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. 

Illinois' governor and legislative leaders haven't talked to each other in months, and the state continues to spend money without a budget.  Just how long can this continue?  Lee Enterprises' Springfield Bureau Chief Kurt Erickson joins the panel.

Three years ago, the first video gaming machines popped up in Illinois bars, restaurants, and truck stops. 

Wikimedia Commons

Families with babies, from birth until they're three years old, are eligible for state assistance to help their children learn and grow. It's called early intervention. But without a budget, Illinois stopped paying the therapists who provide these services. Now, the comptroller and the governor's administration says they've come up with a way to pay again, even though Illinois still has no budget in place.

When Tamiko Schaefer's baby Daniel was about six months old, she started noticing something.

  Suspended payments for early intervention services will resume, even though Illinois still has no budget. 

Early intervention is just that -- therapists intervening in disabled children's lives when they're infants or toddlers.

Chicagoan Naomi Shapiro's 8-month old has a genetic disorder.

"He received physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, hearing therapy and soon he'll start developmental therapy," she says.

Therapy she says has little Leor Braun smiling, and responding to his own name.

  Birds from out of state are once again welcome within Illinois' borders. They'd been banned from fairs and exhibitions.

If you noticed the price of eggs going up this summer - there's a reason. Several states' bird populations were hit -- hard -- by avian flu. Wild birds, captive ones, and commercial and backyard poultry. But no cases were detected in Illinois.

Agriculture officials here reacted by trying to keep visiting birds, like chickens, out of places like the Illinois State Fair.

Tennessee Department of Human Services

Just how much assistance the state should give low-income parents to help them pay for daycare has been a hot issue throughout the budget debate. Now, a state lawmaker's take on it has gone viral; with 4.2 million YouTube views and counting. I'm Amanda Vinicky with The Players - your look into who's who in Illinois Politics and what they're up to.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' junior, Republican Senator Mark Kirk -- opposes the nuclear deal with Iran. But the state's senior U.S. Senator Democrat Dick Durbin, has been key in sheparding it through Congress. That's provided grist for the D.C. rumor mill.

  A survey of homeless shelters shows 90 percent of them are denying services because they're getting no state funding during a political feud.  

Policy director for Housing Action Illinois Bob Palmer says most agencies are spending down reserves, borrowing money and using furloughs in hopes the gridlock will break soon; in other cases, such as a shelter in Olney, they've closed down completely.

Amanda Vinicky

It's been years since the last long-term federal transportation program. But with Congress back in session Tuesday, Illinois' senior U-S Senator is making a push for it to get done by the end of the month.

Federal transportation projects have been stuck in stop and go traffic.

Lawmakers pass a temporary authorization, allowing construction to move ahead until the red-light of a deadline; then another temporary measure, another stop … and go ... and stop ... and go.

Illinois repealed capital punishment in 2011. Four years and scores of horrific crimes later, a state legislator wants to bring it back. 

Sen. Bill Haine. D-Alton, was against Illinois' abolishing capital punishment a few years ago, in 2011; after all, he's a former Madison County prosecutor. Haine says since then, times have changed that have only buttressed his position. 

This week, House Speaker Michael Madigan chastised two of his Democratic members after a failed attempt to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a union bill.  Mike Riopell of the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald joins the panel this week.

Illinois Lottery

With Illinois Lottery suing the state over unpaid prizes, Democrats in the Illinois Senate have a plan to address the problem. 

Amanda Vinicky

The U.S. Supreme Court will not get the last word on Illinois’ attempts to cut government pension costs; a 2013 pension law is dead, for good. There'd been a slim possibility the law would have another big day in court.

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Illinois’ lack of budget is threatening rape crisis services,  program that helps women get screened for cervical cancer and the public health network. Senators meeting at the capitol Wednesday heard details of these and other woes. 

There's been a mumps outbreak at the University of Illinois, and measles are back, too.

“The reemergence of STDs – HIV.  The globalization of travel certainly puts these once-thought eradicated diseases back on our doorstep," says administrator of McLean County’s health department Walter Howe. 

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS / Illinois Issues

A credit analyst with Moody's says Illinois' bond rating will remain unchanged, despite the state entering its third month without a budget. But the chances of a downgrade increase the longer gridlock continues.

Illinois has the nations' lowest credit rating -- a grade that symbolizes its fiscal troubles, and adds to them; a lower score makes it costlier to borrow.

But the rating won't drop any further just yet.

Lisa Ryan

If you've been meaning to visit the Illinois State Museum in Springfield, the Dickson Mounds archeological site, or museum shops in Lockport and Chicago, you have one month left to do it.

Lisa Ryan/WUIS

A key vote in the standoff between Gov. Bruce Rauner and labor is expected in the Illinois House this week, as early as Wednesday.

Rauner has been trying to convince legislators to let him keep his power to negotiate with the AFSCME union, even if it results in a lockout or strike (though Rauner has vowed he won't call for the former). At the same time, AFSCME leaders are asking state representatives to stick with them.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

  The Fraternal Order of Police is urging legislators to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto that could have major ramifications on state employees' next contract. The Republican's administration is negotiating a new contract with the AFSCME union, and both sides have said they're far from an agreement.

This week, debate over whether Illinois municipalities should have the option to declare bankruptcy, mandatory state spending continues despite no agreement on a budget, and some odd numbers from this year's state fair.  The Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia joins the panel.

 A last-minute appointment former Governor Pat Quinn made after losing last year's election has spurred a new law.

Lou Bertuca was a political operative, a key player in Quinn's ultimately failed campaign.

Shortly before Quinn left the governor's mansion, he helped make sure Bertuca had his next job locked up.

Quinn appointed Bertuca, then 30 years old, to a multi-year contract with an annual salary of $160,000 as CEO of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

Amanda Vinicky

A state lawmaker says he won't agree to changes Governor Bruce Rauner has made to a major anti-heroin package. 

It took more than a year for legislators to draft what Rep. Lou Lang says could be a model for the nation, in combating an uptick of opiod use.

The end result requires school nurses and ambulances to be equipped with antidotes, mandates the state maintain a list of heroin-related deaths, and has doctors track some painkiller prescriptions.

road construction
Gary Brown via Flickr (gsbrown99)

Portions of the gas tax collected when you fuel your car is supposed to go to municipalities, for road repairs like filling potholes, or for buying salt needed when it snows.

Instead, that money is trapped in the budget stalemate.

Statewide, $57  million in gas tax has been collected since July.   The measure at the Capitol would authorize releasing $146 million for costs through Sept. 30.

Macomb Mayor Michael Inman says the money is needed.

Despite great weather, Illinois' State Fair, which fell later in August than usual, saw a huge decline in attendance.

At the state fair's kickoff earlier this month, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced his love of the event.

"I hope everybody in Springfield, everybody around the state, come on out," he said just before the fair's opening parade.

Instead, figures show attendance fell by half. The state says 411,500 people went through the fair's gates, versus the 847,000 who showed up last year.

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Illinois is nearing the end of August, and still there's no state budget in place. But House members will return to Springfield today.

The Illinois House controls the fate of a measure that's not a budget bill, per say, but which Gov. Bruce Rauner says could have major financial ramifications for the state.

It'd prevent his ability to lock out state workers -- something he's said he won't do --- as well as forbid employees from striking. Instead, an arbitrator would settle an impasse if Rauner and the AFSCME union can't agree to a new contract.

State of Illinois

The Illinois National Guard's commanding officer says for years the guard has been planning for the biggest catastrophes that could affect Illinois, like an earthquake in southern Illinois along the New Madrid fault.

Major General Richard Hayes Junior says trying out those plans is at the heart of an exercise in Springfield this week, simulating a 7.7 magnitude quake.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois now has a chief operating officer: Linda Lingle. Gov. Bruce Rauner talks a lot about the "superstars" he's hired to help him run the state, and she's considered one of them. She's come to Illinois from Hawaii, where she was governor for eight years.

Creative Commons

Questions and fears about quality of care in nursing homes may be assuaged come January. A new law signed by the governor Friday will permit electronic monitoring.

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS - Illinois Issues

While presidential candidates seemed as prevalent as funnel cakes at the Iowa State Fair, none stopped by Illinois'.

A Democratic Party leader says Hillary Clinton was invited to its political events in Springfield. Instead, Clinton had surrogates speak on her behalf, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"Hillary Clinton is a leader, she is a fighter, she is a friend and having grown up in Park Ridge, Illinois, she is one of us," Madigan said.

Politicians and the party faithful flocked to the Illinois State Fair this week, with both Democrats and Republicans defining the continuing budget impasse as an epic struggle.  However, the struggle remains static, with no work toward an agreement.  Becky Schlikerman of the Chicago Sun Times joins the panel.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Democrats say their party is strong and more energized than ever, thanks to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

The day after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner accused them of holding up progress, hundreds of Democrats packed into a ballroom rose to their feet when Senate President John Cullerton said "We are willing to work with Gov. Rauner, but we don't work for Gov. Rauner, okay?"

Democrats were in Springfield for their annual state fair gathering.

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