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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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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Veto Session 2013
7:50 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Preview: Fall Veto Session

Advocates pass out fliers promoting it during the Pride Parade in Chicago over the summer; despite an intense campaign to legalize same sex marriage in Illinois, the legislation's sponsor remains tight-lipped about whether he has the 60 votes needed for it to pass in the House.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

For the first time since a brief special session in July,legislators will begin making their way en masse to Springfield this week, for the fall veto session. The agenda before them is relatively light. The General Assembly will likely debate some budget matters. And there's a hearing on a new type of health care coverage for retired state employees. Amanda Vinicky previews what else is ahead.

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Pension Overhaul
5:07 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Quinn Responds To Pension Absence, Begins Reach Out

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to leading Democrats in September as he seeks the state party's endorsement in his campaign for re-election; critics say the governor has been concerned about politics, rather than policy, when it comes to pensions -- for example by stripping legislators of their salaries as punishment for not passing a bill, even as he was absent from negotiations.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Governor Pat Quinn went months without meeting with members of the special legislative committee formed to draft a new pension plan, but this month he has begun to reach out.

It was Quinn's idea to form a conference committee, to bridge differences between the House and Senate over how to reduce Illinois' $100 billion pension debt.

But the ten members of that panel say other than phone calls welcoming them to the committee, he was absent from their talks from June on, leading to criticisms like this, from Rep. Jil Tracy, a Republican from Quincy.

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Pension Overhaul - Updated
7:23 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Gov. Quinn "AWOL" From Pension Committee's Talks

The ten members of the bipartisan, bicameral conference committee formed to come up with a pension package gather in Chicago in July, for one of the panel's few public meetings. Gov. Pat Quinn did not attend.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

As he runs for re-election, Gov. Pat Quinn is staking a lot on getting something done with pensions. He making a show of asking the state Supreme Court let him cancel legislators' salaries until it's done, and he says he won't deal with other major issues before the General Assembly -- like using tax credits to keep ADM headquartered in Illinois -- until there's what he calls a "comprehensive pension solution." But it's hard to tell just what that means. Most of the ten legislators he tasked with crafting that solution don't even seem to know. They say he's been largely absent ...

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Pension Overhaul
5:24 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Pension Committee Considering Adding 401(k) Option

Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, sits on the pension conference committee. "There's some concern over ... frankly whether pension systems should get in the business of the market... and philosophically do we really want to go down this road when there's members of these systems that believe all we need to do is make our payment, rightfully so," he says of defined contribution plans.
Credit MikeZalewski.com

With an eye toward reaching an agreement in time for the upcoming veto session, legislators on a special pension committee met Friday in Chicago. The conversations focused on giving state employees and teachers a new style of retirement plan.

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Nation/World
11:53 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Former Speaker Hastert Discusses Government Shutdown

Credit npr

Denny Hastert wasn't the Speaker of the U.S. House during the last government shutdown, but he was an Illinois Congressman in 1995 and '96. He told Amanda Vinicky this time is different.

Hastert says back then, Republicans were trying to get a handle on spending. He says it worked.

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Election 2014
2:16 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Court Case Could Upend Illinois Campaign Caps

Credit flickr/borman18

The scandal that brought down former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich led to campaign-contribution caps in Illinois. Advocates of the limits are fearful a case set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday could upend their efforts.

 The campaign finance law Illinois politicians passed in 2009 restricts how much cash companies, unions and people can give to individual candidates. Theoretically, you can give that maximum contribution to every state candidate in Illinois.

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Drilling Rules In Draft Stage
5:38 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

DNR Opens Fracking Registration

A coalition lobbying for a fracking moratorium protested Illinois' pending legislation during the 2013 General Assembly session.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois is a ways off from allowing oil and gas drillers to begin "fracking" but companies that are interested can begin the paperwork.

Environmentalists lost their fight to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Lawmakers instead decided to open Illinois to a practice that's been an economic boon in other states.

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Pensions And Pay
4:08 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Comptroller: All Legislative Paychecks Processed

  After going without pay for three months, Illinois legislators' paychecks are in the bank.

Serving as a state senator or representative is technically a part-time job -- and for some, it is. For others, it is a full-time gig and sole source of income.

Which made it tough when Gov. Pat Quinn canceled General Assembly members' pay over the summer because they failed to pass legislation to cut pension costs.

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Obamacare Politics
6:59 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Government Shutdown Early Campaign Fodder

Congressman Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, issued a statement says is "ready and willing to work with my colleagues" until the government reaches a funding agreement.
Credit U.S. House

  A day into the federal government shutdown, it's already turning into campaign fodder for next year's election.

Congressman Rodney Davis is facing competition from both sides as he aims to hold onto his central Illinois seat. The Taylorville Republican is looking at a primary challenge from former Miss America Erika Harold; three candidates are trying for the Democratic nomination: University of Illinois physicist George Gollin, U of I social policy analyst David Green and former Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis.

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Get Covered Illinois
5:22 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Insurance Plan Prices Under ACA Unveiled

  The most visible part of the Affordable Care Act has arrived. Today, Illinois residents without insurance will be able to go to the "Get Covered Illinois" website to begin shopping for healthcare plans.

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Pension Overhaul
6:46 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Pension Conference Committee Progress Report

Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville (left) and Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, discuss estimated savings of a previous plan designed to cut the state's pension costs.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

It is approaching four months since the Illinois General Assembly adjourned its spring session. Lawmakers have missed two paychecks since the governor decided to punish them for not passing a pension overhaul. And a special committee has been negotiating over how to solve the pension problem for more than 12 weeks. Amanda Vinicky checks in with members of that committee for a progress report.
 

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Health Desk
3:51 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

ACA Insurance Plans May Be Cheaper, But At What Cost?

Credit flickr

  Although the grand opening of the Affordable Care Act is only a week away, Illinois is still waiting on the federal government to approve the insurance plans that will be available through it.  Even so, the governor today announced it will cost less to get coverage than originally expected.

Illinois submitted 165 different insurance plans to the federal government. Until the feds sign off on them, it's impossible for someone looking to buy insurance from the Obamacare "marketplace" to know how much they should plan to spend.

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Election 2014
4:28 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

Democrats To Slate ... Even Though There's No Competition

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a previous meeting of leading Democrats - the party's county chairmen - in Springfield this summer. Durbin, who's running for re-election, is expected to attend Sunday's meeting of the Democratic State Central Committee in Springfield. He faces no primary challenge.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  Illinois' leading Democrats will meet in Springfield on Sunday. They're supposed to decide endorse candidates for next year's primary election ... even though there are no longer any competitive races.

Democrats have rarely slated candidates in recent years.

But this time - with incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn facing a primary challenge from former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley - the state party was going to consider picking a favorite.

Not anymore. Daley's no longer in the running. He dropped out. Leaving Quinn without a serious challenge.

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The Underwear Test
7:35 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Resolution Calls on Governor To Live in Mansion On Session Days

In downtown Chicago, the city's flag and the state flag fly side-by-side. Gov. Quinn's office says he lives in both Chicago and in the capital city.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  You never know what'll come up during a candidates' debate. Back in 2010, it was Gov. Pat Quinn's underwear.

As proof that he lives in Springfield, Quinn offered that he keeps his underwear at the governor's mansion.

It's become clear he also keeps pairs in Chicago.

Like his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, Quinn has repeatedly come under fire for not spending enough time in the capital.

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Health Desk
6:49 pm
Tue September 17, 2013

Public vs. Private Job To Scrub State Medicaid Rolls

Director of Illinois' Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Julie Hamos
Credit Illinois.gov

  Illinois' attempts to remove ineligible people from the state's Medicaid rolls are on hold, as Illinois and its largest public employees' union fight over who should actually do the scrubbing. The state says it will appeal a ruling that says it has to cancel its $77 million dollar contract with an outside firm.

Big changes are ahead for Medicaid, the state's health insurance program for the poor. Hundreds of thousands of residents are expected to be added to the rolls under the federal health care law.

But first, Illinois wants to remove people who are ineligible.

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Election 2014
12:01 am
Tue September 17, 2013

Daley Drops Out Of Governor's Race

Bill Daley attended a Democratic County Chairmen Association breakfast this summer during his brief campaign for governor. Following his speech, Daley said that if Democrats again nominate Gov. Pat Quinn, Republicans will win in the general election.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley will not run for Illinois governor after all. His campaign spokesman says Daley will explain more at a press conference in Chicago Tuesday morning.

Daley has flirted with running for office before, only to back out.

This time, he insisted he was in it for keeps. In a campaign video about two months ago, Daley said "I'm committed to running for governor. There is no exploratory piece in this anymore."

But Daley's campaign confirmed Monday night that he's dropping out of the race.

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Capitol Renovations
3:26 pm
Fri September 13, 2013

Architect: Quinn's Comments Are "Out Of Line"

Capitol architect Richard Alsop leads a meeting Friday of the board that oversees him; the governor's criticisms were not discussed reporters asked Alsop about it after the meeting adjourned.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The architect of the Illinois Capitol is swinging back at Governor Pat Quinn's accusations that he's responsible for controversial purchases, like $670-thousand dollar copper doors for the Statehouse.

Construction crews spent years renovating the state Capitol's west wing, but its unveiling has been tarnished by reports of what the rehab included, like doors that are as expensive as a large home and chandeliers that rang up to $320,000.

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Health Desk
5:46 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Illinois Still Waiting On Key Obamacare Approval

Credit flickr/r.nial.bradshaw

The price of insurance policies that will be offered under the federal health care overhaul remain a mystery, even to state officials.

Oct. 1 will be a big day across the country for President Barack Obama's signature health care law. It's the launch date for insurance marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act's term for where people without insurance will be able to shop for coverage.

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Capitol Renovations
8:31 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Daley: Pulling Capitol Rehab Funding Too Little, Too Late

Illinois’ capitol was designed in the late 1800s. Critics are upset about the money spent restoring the statehouse to what architect J. Richard Alsop III calls its “period of historic significance,” with fixtures like this statue of a maiden – which cost approximately $40,000.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  The Governor says he's put a hold on future renovations of Illinois' Statehouse, a move his challenger calls too little, too late.

The fuss over how much money the state has spent redoing the west wing of the Illinois Capitol continues to brew. Some of the $50 million dollar project was done to fix ventilation issues and bring the building up to fire code, but $323,000 paid for gargantuan chandeliers created to look like antiques, and nearly $700,000 was spent on a set of copper doors.

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Gasoline Taxes
9:53 am
Tue September 10, 2013

Spending, Savings Fuel Gas Tax Proposals

Credit Amanda Vinicky

As gas prices rise and fall, there's one constant: however much you pay to fill your gas tank, it's taxed. Several proposals would change how.

In Illinois, gasoline is taxed twice.

"What we have in Illinois is a tax on a tax," Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) says. "Which is just wrong. Because right now we get charged with the motor fuel tax. But then on top of that, they charge a sales tax."

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Economy
5:52 am
Fri September 6, 2013

Departing Chamber President: Politicians Not Doing Enough To Create Jobs

Doug Whitley, 63, will retire next year after a dozen years as president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. He submitted his resignation Thursday at the chamber's board meeting. " “It will be good for the Illinois Chamber to have a new leader with a fresh perspective when the next gubernatorial administration starts, whether Gov. Pat Quinn is re-elected or we have a new governor,” Whitley said in a statement.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

After twelve years as President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Doug Whitley's retiring next year.

Whitley says he's leaving disappointed, as the latest data showed Illinois with the second highest unemployment in the nation, behind Nevada.

And he says political leaders haven't done enough about it, except for one - Chicago's mayor: "With the exception of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I don't hear any other political leaders in our state talking about jobs, trying to recruit jobs, trying to announce new jobs and showing a sincere concern with unemployment," Whitley says.

Pensions
6:50 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Pension Plan Not Finalized, But The End May Be Near

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), courtesy of ILGA.gov
Credit ILGA.gov

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work.

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it - saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits. Business groups say it doesn't go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

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Election 2014
4:11 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

No Petitions Until Lt. Gov. Picks Made

Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) will be the running mate of Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale); their names will both headline petitions as the candidates collect signatures to get on the primary ballot.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

  This week officially kicks off campaign season. Tuesday was the first day candidates could begin collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot. Still some of the leading candidates can't start yet.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates have to prove voters want them there. In the case of Democrats and Republicans running for governor, that means getting signatures from no less than 5,000 and no more than 10,000 members of his party.

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Election 2014
6:27 am
Wed September 4, 2013

Political Newcomer Rauner Seeks To Overhaul Statehouse

During Republican Day at the state fair over the summer, candidate for governor Bruce Rauner said Illinois is in a "death spiral." He repeated the phrase in an interview about his petition drive, seeking a 2014 ballot question to institute legislative term limits.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.   He says he'll donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort.   Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview:

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Election 2014
4:40 pm
Tue September 3, 2013

Dillard Calls Rauner Plan 'Slap In The Face To Downstate'

Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner speaks with reporters in this Aug. 15 file photo.
Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Of the four Republicans running for governor, venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is the only one who's never before served in government. But he's already looking to change it, and in significant ways.

Rauner is heading a petition drive to institute term limits, to make it harder for legislators to override a governor's veto, and to reduce the size of the General Assembly. His plan adds a handful of members to the Illinois House, but takes away 18 senators.

Rauner says that'll make elections more competitive.

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Gambling
5:18 am
Tue September 3, 2013

Wager: 24-Hour Casinos?

Credit Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Gaming Board is set to consider lifting a restriction that forbids casinos from staying open 24 hours a day. 

Illinois' casinos have previously tried, and failed, to get the okay to keep their doors open 24-7. Now they're trying again. The Gaming Board will consider a proposal Sept. 14.

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General Assembly
3:26 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Cook County's Durkin Elected House GOP Leader

Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) bested Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) as Illinois House Republicans’ new leader. Despite a “scuffle” over the leadership post in past days, Durkin and Poe presented a united front after the closed-door caucus meeting at the Statehouse Inn in Springfield Thursday.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  In a rare turn of events, Illinois' General Assembly will have a leadership change mid-way through the two-year legislative session. It's set in motion by House Republican Leader Tom Cross's decision to step down, he's expected to soon announce a run for state treasurer. Republican members of the House met Thursday in Springfield to choose his replacement. Longtime Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) claimed the title.

It wasn't supposed to happen so fast.

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Election 2014
8:31 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Running For Lieutenant Governor Is A Risky Business

Though he hasn't decided who to support in the Republican primary race for governor, Niles Township committeeman Joe Hendrick is happy to pose with one of the candidates, Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) at GOP Day at the state fair. Four years ago when he was Republicans' nominee for governor, Brady didn't have any say in who his running mate would be; for the first time this election gubernatorial candidates get to choose a lieutenant governor, before the primary.
Credit Amanda Vinicky

   For the first time, candidates for governor in Illinois will choose their second in command. They used to get stuck with whomever primary voters choose for lieutenant governor -- whether the two got along or not. It's an opportunity for candidates to find a running mate they work well with, or perhaps someone to balance out the ticket. Still, the new selection process might have unintended consequences.

 

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Help Wanted
11:16 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

House Republicans Rushing To Fill Leader Post

Reps. Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, and Raymond Poe are seeking the position of House Republican leader.
Credit Illinois House of Representatives

Republicans in the Illinois House will meet Thursday afternoon in Springfield to select a new leader. A letter obtained by WUIS says finding a replacement for outgoing Minority Leader Tom Cross is "of the utmost urgency."

It was less than a week ago that Minority Leader Tom Cross announced he was stepping down — he's expected to instead run for state treasurer.

Seventeen House Republicans signed a letter officially scheduling the meeting Thursday. They say there's no time to waste in electing Cross' successor.

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