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. 

WUIS

More than 30-thousand state employees are members of AFSCME, Illinois' largest public employee union. Today, the union says Governor Bruce Rauner has walked away from contract talks.

Governor Bruce Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel escalated their war of words this week, with Rauner saying that before he'll help the Chicago public schools he expects Emanuel to agree to his pro-business agenda.  Mike Riopell, political editor for the Daily Herald, joins the panel.

Creative Commons

It's a week into the New Year, and gyms across the country are packed with people who've vowed to get in shape. Our Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky had resolved to be one of them, but admits that already, she's fallen short. Maybe Illinois' leaders will have better luck. Vinicky asked around for their civic-minded resolutions.

No matter your political persuasion, given the stalemate that's gripping the state, we can all agree that Illinois could use some self-improvements.

BarackObama.com

President Barack Obama cited gun violence in his hometown Tuesday during a White House speech.

Obama says he's using his executive authority to put restrictions on firearms because too many innocent people, including children, have lost their lives to bullets.

"Every time I think about those kids, it makes me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” he said.

A supportive audience applauded the statement, as Obama used his index finger to wipe a tear from his cheek.

Bill Wheelhouse WUIS

A total of 23 Illinois counties are under state disaster status due to flooding. Gov. Bruce Rauner added 11 to that list Tuesday.

Amanda Vinicky

A month ahead of the the Iowa caucuses, presidential contenders can officially file to run in neighboring Illinois. 

Five Republicans got their petitions in early Monday, with at least 3,000 signatures each.

The Illinois Republican Party's attorney John Fogarty says the popular vote for president is known here as the "beauty contest."

That's because who Illinois GOP primary voters pick as delegates -- who are listed on the ballot as supporters of a particular candidate -- is where the race is really won.

Black legislators say Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t done enough in the wake of the release of police shootings of LaQuan McDonald and other African Americans.

When asked by reporters, Gov. Rauner said he cried after watching the 2014 video of black Chicago teenager LaQuan McDonald getting shot 16 times by a city cop.

“That video — shocking, terrifying. I cried for the young man who was brutally shot," he said.

In recent days officers responding to a call killed two other black Chicagoans.

Come Friday,  when the New Year begins, 237 new laws will be in effect in Illinois – about half of those that passed during Gov. Bruce Rauner’s first term. But the state is still without a budget as Rauner and lawmakers fight over a handful more.

This week, the panel reflects back on some memorable people and events in Illinois state politics and government over the past few decades, how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same.

Hannah Meisel

Amanda Vinicky hosts The Players, your look into who's who in Illinois politics and what they are up to. This week, she talks with a candidate for the U.S. Senate. 

Democrats looking to pick up seats in the U.S. Senate have their hopes pinned on Illinois.

Illinois' junior Senator, Republican Mark Kirk, is seen a vulnerable; he's got a primary challenge of his own, but he's way out in front on the cash race, and has the party's backing.

Democrats? They're more split.

State leaders aren't discussing how Illinois can bring in more tax money; not yet anyway. Given the state's growing deficit they'll get there one day. The state's leading group for retirees is on the offensive over one particular tax break.

Herwig Kavallar, Creative Commons

It can be scary for a victim of sexual abuse to have to testify about it in court; a state law taking effect in the New Year is meant to give them comfort. With it, children will be able to bring canine companions with them to court.

Illinois' budget crisis won't be resolved this year.  Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders are sticking to their respective positions, and this week House Speaker Michael Madigan didn't attend a meeting that focused on discussion of term limits and other aspects of Rauner's demands.  WBEZ Public Radio's Tony Arnold joins the panel.

Amanda Vinicky

It'll be 2016 before Illinois' top political leaders meet again, as a historic stalemate grinds on. 

City of Wheaton website

Illinois has more individual units of government than any other state. A report approved Thursday by a gubernatorial task force says that ought to change.

Eliminating the requirement that governments print public notices in newspapers, allowing citizens to use referendum to dissolve units of local government, and repealing the prevailing wage (which stipulates what construction workers get paid for government projects): These are the recommendations that'll be included in the report.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the legislative leaders went half a year without all getting together, but Thursday they met for the third time in as many weeks ... most of them anyway.  A major player was missing.

The private meeting in the governor's office lasted an hour and 40 minutes.

Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno described it as a "good" meeting.

"We are still talking about the same issues we've been talking about," she said. "We'll be digging in a little deeper on pensions and workers' comp. We also talked about redistricting reform, term limits."

Evalyn Sanguinetti at Inauguration 2015
Brian Mackey/WUIS

The finishing touches are going on a plan to streamline local government costs.

One of Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial ideas, is to give local governments the option to discontinue collective bargaining. That's something state law requires now.

The task force chaired by Rauner's lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti has embraced the idea.

By the end of this year, Sanguinetti says the group will have a report published, with that and other recommendations for finding mandates that can be done away with, room for government consolidation, and cutting costs.

flickr/DavidWilson

Campaign contributions to former Governor Rod Blagojevich may have sealed the fate for a pair of historic Illinois racetracks. But not if some state legislators have their way.

npr.org

  Even with all of its fiscal troubles Illinois will have to put nearly $8 billion into its retirement systems next year -- that's a quarter of the state's expected revenue. Legislative leaders and the governor may finally be poised to begin talking about how they may be able to reduce costs.

During a speech in Chicago this week, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan was asked about the prospects for new taxes, while Governor Bruce Rauner said that he expects the budget stalemate to continue into the spring.   Despite the budget impasse, an agreement was made to send some money owed to Illinois municipalities, as well as to the lottery and Secretary of State.  Matt Dietrich of RebootIllinois.com joins the panel.

A year ago, Illinois' income tax rate fell by 25-percent. The top Democrat in the Illinois House is suggesting it go back up.

Voice of America News: Henry Ridgwell from the Turkish border by Aleppo

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, is denouncing recent anti-Muslim statements from his party's front-runner for president, but he's sticking to his position on Syrian refugees, and he's even taking it a step further.

Rauner described Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as "an extreme action."

"What he's proposing is just fundamentally counter to American values," Rauner said Tuesday in response to reporters' questions. "I strongly, strongly disagree with candidate Trump."

police cars
flickr.com/appleswitch (Creative Commons)

  So far, it seems no police officers have been disciplined for helping conceal the circumstances under which Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald was killed. Because of that, a group of black lawmakers say Illinois should consider licensing police.

Illinois Lottery

The Illinois Lottery will resume paying out big prizes, thanks to a partial budget just signed into law. But that won't be enough to end a class-action lawsuit.

The jackpot's been out of reach, even for Lottery players lucky enough to win $600 or more. Illinois suspended paying larger prizes; without a budget, it didn't have the legal authority.

When you get your drivers' license renewed, chances are you're going to a building that the state doesn't own; it leases. Due to the budget impasse, Illinois hasn't paid its rent checks, electric or water bills since July.

Dave Druker, with the Secretary of State, says while most have been patient, one landlord was close to kicking the state out, and a utility sent a shutoff notice.

"You know these are folks that are in business. And they've honorably entered into contracts with us -- leases, and we hope that they can be paid as soon as possible," Druker said.

flickr/borman18

Money can now be released to local governments and community organizations that have been waiting for state funding since July. The Senate was in Springfield briefly Monday to approve the funding; within hours the governor had signed the plan into law.

An ideological, political feud between the governor and the Democrats who control Illinois' legislature has left the state without a budget.

But they've reach a minor agreement. Republicans had previously been against piecemeal budgets, but Governor Bruce Rauner says he was concerned about public safety.

Illinois Municipal League

Illinois Senators are poised to approve sending some $2 billion to local governments, money that thus far has been caught in the political fight between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and legislative Democrats.

The funding will send 911 fees to the call centers, give municipalities their share of proceeds from video gaming and allow localities to pay for road salt.

After more than six months, Illinois' governor met with the four top legislative leaders to discuss the state's budget impasse. No progress was made, but all agreed to meet again someday soon. Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times joins the panel.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' unemployment insurance program will see some changes next year, the result of something that's rare in Springfield these days as a budget stalemate persists: hard-fought negotiations giving way to a compromise.

Courtesy of ILGA.gov

Illinois still has no full budget, but local governments, 911 call centers and the state lottery could soon get money.

Some legislators may have done it begrudgingly, but Democrats and Republicans alike voted for a measure that spends $3 billion.

It'll also pay for road salt, send money to domestic violence shelters, and cover police training. It seems to be a U-turn for Republicans, who've previously opposed such "piecemeal" budgeting.

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