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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Pensions
7:10 am
Tue December 3, 2013

How Today's Pension Vote Will Go, Procedure-Wise

The pension conference committee meets in Chicago over the summer.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

This morning, legislators on a special, bipartisan panel formed to reach a compromise on Illinois' pension situation will once again meet in Springfield. Already, most of the committee's members have signed off on a deal.  Beyond that, the measure's fate is uncertain.

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Pensions
6:21 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Strange Bedfellows Could Kill Leaders' Pension Deal

A Christmas tree and other holiday decorations bring a festive spirit to the capitol on Monday -- today the statehouse will be bustling during last-minute negotiations ahead of a landmark pension vote.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators will be asked today (12/3) to take what many say could be the most important vote of their careers. They've been called back to Springfield to take up a measure that would drastically alter the state's retirement plans. Doing so would have obvious ramifications for state employees, teachers and university workers whose pensions are at stake. But the impact of a vote is far more widespread. What happens could also affect everything from the state's credit rating and Illinois' next budget, to the 2014 elections. The outcome is anything but certain.

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Pensions
2:58 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Republican Hopefuls Split On Pension Overhaul

Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, says the Senate should gather all of its members, and spend a couple of days hearing from experts, as well as from state workers whose pensions would be affected by pension changes.
Credit dillard.senategop.org

The four Republicans running for Illinois governor are taking diverging stances on the pension measure that's bringing the General Assembly back to Springfield tomorrow. The package drafted by the legislative leaders would cut state workers', teachers' and university employees' retirement benefits.

Whether there's enough support for the leaders' plan to pass is uncertain, but it will get Sen. Bill Brady's vote.

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Pensions
4:10 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

How Leaders Want To Overhaul Illinois Pensions

Details are out on what the leaders of Illinois' General Assembly want to do to the state's retirement systems. They've released an outline of their deal.

After years of debate about what to do about the $100 billion dollars of unfunded liability Illinois has racked up for its pension systems, legislative leaders announced on Wednesday they had agreed to a deal. But they were tight-lipped about what all it involved.

That information has now been spelled out in a one-page overview, a memo passed out to members of the House and Senate.

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Pension Overhaul
4:49 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Leaders Reach Pension Deal; Now Drumming Up Votes

House Speaker Michael Madigan talked to reporters about pensions during the end of the spring legislative session; he and Senate President John Cullerton were at odds then over how to deal with the state's underfunded retirement systems.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The leaders of Illinois' General Assembly have reached a deal on pensions. But now they have to persuade legislators to go along with it. The House and Senate will meet in Springfield Tuesday (12/3) to debate the measure.

It's the first time the four leaders of the House and Senate have come together on a plan dealing with the state's pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation. Details are forthcoming, but House Speaker Michael Madigan came out of a meeting in Chicago saying it will save $160 billion.

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Election 2014
5:15 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Poll: It's Anyone's Governor's Race

Seven candidates filed for governor earlier this week: four Republicans (Treasurer Dan Rutherford, whose lieutenant governor pick, Steve Kim, is pictured on the far left; Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-HInsdale, who is on the top right; Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, on the bottom right; and Bruce Rauner) and two Democrats, Gov. Pat Quinn and Tio Hardiman, of Chicago.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Pat Quinn has been surpassed as the nation's least-liked governor, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling. Pennsylvania's Pennsylvania's Republican Gov., Tom Corbett, can now claim that title. But the new poll shows Quinn could still have a hard time holding on to his seat.

It was about this time last year, that numbers from Public Policy Polling showed Democrat Pat Quinn as the most unpopular governor in the country.

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Election 2014
2:13 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Six Candidates File To Run For Governor

Some candidates sent surrogates to file their petitions; others went themselves, including lieutenant governor candidate Steve Kim ( who is GOP Tres. Dan Rutherford's running mate) and Republican gubernatorial candidates Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Candidates looking to run in the March primary began filing their paperwork today (11/25) with the State Board of Elections. Anyone who was in line by 8 a.m. gets a chance at the top spot on the ballot. Six men who want to be Illinois' next governor made that deadline.

Campaigns waited in a long line, despite a forecast of snow, so that they could get their petitions in. Some candidates send staffers as surrogates, including Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and one of his four Republican challengers, Bruce Rauner.

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Statehouse
5:27 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Candidate Rakes In Second $250k Contribution ... This Week

Republican candidate Bruce Rauner took his turn at the podium during the party's State Fair rally this summer.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner continues to rake in major contributions since he lifted Illinois' new campaign finance cap last week. While Rauner's opponents are freed from caps as well, he's the been the only one to get such major, and immediate, benefit.

State filings from yesterday (11/21) afternoon show Illinois' richest man, Ken Griffin, pitching in $250,000 to Rauner's campaign.

It's the second time this week Rauner received a donation worth a quarter of a million dollars.

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Statehouse
3:31 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Lincoln Predicted The World Would Not Remember His Gettysburg Address; 150 Years Later It Does

Lincoln impersonator Fritz KIein reenacts the Gettysburg Address; he started giving the 272-word speech promptly at midnight at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, an occasion observed at the start of the day at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield.

There's a line in the Gettysburg Address, where Lincoln wrote "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here."

And yet, 150 years later, a Lincoln impersonator was repeating the 16th President, reenacting the brief, yet poignant, speech, at the stroke of midnight.

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Tornado Relief
4:50 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Want FEMA Aid? Even If "Home Is Totally Destroyed" Governor Tells Victims To Document

An estimated 200 homes were destroyed in the village of Gifford, in Champaign County.
Credit Sean Powers/WILL

  State officials say victims of yesterday's (Nov. 17) storms should take extra care in documenting their material losses. Illinois learned the hard way why that can be important.

About two years ago, seven people died in the tornadoes that rocked Harrisburg, in deep southern Illinois. And yet the state was denied a request for federal assistance. That meant home and business owners could not get federal loans, grants and other aide.

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Statehouse
5:44 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Schock Blames Insurance Mandates For Premium Hikes

Congressman Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, gathered at an auto body shop in Springfield with businessmen and women upset about their health insurance premiums rising, which they blame on the Affordable Care Act.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  After Republicans' efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act did not work, Congressman Aaron Schock says lawmakers need to lift requirements on insurance policies. Today (Nov. 11) he toured his district, in an attempt to prove his point.

Congressman Aaron Schock, R - Peoria, says the Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health insurance more affordable, "and yet millions of Americans are seeing their health insurance do exactly the opposite -- and that is to go up."

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Pension Plan Awaits Gov. Action
6:26 am
Tue November 12, 2013

A Possible Pension Legal Test

House Speaker Michael Madigan talks with reporters about pension prospects in May, at the end of the spring legislative session -- as the year nears an end, the General Assembly has yet to pass an overhaul of the state's retirement systems. A recent measure approved to cut a local pension system's costs could be a legal test case, though. It could also be a framework for Chicago's other underfunded retirement funds.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Another legislative session has gone by without a solution in place to bring down the amount Illinois owes the state's retirement systems. Given the clamoring from the governor, business leaders and credit rating agencies for lawmakers to do something about it, legislators mentioned relatively little about pensions before adjourning from their fall veto session last week ... which may well be a sign that something is afoot; there's talk of legislators returning before the year's end to deal with pensions.

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Pensions
3:22 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

Legislative Leaders Take The Reins On Pensions

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, says the General Assembly's two top Democrats and Republicans are meeting on pensions; she says it's easier to reach a consensus with fewer people at the table.
Credit ILGA.gov

 Overhauling Illinois' pension systems is no longer in the hands of the special committee of legislators that met all summer. How to reduce the state’s $100 billion of long-term pension debt is now in the hands of the General Assembly's four leaders.

All summer long, state employees and retirees concerned about their retirement benefits had their eyes on a bipartisan conference committee, but insiders say even the key panel members are no longer part of discussions.

The General Assembly's four leaders (who are really always in charge) are taking the reins.

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Election 2014
6:19 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Paul Vallas: A Democrat ... Who Was A Republican?

Paul Vallas
Credit Bridgeport Public Schools (bridgeportedu.com)

Governor Pat Quinn has finally named his running mate. It's a once-notable Illinois politician who's been out-of-state for the past decade.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor. Conventional, political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

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Election 2014
3:26 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Paul Vallas To Join Quinn On Dem Ticket

Paul Vallas
Credit Bridgeportedu.com

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has selected former head of Chicago Public Schools Paul Vallas as his running mate.

It was widely assumed that Quinn, like his Republican opponents, would choose a woman, a minority, or someone from downstate - to be his candidate for lieutenant governor.

Conventional political wisdom says that would have been his ticket to winning over a new voting bloc.

Instead, the governor surprised observers and picked Paul Vallas.  

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No Father/Son Prison Visit Yet
5:44 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Rev. Jesse Jackson On Junior

Though he was originally in Springfield to give the General Assembly's customary daily prayer, Rev. Jesse Jackson became part of an effort by African American legislators to denounce legislation that would require a mandatory minimum prison sentence for certain gun crimes.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he has not visited since his son reported to federal prison late last month.

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is serving two-and-a-half years in a North Carolina penitentiary. He was convicted of corruption for spending $750,000 of his campaign fund on personal spoils.

"Well his health has been recovering and that has been, as father, the most important thing to me. He has been diligent in doing his work. And I have nothing further to say about that," Rev. Jackson said at the Capitol Thursday (11/7).

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Veto Session Wrap-Up
3:26 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Legislators Leave Capital, But They May Be Back

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois legislators wrapped up their two-week veto session this afternoon (Nov. 7), though they may be back in Springfield before the year's end.

The General Assembly knocked one, big item off its to-do list: same-sex marriage. After intense lobbying on both sides, lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor a measure that will allow gays and lesbians to marry.

The rest of the major issues on the General Assembly's agenda remain:

-a tax package crafted to ensure Archer Daniels Midland keeps its headquarters in Illinois is on hold

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Veto Session
4:52 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Plan To Hasten Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Sponsors of the same-sex marriage bill - Rep. Sam Yingling (D-Grayslake), Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Rep. Kelly Cassidy ( (D-Chicago) - approved by the General Assembly on Tuesday hand-deliver it to Gov. Pat Quinn (far left) in his ceremonial office at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Gay and lesbian couples may not have to wait until June to marry in Illinois. A lawmaker is moving to accelerate when same-sex marriage becomes legal.

Already, same-sex couples are hurrying to take advantage of the marriage legislation approved on Tuesday. That very night, Rep. Sam Yingling, a Lake County Democrat who's openly gay, got engaged. "Well, we don't have a date yet, but I will certainly let you know when we do," he said.

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Gay Legislator Proposes
12:06 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Governor: Will Sign Same-Sex Marriage "Pretty Soon"

The same-sex marriage legislation approved yesterday, Nov. 5, by the Illinois General Assembly will become law by the end of the month.

Gov. Pat Quinn hosted a party last night at the executive mansion in Springfield to celebrate. The festivities morphed into an engagement party when one of a handful of openly gay legislators, Rep. Sam Yingling, D - Grayslake, proposed to his partner.

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Tax Credits
6:46 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Legislators Set To Give Tax Breaks ... But Not Yet, ADM

Director of Illinois' Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity testifies at the House revenue committee about tax incentive options offered to companies looking to locate to Illinois, or threatening to leave the state.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  State legislators are advancing a measure that attempts to lure chemical plant jobs to Illinois, but broader plans to offer companies like ADM incentives are not ready just yet. 

Archer Daniels Midland is the highest-profile case of a company looking for a tax break from the state, in exchange for creating jobs. In ADM's case, the company is looking to move its global headquarters from Decatur to ... maybe Chicago, maybe a city in another state.

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Same-Sex Marriage Vote Possible
6:22 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Heavy Veto Session Agenda

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, is a member of the conference committee tasked with negotiating a pension deal.
Credit ILGA.gov

  Illinois legislators are scheduled to finish out their veto session this week. Their back-loaded agenda ranges from dealing with budget matters to social issues.

The first week of the veto session late last month went by with little of substance accomplished.

But what the General Assembly didn't touch then is back now.

Like tax packages designed to keep companies, like Archer Daniels Midland, headquartered in Illinois.

It also appears the sponsor of stalled same-sex marriage legislation is leaning toward calling it for a vote in the House.

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Health Desk
6:10 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Mammography In 3D

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; during the fall veto session, doctors traveled to Springfield to show state legislators how 3D mammography (the scientific term is tomosynthesis) works, and its benefits.
Credit File photo

  Illinois requires insurance companies to cover routine mammograms, but that doesn't necessarily include a new method of detecting breast cancer.

A mammogram is a low-dose of x-rays doctors use to spot breast cancer. An important tool, to be sure, but one that can result in false-positives.

Dr. Sarah Friedewald says that'll happen a lot less if women also get a 3D mammogram. Likewise, she says, the new technology makes it easier to spot abnormalities.

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Fiscal Focus
4:30 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Report: Deficit Expected Even If Tax Hike Stays

Credit flickr/borman18

  Even if Illinois keeps its higher income tax rate, a new report projects the state is headed toward deficit spending. 

Illinois residents are paying a 5-percent tax on their income. It's been that way since 2011.

According to a new report from the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, that tax money helped balance Illinois' budget this year.

But economist David Merriman, who directed the project, says that won't last.

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Farm Bill And SNAP
5:19 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Food Stamp Cut "Will Affect Our Population Big Time"

The future of SNAP, the program which funds what are commonly referred to as food stamps, is up for debate as Congress attempts to authorize a new Farm Bill. An increase passed by Congress in 2009 to food stamps expires at the end of the month.
Credit Darrell Hoemann/ Midwest Center For Investigative Reporting

  Food pantries and homeless shelters say they're beginning to notice repercussions of a reduction in food stamps that will take effect Fri., Nov. 1. A temporary hike in benefits that kicked as a result of the recession expires this week.

Individuals enrolled in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, could see their benefits cut by $11 a month. A family of four could see a decrease of $36.

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Pensions
6:15 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Quinn Not Ready To Talk Taxes

Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Though he supported Illinois' income tax hike in the past, Governor Pat Quinn is so far unwilling to take a stance on whether it should expire.

This fiscal year, Illinois is putting $6.8 billion toward pensions. An amount that's more than covered by how much money the state took in from a higher income tax rate -- the increase alone is projected to pull in almost $8 billion this year.

But that raises the question: how will Illinois function when the income tax revenues begin to decrease?

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Veto Session
7:08 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Legislators Skip Town Early

  Illinois legislators were supposed to meet this week for three days as part of the fall veto session; instead they left Springfield after only two.

Little was accomplished during that time. Despite competing rallies, the Illinois House did not vote on legalizing same-sex marriage, whether state agencies, including the state police, will receive additional money remains unsettled, and there was no action on Illinois' pensions, which are the worst-funded in the nation.

It can give the impression that legislators are not doing their jobs.

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Same-Sex Marriage
6:27 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Rallying Cry For Marriage: One Man, One Woman

LInda Jernigan of Richton Park (a suburb of Chicago) says she used to be a lesbian, but God saved her; she says marriage for same-sex couples is not a civil right.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

A day after supporters of same-sex marriage rallied at the Illinois Capitol, opponents had their turn. Thousands gathered at the statehouse Wednesday, Oct. 23, urging the Illinois House to uphold traditional marriage.

The event started with a prayer led by Monsignor Carl Kemme, of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

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Pensions And Pay
6:13 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Turning The Tables: Legislator Files To Cut Quinn's Budget

Rep. David Harris, R-Arlington Heights, says "the chief executive has attacked the legislature, which shows how dysfunctional we are. If they haven't done their job, then they shouldn't get the full appropriation that we did, and I suggest that that appropriation be cut."
Credit ILGA.gov

  Several months after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed legislators' salaries from the state budget -- one lawmaker wants to turn the tables on him.

Gov. Quinn says lawmakers shouldn't be paid until they overhaul the state's pensions. A judge rejected that move and the governor's appeal is still pending before the state Supreme Court, so lawmakers are getting their paychecks.

Nevertheless, legislators are still offended by Quinn's "attack," as Rep. David Harris, R - Arlington Heights, describes it.

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Same-Sex Marriage
5:40 am
Wed October 23, 2013

Politics, Romance, Practicality and Religion Mix in Marriage Debate

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Back on Valentine's Day, the state Senate approved legislation that would allow gays and lesbians to get married in Illinois. The hope then was that Illinois would become the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage.  Eight months later, it still hasn't happened.

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Same Sex Marriage
3:59 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

March For Marriage, But No Vote Certain

Supporters of same sex marriage huddled under umbrellas as they cheered on musicians and politicians at a rally in front of the capitol Tuesday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Rain didn't stop advocates for same-sex marriage, who rallied under umbrellas by the hundreds in front of the Illinois Capitol Tuesday, Oct. 22. A measure to legalize same-sex marriage passed the state Senate earlier this year, but has stalled in the Illinois House.

There were two types of headliners:

-musicians, like Marcus Terrell, of "America's Got Talent" fame, who sang a "song about true love" ("and as we all know here today true love in any form is just natural," he said).

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