Amanda Vinicky

Former Statehouse Bureau Chief

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.

Amanda Vinicky covered Illinois politics and government for NPR Illinois and  the Illinois public radio network from 2006-2016.  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 2008, 2012 and 2016.  

She interned with WUIS in graduate school; she graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program in 2005.  She also holds degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 

Ways to Connect

The latest data shows the number of unemployed Illinois residents is at its lowest since September of 2007.

But officials with Governor Bruce Rauner's administration say Illinois is still lagging when it comes to job growth.

Capitol in fog
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

A pair of state legislators say this election season has exposed an ethics loophole that Illinois needs to close, but there are suspicions the introduction of the measure in the midst of a heated campaign season is itself a political gesture.

It's illegal for a director of a state agency, or any public employee for that matter, to use government resources for political purposes, but Illinois has no restrictions prohibiting agency directors from being identified by their title in campaign ads.

Capitol in fog
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois

A pair of state legislators say this election season has exposed an ethics loophole that Illinois needs to close, but there are suspicions the introduction of the measure in the midst of a heated campaign season is itself a political gesture.

It's illegal for a director of a state agency, or any public employee for that matter, to use government resources for political purposes, but Illinois has no restrictions prohibiting agency directors from being identified by their title in campaign ads.

Amanda Vinicky

The Girl on the Train. Suicide Squad. Bridget Jones's Baby.  

These are the movies showing now at a theater near you.

Throughout October, a handful of theaters are taking one night each to screen a smaller-budget film with much narrower appeal, starring Michael Madigan. Amanda Vinicky went to a screening last week at the Legacy Theater in Springfield.

(This post has been updated to reflect that a parody of the film is back online)


Amanda Vinicky

Mental health centers were decimated during Illinois’ extended budget stalemate. Illinois is moving forward with plan to extend and expand behavioral health services to people who couldn't otherwise afford it, in a way that officials say will be cost-neutral to taxpayers. 

Dr. Kari Wolf says Illinois is roughly where Texas used to be.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

He may be the state's highest-ranking Republican, but Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday continued to be cagey about where he stands on Donald Trump.

Rauner has been asked about Trump by reporters time and time again. He usually answers something like "I'm not going to talk about politics, per se, or the Presidential election. I've made my statements clear."

But actually not all that clear.

Rauner in May said he would back his party's nominee; at the time Trump hadn't locked up the nomination, but he was close.

South fork of the Apple River in Jo Daviess County
Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards

Economic growth. Or the environment. Pollsters at Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute put them head to head.  Read on to hear which came out on top.

Illinois lawmakers talk a lot about the importance of growing the state's economy.

Illinois Republicans continue to struggle with their reactions to Donald Trump's bus video. Congressman Rodney Davis withdrew his endorsement while Gov. Bruce Rauner continues trying to dodge the question.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune editorial board is backing Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth over Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, citing concerns about Krik's ability to do the job following his 2012 stroke. And the advocacy arm of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute has screened its movie attacking House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and his allies are shoveling historic piles of cash into legislative races this year. A new federal super-PAC that goes by the acronym "LIFT" is seeking to counter that, by tying Rauner to Donald Trump.

Screen shot of the U.S. government's FAFSA student aid application website

Low-income university students had until early March this year to fill out a form that allowed them to take advantage of Illinois' primary financial aid program.

Incoming and continuing college students can't wait that long if they hope to receive a "MAP grant" for the next school year.

That form, known as the FAFSA (short for the Free Application For Federal Student Aid) came out early this year, at the start of October, Which means the deadline has moved up for everyone.

There's another reason to get the forms in quickly.

Screenshot - New York Times (Stephen Crowley)

If you watched Sunday night's presidential debate on television, chances are you caught a glimpse of Illinois' senior U.S. Senator in the audience. But his title is not why cameras turned in Dick Durbin's direction.

Before the debate began, Durbin says be noticed something curious. The row of seats just in front of his was empty: "I kept thinking: Why would they have an empty front row?"

State Week logo (capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Simon Poll says incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk is 14 points behind Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. Democrats and Republicans are trying to use the other side's unpopular leaders to sink down-ballot candidates. Plus, Illinois is awash in campaign cash.

Illinois voters will be able to register and cast their ballot at the same time - on election day, Nov. 8th. The U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a ruling Friday that puts an end to a series of back-and-forth court orders issued in recent weeks.

Illinois first permitted voters to register on election day two years ago. But it only had to be available at one location in a jurisdiction.

In places it was so popular, there were huge lines.

A law set to take effect for this general election sought to curb that problem.

I Voted sticker roll
Wikimedia

An investigation into possible election fraud is underway in Kankakee County, but it comes as Democrats are making their own counter allegations about the official conducting the investigation.

Kankakee County State's Attorney Jamie Boyd said Tuesday that his office received reports Fri., Sept. 30 of people from Chicago offering gifts in exchange for votes.

He says the complaints allege voters were encouraged to choose Hillary Clinton, Democratic state Rep. Kate Cloonen and unnamed "others." Boyd is a Republican, but he says party has nothing to do with the investigation.

NASA

As officials warn coastal residents to get out of Hurricane Matthew's path Illinois elections officials are putting out a notice of their own.

The Illinois National Guard hasn't been activated to help, at least not yet. Nor has the Illinois Emergency Management Agency received a request for aide.

IEMA's spokeswoman says the state is part of a pact in which Illinois could be called on to help. She says if it happens at all, it will likely be after any potential damage; Illinois sent about 2500 employees out following Hurricane Katrina.

David Gill 2016 campaign website

After exhausting his chances in court, an independent candidate for Congress is dropping out, but his bid still has the potential to change Illinois elections in the future.

Bloomington Doctor David Gill has been on the ballot before (four times, actually) and lost. As a Democrat.

He says he's always criticized the party ""in regards to their selling out, as it were, to corporate interests and Wall Street banks."

This cycle he tried again to run in the 13th district, but as an independent.

Amanda Vinicky

A cannabis dispensary is using a new tactic nearly a year into Illinois' slow-rollout of a medical marijuana program. The advertising campaign is designed to encourage doctors and patients to view cannabis as an alternative to opioids.

More than 10,000 Illinois residents are certified to use marijuana for medical purposes; Kyla Travis, a Springfield resident who has multiple sclerosis, is one of them.

"I'm almost 60 years old. I was diagnosed when I was 17. So for these many years, they had me on opiates," she says.

I Voted sticker roll
Wikimedia

A federal judge is sticking by his decision, determining Thursday that a state law that would have made last-minute voting easier for residents of Illinois' biggest counties is unconstitutional.

With online voter registration, a prolonged early voting period, and registration that runs through election day, Illinois has recently made it easier to vote.

But a federal judge says one of the latest efforts violates the Equal Protection Clause.

State workers suing to put an end to mandatory union dues will appeal a federal judge's order dismissing their case.

NPR Illinois State Week logo (Capitol dome)
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

A federal judge has put limits on election-day voter registration in the most populous parts of Illinois. The governor's office has a rosier view of the Illinois deficit then legislative analysts. And Donald Trump once again shines a light on violence and policing in Chicago.

Trump by Michael Vadon/Flickr / Rauner by Brian Mackey/WUIS

The man who calls himself the leader of Illinois' Republican Party conti ues to refuse to weigh in on this year's election.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois voters this fall will have a chance to amend the state constitution. The governor refuses to say whether he supports the change.

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois has long had a day to honor Gold Star Mothers. For the first time Monday the state recognized the rest of their families.

Illinois Supreme Court
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois Supreme Court Thursday issued an opinion striking down a law that cut civil juries in half. The law would also have hiked juror pay.

When they passed it during veto session in late 2014, legislators argued that having fewer jurors made the higher pay affordable.

That, they said, was good for justice: People may be more willing to serve if they got paid $25 versus as little as $4.

But critics say really, it was a thinly-veiled parting gift to trial lawyers from Democrats while they still controlled the governor's mansion under Gov Pat Quinn.

University of Illinois Public Affairs

The University of Illinois has received a relatively glowing financial report from Moody's Investor Service, but it comes with warnings.

In a just-released report, Moody's analysts commend administrators for having years ago prepared to weather fiscal storms like the one higher education's facing now.

The state of Illinois may have the nation's worst credit rating. But its largest public university system -- the University of Illinois -- gets a far better grade.

Pension Prospects?

Sep 21, 2016

Lawmakers haven't touched state pension benefits in the nearly year-and-a-half since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled their last attempt unconstitutional. But Governor Bruce Rauner says he's "pretty excited": He thinks they will pass a new law this winter.


Amanda Vinicky

 Gov. Bruce Rauner took to social media Tuesday to answer Illinois residents' questions in real time ... some of them, anyway.

The governor says he uses Google Hangout to video chat with his kids, but it was his first time trying Facebook Live.

"How you doing? Welcome to our first ever Facebook Live. This is going to be fun and interesting," he said at the start.

Amanda Vinicky

 Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has gotten a lot of traction with his push for term limits. Voters seem to love the idea just as much as legislators hate it, even if the governor's plan doesn't seem all that practical.

Illinois is getting ready to celebrate a milestone. In 2018, the state turns 200.

Gov. Bruce Rauner Tuesday used his executive authority to create an office and a 51-member commission (members haven't yet been appointed) to coordinate the festivities.

"And we want leaders from all over the state coming up with their ideas and recommendations on how we can best celebrate," he said. "It's going to be a lot of fun, it's going to be a really big deal."

ilga.gov

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign surged in part because of his tuition-free college platform. Now one of Sanders' backers -- State Representative Will Guzzardi -- is bringing that concept to Illinois.


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