Amanda Vinicky

Statehouse Bureau Chief

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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New Law
5:44 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Statewide Fine For Littering, Tossing Cigarettes

Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton)
Credit ILGA.gov

Tossing trash anywhere besides a garbage will soon cost you no matter where you are in Illinois.  A new law imposes a statewide fine for littering.

State Senator Bill Haine hates litter, saying "it's irresponsible, it pollutes beautiful environments, God's creation, it creates ugliness."

He hates it so much, he says he goes around his neighborhood in Alton, picking it up himself.

"We don't have a dog anymore, but I use a Pooper Scooper, which is a remarkably efficient way to pick up litter," he says.

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State Fair Political Days
7:11 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk Back On Central Illinois Stage

In his first major appearance in central Illinois since his stroke in January, 2012, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk told a crowd of Republicans at the Illinois State Fair to “never give up.”
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

 A year-and-a-half after his stroke, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk returned to central Illinois for the first time this week.  Members of his party gave him a warm welcome at a Republican rally Thursday at the Illinois State Fair. 

Senator Kirk made his way slowly across the stage, aided by a cane. It has been a long, slow, partial recovery since his stroke last January.

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State Fair Political Days
5:59 am
Thu August 15, 2013

Democrats' Divide Deeper Than Quinn v. Daley

The Director's lawn on the fairgrounds is usually full on Governor's Day, when Democrats traditionally rally; instead it was largely empty on Gov. Pat Quinn's revised version, which featured multiple bands.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois Democrats put on happy faces Wednesday in Springfield for one of the party's biggest annual gatherings.  But even as they brushed off suggestions of turmoil and division within their ranks, a prominent member of the party was being sentenced to prison, another didn't show up and there's a battle for the top of the state Democratic ticket.  

A state fair is a place for tradition: carnival rides, corn dogs, barnyard animals.  And politicians.

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Election 2014
8:43 pm
Tue August 13, 2013

Pension Chairman Raoul Possible Democratic Challenger

Chair of the pension conference committee Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) talks with Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) at a July meeting in Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Governor Pat Quinn already has one primary challenger, but there's talk he may get more. 

A lot of politicians are heading to the capital city this week; it's the State Fair, and a time for annual political meetings and rallies.

Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul was driving down from Chicago Tuesday afternoon, in time for his fundraiser last night at a Springfield bar.

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Higher Education
11:41 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Debate Over University Research Open Access

Illinois' public universities could have to share more of their research, under a new state law. 

Pick a subject. Any subject.  And two things are likely true:

-someone at a university is researching it, and

-the results of that research are getting published, probably in a scholarly journal.

There's the journal of Sewage and Industrial Wastes. Contemporary European History. The African Music Society Newsletter ...  all of which gets the information out to experts in the given field.

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State Fair
7:29 am
Fri August 9, 2013

Governor's Day To Break Tradition

Gov. Pat Quinn leads his supporters at the 2013 Twilight Parade on Springfield's North side, kicking off the state fair.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The state fair got its start Thursday night with the Twilight parade through the north end of the capital city.  It's an annual tradition.  But indications are that another tradition -- a Democratic party rally  -- will not continue this year.  

There were cheerleaders, bands, children scrambling for candy, and of course, a parade of politicians.

The Attorney General, Treasurer, Comptroller, Lieutenant Governor were all there.

First in that line: Governor Pat Quinn and an army of supporters and staffers, wearing his trademark kelly green campaign t-shirts.

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Medical Marijuana
5:52 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Durbin: Wait, Watch Before National Medical Marijuana Policy

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Medical marijuana may be legal in his home state, but the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate says that shouldn't be a national policy.  

It'll be awhile before patients with certain diseases will actually be able to use pot to ease their symptoms - the Illinois law doesn't take effect until January, and state regulators have to put rules in place.

Even so, clinics  - including one in Chicago  - are already beginning to open.

Of course, it defies federal law.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's not ready for the feds to change course.

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Health Desk
4:47 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Durbin: No Rush On Changing Federal Marijuana Law

Sen. Dick Durbin

Medical marijuana may be legal in his home state, but the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate says that shouldn't be a national policy.
It will be awhile before patients with certain diseases will actually be able to use pot to ease their symptoms - the Illinois law doesn't take effect until January, and state regulators have to put rules in place.
Even so ... clinics ... including one in Chicago ... are already beginning to open.
Of course, it defies federal law.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says he's not ready for the feds to change course.

Read more
Statehouse
7:02 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Audit Finds State Computers Missing

Illinois' prison systems have misplaced $200,000 of computer equipment.  As Amanda Vinicky reports, the state's auditor general says that poses security risks. 

105 laptops are missing from the Illinois Department of Corrections - plus an additional 51 desktops.

According to a new audit,there's a risk confidential information stored on the computers could be exposed.

But D.O.C. spokesman Tom Shaer says that's not likely.

"We don't believe that these computers are laying around somewhere compromising security."

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Statehouse
5:51 am
Tue August 6, 2013

Interview: Secretary of State Jesse White

Jesse White
Credit Secretary of State's Office

Jesse White was first elected Secretary of State in 1998 - a position he's running for again in 2014. 

The Chicago Democrat told Amanda Vinicky that's what's determining his stance on the race at the top of the ballot, as Governor Pat Quinn faces primary opposition from Bill Daley.  

But before they talked politics, White told Vinicky about why he believes three new laws the governor signed Monday, August 5th will make the roads safer:

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Traffic Safety Laws
4:51 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

70 mph, Cell Phone Ban Bills Await Action

Secretary of State Jesse White
Credit Secretary of State's Office / Secretary of State

  Illinois has a trio of new laws that officials say will make the roads safer.  But the governor has yet to act on other measures that could have a significant impact on drivers.

Two of the new laws apply to people who've already had traffic troubles, like one named after 15-year-old Kelsey Little, who was seriously hurt in 2011 when she was hit by a teen just learning how to drive.

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Legislative Salaries Frozen
5:54 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Credit Union Offers Lawmakers Zero Interest Loans

Illinois legislators were supposed to get their next monthly paycheck on Thursday, August 1st.  But Governor Pat Quinn vetoed their salaries out of the budget.  Amanda Vinicky reports on how lawmakers may be able to get by.

Many legislators won't feel the pinch too deeply.

Serving in the General Assembly is technically a part-time occupation ... and many own businesses, are partners at law firms, or have other government jobs.  

But many don't, and are their family's sole breadwinner.

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University of Illinois
5:44 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Mooney Steps Into Leadership Role At IGPA

Chris Mooney
Credit igpa.uillinois.edu/person/christopher-z-mooney

University of Illinois Springfield political scientist Chris Mooney will take over next month as the head of U of I's Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

WUIS listeners know Mooney as a frequent panelist on State Week in Review.

Mooney says the Institute's researchers and professors can bring together the university's resources to help lawmakers deal with the state's problems.

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Pensions
6:11 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Business Group Refuses Comment on Bond Accusation

An influential group of business executives is declining to comment on the possibility it helped to lower Illinois' credit rating. But public employees’ unions are calling for an investigation.

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago — and one of its leaders, former Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner — were early leaders of the charge to do something about the state's underfunded pensions.

Fahner's been one of the most vocal advocates of doing not just something, but something major, to bring down the state's pension costs.

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Agrees To Serve Six Months In Prison
5:17 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Former IL Lawmaker Pleads Guilty To Federal Charge

Former Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) leaves the federal courthouse in Springfield after pleading guilty to a single count of mail fraud.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A former state legislator is the latest in a string of Illinois politicians to come under federal scrutiny for misconduct.  Wednesday,  longtime Rep. Connie Howard pleaded guilty to mail fraud.  

Though she'd served since 1995, Connie Howard is no longer a member of the House. 

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Regional
5:26 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Deadline For Flood Victims To Seek Federal Aid

Wednesday is the last day individuals affected by extreme flooding in the spring can apply for federal assistance.
Towns were evacuated.  Homes destroyed.  Fields turned to swamps. Rivers reached historic crests.
Flooding that hit Illinois this spring was bad enough that President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration for certain counties.
Now is the deadline for Illinois residents impacted by flash and river flooding from April 16 to May 5 to get government help with recovery.
Individual assistance - which businesses can also apply for - is available to residents of 35 counties.  That's to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other disaster-related expenses.
Five additional counties are eligible for public assistance - that's for the state, local governments and certain non-profit groups, who can use the money to help with debris removal and to help repair damaged public facilities.
The application is at disasterassistance.gov.

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Health Desk
8:16 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Quinn Signs Medicaid Expansion Bill

Even as Congress looks to further roll back President Barack Obama's signature health care program, his home state is officially implementing a key part of it.  Amanda Vinicky has more on a new Illinois law expanding Medicaid.

                                                          

For the first time, low-income adults without children will be eligible for Medicaid.

Specifically ... adults within 138-percent of the poverty level, so someone making just under $16,000.

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Caterpillar: Policy's Anticompetitive
5:21 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

Illinois Business Coalition Calls For Immigration Overhaul

A somewhat unlikely coalition is calling on Illinois' Congressional delegation to support an overhaul of the nation's immigration policy.       

                                                                           

At a Springfield roundtable discussing immigration, Mark Peters, an attorney with Peoria-based Caterpillar, started off his remarks by saying: "This would be a ... a really bad preface to a poor joke about a sheriff, a lawyer and a priest going into a bar..."

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Same-Sex Marriage Legislation
7:17 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Gay Rights Advocacy Coalition Picks New Campaign Director

John Kohlhepp
Credit Crain's Chicago Business

WUIS Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky speaks with John Kohlhepp, the newly selected Campaign Director for Illinois Unites for Marriage.  The coalition is pouring about $2M into a new push to get same-sex marriage legislation approved in the Illinois House. 

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Election 2014
6:15 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Quinn Suddenly Ready To Talk Politics, Disses Daley

Bill Daley, on the left, is a likely primary challenger for Gov. Pat Quinn, on the right in this stitch of separate photos.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  With Attorney General Lisa Madigan out of the race for Governor,  incumbent Pat Quinn turned his focus to another potential opponent,  Bill Daley.  It's an early indication of the campaign to come.

                                           

Republicans have a somewhat crowded field of four candidates hoping to be Illinois' next Governor.

For now, though, Democrats have only two: former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley and Governor Pat Quinn.

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Election 2014
8:15 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Lisa Madigan Not Running For Governor

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan testified before a Congressional committee in this 2011 file photo.
Credit flickr.com/jrockefelleriv

After months of speculation that Gov. Pat Quinn would face a primary challenge from Lisa Madigan, the Attorney General announced Monday she would not run for governor.

Madigan says she will seek a fourth term instead of challenging Quinn for the Democratic nomination.

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Back In Court
2:25 pm
Wed July 10, 2013

Gun Group Demands Concealed Carry By Next Week

Credit ammoland.com

Illinois lawmakers thought they were in the clear after meeting a federal court's deadline to pass a concealed carry law by Tuesday.  But the Illinois State Rifle Association says that's not good enough.

The Rifle Association believes lawmakers did not meet their deadline because the state's ban on carrying guns outside the home remains in effect.

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Pension Conference Committee
7:37 am
Wed July 10, 2013

Pension Deadline Missed, Quinn Warns Consequences

The Illinois House debates a gun control measure Tuesday, adjourning without a vote on a pension plan as the Governor had demanded.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Governor Pat Quinn had harsh criticism for a bipartisan panel of legislators assigned to draft a new plan to reduce the state's pension costs.  He wanted legislation passed Tuesday.  Lawmakers say they're close, but Quinn is not helping.  

Quinn was quick to criticize lawmakers' failure to pass pension legislation in time to meet his July 9 due date.

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Conference Committee
5:33 pm
Wed July 3, 2013

Stalemate On When Pension Stalemate Must End

Democratic legislators Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) prepare to begin the General Assembly's conference committee hearing on pensions.
Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Gov. Pat Quinn's office says his July 9 deadline for a pension overhaul stands, even though the leader of a special legislative panel formed to come up with a solution says there's no way to meet it.

It was a similar story about this time last year. 

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Concealed carry
6:45 am
Wed July 3, 2013

Quinn Rewrites Gun Bill; Critics Question Motive

Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) shepherds his concealed carry legislation, HB183, through the Illinois House on the final days of session in May.
Credit Chris Slaby/WUIS

With a week to go before a deadline requiring Illinois allow people to carry guns in public, Gov. Pat Quinn today vetoed the legislation that would have authorized concealed carry.  The Democrat claims he's concerned about public safety, but he's already under fire by critics who say it's a political stunt. The measure's sponsor has already filed paperwork to override Quinn's changes.

Illinois is the only state in the nation without some form of concealed carry.

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Gun Countdown
7:02 am
Tue July 2, 2013

Quinn Says Conceal Carry Action "Imminent"

Credit Mark Holloway via Flickr

  Illinois is quickly approaching a federal court's deadline of July 9 for the state to have a concealed carry law.

Every other state has some type of law that lets an average person carry a gun in public. But not Illinois where only those in certain professions can - namely police, retired law enforcement and security guards on the job.

Illinois is under a court order to lift that ban.

Legislators crafted a plan for how they want it done.   Now everyone's waiting for Gov. Pat Quinn to take action.

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Higher Education
3:12 pm
Mon July 1, 2013

Raises For Most University Of Illinois Employees

University of Illinois President Robert Easter
Credit photo courtesy of University of Illinois Board of Trustees / University of Illinois

  University of Illinois employees are set to receive pay hikes this year, and just how much will depend on their performance.  The school's leader says he's trying to provide a more stable financial environment for staff, even in the face of the state's unstable finances.  

In a letter to employees*, University of Illinois President Robert Easter says competitive compensation is essential to recruit and retain top faculty and staff.  And yet, he writes, "we must recognize the many uncertainties and challenges before us."

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Same sex marriage
2:04 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

What The DOMA Rulings Mean For Illinois

Gay rights activists hold a press conference before the end of the legislature's spring session, demanding the same sex marriage bill get a vote in the Illinois House.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Expect a raucous time at this weekend's annual Pride Parade in Chicago.  Gay right activists will celebrate the death of "DOMA," or the Defense of Marriage Act.  Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling declaring the Act unconstitutional is a major victory for advocates, who had a disappointing spring in Illinois.  The House of Representatives adjourned in late May without taking a vote on a measure to legalize gay marriage in the state.   Activists say they're hopeful the federal ruling will put additional pressure on state legislators to pass a law.  For the meantime, figuring out just what the r

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Gasification Fails
4:45 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Weekly Business Report: Growth in Wineries

Credit SJ-R

Amanda Vinicky talks with Tim Landis, Business Editor for the State Journal Register. We'll talk about Illinois' growing, and spreading, wine industry.  And what to do about high-accident intersections.  That and more in this week's Business Report.

You can read the latest stories Landis is working on daily in the SJR. 

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Pensions
7:32 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Special Session's Special Move: Creating a Conference Committee

House Speaker Mike Madigan has a front row seat Tuesday during a House committee on pensions, as the General Assembly's poised to form the first conference committee in years.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Members of Illinois' General Assembly return to the capitol Wednesday for a special session on pensions, where they're expected to pass off the problem to a yet another legislative committee. 

                      

    

What to do about Illinois' $100 billion pension debt has confounded legislators for years.

The most recent barrier: the House and Senate -- as well as the chambers' respective leaders -- are fixated on different plans.  So they've agreed to a new approach they're putting in motion Wednesday.

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