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. 

Pages

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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Economy
8:30 pm
Thu August 22, 2013

Illinois Unemployment Second Highest In Nation

Credit IDES

With national unemployment at its lowest level since the start of the Great Recession, the numbers keep going the wrong way in several parts of Illinois.

Peoria, Danville, and Decatur all saw unemployment increase by more than a percentage point.

Still, Gov. Pat Quinn defends his administration's efforts at building the economy.  Thursday, he announced that a German manufacturer will move its U-S headquarters to Schaumburg, a Chicago suburb, a move Quinn says could create 40 jobs.

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Pensions
5:03 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Pension Returns Up; Problems Remain

Credit Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' largest public pension fund hit a major low in 2012, its rate of return was less than one percent.  But an early analysis shows the last fiscal year was better than expected. The success isn’t expected to make much of a dent in Illinois’ nearly $100 billion dollar pension liability, however, which lawmakers thus far have failed to tackle.   

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Statehouse
5:51 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Illinois Speed Limit Going To 70 MPH

Credit flickr/theeggplant

Illinois' top speed limit will go up on many highways beginning in January.  Governor Pat Quinn has signed a new law increasing the speed limit from 65 to 70 m.p.h.                
Quinn bucked the advice of his Department of Transportation, which opposed the legislation.
IDOT says a higher speed limit will raise average speeds leading to more crashes and fatalities.
But the measure's sponsor, Rep. Jerry Costello (D_Smithton) says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds ... not because of higher speeds.

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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

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