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. 

Accessing life insurance benefits in Illinois will be easier, thanks to a new website and state law signed today by Governor Bruce Rauner.  What happens if a family grieving the loss of a loved one is owed life insurance money, but doesn't make a claim for it?  In some cases, the insurance companies held onto the money.

The Illinois Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on whether a constitutional amendment belongs on the ballot, even though election officials are set to certify the ballot tomorrow.

An overhaul of the retirement benefits Illinois gives state employees, public school teachers and university workers has been the subject of talks between state leaders in recent months. Gov. Bruce Rauner said so Wednesday, but he sounded uncertain as to what will come of it.

Even as Governor Bruce Rauner denounces higher insurance premiums in Illinois under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is trying to tamp down those concerns.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released an analysis that projects roughly two-thirds of Illinois consumers would still be able to buy a plan for less than 75 dollars a month... even if rates next year increase by 50%.

U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Duckworth says recent remarks by her Republican opponent are "beyond the pale."  Congresswoman Duckworth, a Democrat, is trying to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.  

Illinois voters go to the polls on November 8, but they won't official cast the votes for the next President. Both state parties have decided the handful of people who will have that privilege.

Gage Skidmore

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has gained an endorsement in his bid for re-election. It could help him win crucial votes from suburban moderates. But it might also frustrate an important part of the Republican electorate.

  Jesse White’s days as the Illinois Secretary of State may be coming to a close.

Illinois’ and Chicago’ precarious financial situations have some residents relieved the city was not successful in its attempt to host the latest Olympics games.

But not Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers.

Seven years ago, he was Chief of Staff for Chicago’s bid. Summers says he grew up, and still lives, on the South Side. He says the Olympics would have been phenomenal and transformative for parts of the city.

Speculation continues to swirl over who Democrats will put up to challenge Gov. Bruce Rauner in two years.

Support for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump remains tepid among leaders of the Illinois Republican Party.

Illinois Republicans rallied Wednesday at the state fair for Governor's Day -- so called because their party controls the governor's mansion. They spent some time talking about how to hold onto it two years from now, when the mansion will once again be up for grabs.

It may be unofficial, but the GOP is already committed to having Gov. Bruce Rauner as its nominee in 2018.

A new foundation has been created to raise money for Illinois State Fair infrastructure.  Questions have already been raised about how the private entity will intermingle with government.

Flickr Creative Commons/Max Wolfe

Governor Bruce Rauner has found a way around the legislature.  Efforts to create a foundation to support the Illinois State Fair stalled before the General Assembly.  Today, Rauner applauded private citizens’ creation of a new not-for-profit foundation that will fundraise money to maintain the fairgrounds.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan says Auditor General Frank Mautino will be “vindicated.”

Mautino has been auditor general since January.

He's under scrutiny for campaign expenses from his time as a state representative.

He has acknowledged there's a federal investigation, and the state board of elections is holding hearings. 

Madigan says Mautino will come out on top when they're finished.

The head of the Democratic Party of Illinois is sticking up for the beleaguered Auditor General.

A rising star in the Illinois G-O-P is stepping down to become a lobbyist.

Since he was elected in 2006, Senator Matt Murphy of Palatine has been an articulate, vocal critic of how Democrats run Springfield; he’s one of the Republicans’ top negotiators on the budget and pensions.

Come next month, it’ll be his job to cozy up to his former peers as a contract lobbyist with Mac Strategies Group, a public relations firm based in Chicago. 

As supporters of automatic voter registration are set to hold a press conference Monday morning, Gov. Bruce Rauner is defending his veto of a plan that would have made it a reality in Illinois.

A rising star in the Illinois G-O-P is stepping down to become a lobbyist.

Since he was elected in 2006, Senator Matt Murphy of Palatine has been an articulate, vocal critic of how Democrats run Springfield; he’s one of the Republicans’ top negotiators on the budget and pensions.

Come next month, it’ll be his job to cozy up to his former peers as a contract lobbyist.

While certain state employees can’t leave their government jobs to lobby right away, Illinois has no such restriction for lawmakers.

WUIS.org

A dramatic drop in Illinois State Fair attendance last year has officials using a new method to calculate how many people come to Springfield for the carnival rides and corndogs. The fair begins tonight and runs through the 21st.

Roughly 845,000 people went the state fair in 2014. Last year … the figure was about half that.

The explanation? The fair’s since-departed manager said previous estimates were all inflated.

Kevin Gordon’s in charge of the fair now.

Illinois Supreme Court justices have the final briefs in hand to decide the constitutionality of a plan to change how legislative districts are drawn.

Independent Maps spokesman Jim Bray says advocates are hopeful the Supreme Court will overturn a lower court ruling that blocks the question from the November ballot.

"Obviously the system in Illinois — the legislative system — is broken. Springfield’s a mess. ... And the people want to change that. They don’t want legislators who aren’t responding to them."

A would-be state holiday passed last week without notice in Illinois. But supporters are hoping it will be recognized in the future.

Beyonce, George Lucas, and Magic Johnson were among the stars on the guest list for President Barack Obama's White House 55th birthday party (Obama's former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, scored an invite too).

President Barack Obama is now 55 years old. His birthday came and went last week, and most Illinois residents probably didn't take notice.

They may have, had legislation sponsored by Illinois State Representative Andre Thapedi passed. He wanted Obama's birthday to be recognized as a holiday in the President's adopted home state.

A veto from Gov. Bruce Rauner means undocumented students attending the University of Illinois are not eligible for certain leadership roles.

Big decisions at the U of I are made by the school's Board of Trustees, most of whom are appointed by the governor.

The cemetery where Abraham Lincoln rests has a new monument, honoring troops and veterans awarded a Purple Heart.

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."

That quote, from Shakespeare's "Henry V" is inscribed on the new granite monument.

It's also etched with a drawing of the medal -- a heart, emblazoned with a profile of George Washington, that hangs from a purple ribbon.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's failed primary opponent is suing over what he says amounts to defamation.

Leading up to the March primary, Madigan made a campaign issue of Jason Gonzales's past criminal record --- crimes for which Gonzales had been pardoned, by former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Military Times

The cemetery where Abraham Lincoln rests has a new monument, honoring those awarded a Purple Heart. It was dedicated and turned over to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency yesterday, on National Purple Heart Day.

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."

That quote, from Shakespeare's "Henry V" is inscribed on the new granite monument.

A Downers Grove doctor and a pregnancy center in Rockford are suing to overturn Illinois' newly updated right-of-conscience law.

Right of conscience laws come into play at the crossroads of medical providers' obligations and their personal beliefs.

The governor just signed a law updating Illinois' statute.

No doctor is required to perform an abortion, but a doctor -- even one with moral or faith-based opposition to the practice -- is required to refer a patient to a doctor who will.

It helped Republican Bruce Rauner land the governor's office in his first election.  Now Rauner is making another run at term limits.

It will be another two years -- when Rauner's up for re-election -- before Illinois voters could even have the chance to vote on amending the state constitution to include term limits.

But Rauner's getting an early start at promoting the idea.

There's this slick new ad:

"The system -- it's broken.

"Once a politician gets to Springfield they never leave."

WUIS.org

The Illinois State Fair begins next week, and some changes are in store.  The annual festivities run from August 11th through the 21st. 

Brightly-colored cars swing from a cable overhead the Illinois state fairgrounds.

The Sky Glide’s benches are empty now, but by the end of next week, kids, couples and friends will fill them, to get a birds-eye view, as they have since 1968. According to the fair’s new manager, Kevin Gordon:

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