Amanda Vinicky

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. 

On Wednesday, tempers at the capitol flared; but Thursday the legislature's top Republicans shifted toward an optimistic stance on the budget situation.

  A potential new state budget barely passed the Illinois House last night,  but Gov. Bruce Rauner is already signaling a veto.

The Republican says the budget spends $7 billion more than the state takes in.

The Illinois House Wednesday  failed to override Governor Bruce Rauner's veto of a measure that would have required binding arbitration in union contract disputes.

It's a repeat of what happened with a nearly identical measure Rauner also vetoed last year.

A potential new state budget barely passed the Illinois House last night,  but Governor Bruce Rauner is already signaling a veto.

  The number of social service groups suing Illinois is growing. Eighteen agencies are joining a lawsuit against the state to get paid -- since they haven't received $130 million due to the budget impasse. One of the latest groups to sue is notable because of who's in charge.

An attempt to reach a deal on Governor Bruce Rauner's pro-business, anti-labor demands isn't working out for House Democrats, who are set to go it alone on a new state budget. That's the takeaway from a meeting between Rauner and the legislative leaders Wednesday morning.

Republicans -- led by Rauner -- say they won't increase taxes to balance the budget until they get fundamental economic changes.

Anthony!! / Flickr/Creative Commons

You wouldn't have to be sick, to take a sick day under legislation approved by the Illinois House Tues.

It sounds like cheating.  But that's not what this is about, says Representative Andrew Skoog -- a Democrat from LaSalle.

"This is an effort to address the challenges facing 1.7 million caregivers in Illinois that juggle the work and caring for loved ones at home," Skoog said.

The measure allows sick time to be used to care for a close relative, like a child, spouse, or parent.  If a company offers sick time, that is. The proposal doesn't mandate that.

The end of the month -- and a major deadline for getting a state budget passed -- is getting ever closer.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is standing firm. He says he'll agree to raising taxes, if Democrats agree with his pro-business, union-weakening agenda.

Lawmakers continue to negotiate those items in private.

Representative Dan Brady, a Republican from Bloomington, is part of the talks.

He says the issues are "tender."

Nuclear energy representatives are in Springfield today in a last-ditch effort to save two of Exelon's Illinois plants.  The energy behemoth says unless legislators pass a law by the end of this month, it will shut down the plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities.  

Even in a normal year - getting an Illinois state budget approved is complicated. But this is no normal year. On top of that, lawmakers have just a week left to get it all done.

Given that lawmakers never approved a budget last year, they now  have not one, but two state spending plans to finish up a budget for last year - and a budget for NEXT year.

That means figuring out where to make cuts, and maybe where and how much to raise taxes.

It's been a year since the state Supreme Court found Illinois' big pension law unconstitutional, and an attempt to get a new law passed is stalled.

Lawmakers' goal is to reduce the state's expenses for its vastly underfunded pensions.

The court says it's illegal to do it by reducing an employees' retirement benefits.

Senate President John Cullerton and Governor Bruce Rauner think they have a way around that.

Illinois' top political leaders remain divided.  Come tomorrow there will be only eight days left for them to reach a budget deal.  It's crunch time, says Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno:

There's no reason for the governor to further hold up partial funding for social services. That's the message from the Speaker of the Illinois House.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner is open to decriminalizing marijuana.

Rauner has a goal of reforming the criminal justice system. One way to do that, advocates say: issuing civil penalties for low-level drug charges.

Even as Illinois loses a youth prison, it's gaining an adult correctional facility.

Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice is going forward with plans to close the Illinois Youth Center at Kewanee.

Director Candice Jones said recruiting staff was difficult and national practices favor smaller regional facilities.  Plus, she'd said, most of the juvenile offenders sent there were from Cook County; it's better to house them nearer family.  

Kewanee's closer to Iowa than to Chicago.

Illinois workers get an added bonus once they retire: They don't have to pay taxes on pension or Social Security checks. It's one possible change the state could look to as it hunts for more money.

Illinois is a rare state that taxes income on a regular paycheck, but not on retirement.

Fiscal experts like the non-partisan Civic Federation say as Illinois' population ages, and there are more seniors, the government will increasingly lose out on a source of revenue.

Unions members flooded streets in front of the Illinois Statehouse to protest Governor Bruce Rauner's agenda, and what they say are his anti-labor policies.

Union workers marched to the capitol for a rally, where they were briefly joined by a pair of prominent Democrats: House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

Mixed messages came out of a meeting Tuesday between Illinois' governor and legislative leaders. It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.

Mixed messages came out of a meeting today between Illinois' governor and legislative leaders.   It was their first meeting in months, even as Illinois is in the midst of an unprecedented budget standoff.  Senate President John Cullerton left the meeting saying he got what he wanted out of it.

For only the second time this year, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders are set to meet, Tuesday, in Springfield.  It comes as Illinois' historic budget stalemate yawns into May, with two weeks left in legislators' regular session schedule.

These "leaders' meetings" are private, but NPR Illinois Statehouse Bureau Chief Amanda Vinicky had the chance to get some perspective about where the leaders stood going into the confab. 

Illinois' leaders are divided over school funding as ever, even as superintendents continue to sound the alarm about fears education funding will get caught in the political stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase how much Illinois sends schools overall, by $120 million.

Even then, some districts -- including the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools -- would see their state funding drop. Senate President John Cullerton Monday nixed that as a viable option.

A dispute involving labor and a majority of lawmakers on one side, and Gov. Bruce Rauner on the other, is playing on repeat. On Monday, Rauner vetoed legislation backed by AFSCME for the second time in a year.

The legislation may sound innocuous to those not directly impacted.

It would send contract disputes (like one that's going on now) between the Illinois's largest public employees union and the state, to a binding arbitrator, who is supposed to be neutral.

Governor Bruce Rauner says concerns raised by the problems in Flint, Michigan about lead in drinking water are very much on his radar.

A potential framework for a balanced state budget relies on both cuts, and bringing in more money to state coffers. That does include an income tax hike. But there are other revenue ideas too.

Legislators who've been unable to reach a budget deal since last July have about two weeks left to agree on a new plan, or risk taking the state into a new phase of uncertainty and political gamesmanship.

Online betting on horse-races would continue to be legal in Illinois, under legislation advancing at the state capitol.

That's despite concerns of anti-gambling activities like Anita Bedell.

"This legalizes bookmaking on the internet, which is available 7 days a week non stop," she said at a recent Senate hearing.

Without legislative action, that authority expires early next year.

The measure is one of several up for debate that affects the gambling industry.

Human service agencies are hopeful legislation approved Thursday by state lawmakers will finally get them money, but they shouldn't start spending just yet.

Amanda Vinicky

A state senator's attempt to snuff-out youth smoking fell short when it came up for a vote Thursday.  Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, wants to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 "to prevent tobacco-related disease and death."

  Billions of dollars in cuts are part of a possible budget for next year.  So are higher taxes. 

A bipartisan group of legislators have developed a potential framework for a new state budget.  Members say they're hesitant to share details out of respect for their private negotiations.  But sources say the plan relies on billions of dollars in cuts, and billions of dollars in income and sales tax increases.  Democratic Representative Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates was clear that it's nowhere near a done deal.

Illinois legislators today approved stopgap funding for human services.  After ten months without state funding, after-school programs, local health departments and substance abuse treatment centers are in critical condition.  Democratic Representative Greg Harris says it would pay social service organizations just under half of what they're owed.

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