dillard is airing campaign commercials of his own.

The commercials Bruce Rauner has been airing for months, thanks mostly to the more than $6 million dollars he's put into his campaign, have helped him surge ahead in polls for the GOP race for governor.

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Obama Presidential Library
8:25 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Speaker Madigan Proposes $100 Million For Obama Library

Credit BarackObama.com

  The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Illinois House are taking opposing views on whether Illinois should promise taxpayer money to try and lure President Barack Obama's library and museum to Chicago.

The head of Illinois' Democratic Party, Michael Madigan, wants Illinois to spend $100 million dollars on a Presidential Library and Museum for Barack Obama.

It's up to Obama to choose where it'll be located.

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Taxing retirement income
6:54 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Civic Federation Calls For Taxing Retirement Income

  As more baby-boomers retire, Illinois is increasingly missing out on a revenue source. Of the 41 states with an income tax, Illinois is one of only three that exempt all pension income.

A new report from the Chicago-based Civic Federation says Illinois needs to take a longer-term approach to budgeting; one that is rooted less in politics, and more in reality. Most notably. the group recommends Illinois extend its current income tax rate for a year before gradually rolling it back.

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Disaster Aid Denied
6:00 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Illinois Politicians Challenge FEMA Formula UPDATED

A home all but wiped away in Washington, Ill. during the November tornado.
Lee Strubinger/WUIS

UPDATE:  On Tues., March 4, FEMA denied Illinois' appeal for public assistance for nine counties.  

This week, Gov. Pat Quinn gave a keynote speech at a forum in Washington, D.C. on natural disasters. The governor says Illinois has suffered a record-number of incidents in recent years. And yet the state has come up short when it's sought help from the federal government. That includes a rejection following the outbreak of 25 tornados in Illinois at the end of last year — tornadoes from which the towns of Washington, Gifford, and others are still recovering.

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Election 2014
3:47 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Republicans Race For Governor Becomes "Blood Sport"

One month, to the day, before the primary election, the four men running for the Republican nomination for governor debated one another in Springfield.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The four men seeking the Republican nomination for governor met in a debate Tuesday (2/18) night in Springfield, the last time they're scheduled to appear together downstate before next month's primary election.

With political newcomer Bruce Rauner leading in the polls and in fundraising, debates are a chance for the three other candidates to talk directly to voters, free of charge.

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