Amanda Vinicky

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. 

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In 2010, lawmakers changed the rules for how the state picks its second-in-command. No longer would voters separately nominate candidates for lieutenant governor and governor in the primary, and hope for a successful match.

  

He tried to warn us. At the very least, he tried to be upfront about his past. That he'd been charged with domestic battery.

State of Illinois

By the end of this month, Illinois state government will be back to having no budget.

Illinois hasn't had a true state budget for a year and five months. Even so, there's some talk of trying to work ahead on a spending plan for the future.

Anyone even remotely connected to state government will tell you that one of the most difficult parts of going without a budget for so long is that it's created tremendous uncertainty.

That's what's behind Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno's recent call for an 18-month budget.

The wealthy governor of Illinois is calling for state legislators to go without pay until a balanced budget is passed.

The comptroller's office reports lawmakers last received paychecks in June.  It has put elected officials' pay in a queue, along with $10 billion of overdue bills the state can't currently afford.

Several Democrats are suing to reinstate their monthly income. But the governor criticized them in a video message.  

"If they won't do a balanced budget, they shouldn't be paid first," he said in the video. "No budget, no pay."

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner frequently talks about the need to grow the state's economy. However, manufacturers say the energy law he signed yesterday will make it harder for them to compete.

The law requires residential and business customers to pay a subsidy to Exelon so they can  keep nuclear power plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities open. 

Mark Denzler of the Illinois Manufacturer's Association says the hike in electric rates will cost some of his members millions of dollars per year.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan may not agree on much when it comes to the Illinois budget.

But as they negotiate, both men apparently find it helpful to accuse the other of pushing for a tax increase.

Rauner, Madigan and the legislature’s other top leaders discussed the budget privately in Chicago.

After, Madigan said it will be difficult to pass any tax hike before a new crop of legislators are sworn in next month.

Illinois' new comptroller says she'll continue the practice of waiting to pay public officials' paychecks.

Democrat Susana Mendoza took the oath of office for comptroller Monday in the statehouse rotunda. She's coming in as a handful of Democratic lawmakers are suing her office so they can be paid on time.

"I hope my former colleagues in the legislature will understand my decision to continue to prioritize the most vulnerable people in our state over payments to legislators -- unless a court instructs me to do otherwise,” Mendoza said.

cps.edu

In a sign the stalemate in Springfield is as strong as ever, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that once  had been held up as proof he and Democratic leaders were capable of working together.

The action leaves politicians divided, and it could leave the financially-ailing Chicago Public Schools short some $215 million.

Republicans got on board with sending CPS extra money, but Rauner said he'd only sign it into law if legislators passed another, even bigger bill by the New Year to reduce the state's pension costs.

AFSCME31.ORG

The union that’s representing 30,000 Illinois workers is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner.

AFSCME filed a lawsuit late Wednesday in Saint Clair County Circuit Court.

Spokesman Anders Lindall says Rauner is starting to implement a new state contract before the law allows.

"Those demands include four years with no pay increase, a 100-percent hike in what workers now pay for health insurance,” Lindall said. "The combination of those two is a big, effective pay cut."

A ruling by the state labor board recently gave Rauner the right to implement his terms unilaterally.

Dozens of state legislators Wednesday publicly called on Governor Bruce Rauner to negotiate with the state's largest public-employee union.

But Rauner has already started taking advantage of his ability to implement new contract terms without AFSCME's approval.

A state labor board recently found Rauner was fine to have broken off talks with AFSCME last January, because the two sides were so far apart.

The union plans to fight that decision in court, but otherwise, most state employees are faced with accepting Rauner's terms, or going on strike.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

An attempt to institute automatic voter registration in Illinois is dead.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner cited potential voter fraud when he previously rejected the legislation.

The House failed Tuesday to override his veto.

GOP State Representative Mike Fortner of West Chicago says the plan is flawed. He says it would have created too long a government paper trail on anyone choosing to opt out of registering, and that's a security issue. 

Fortner says there are better ways to make registering easier.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner continues to demand legislators lower what businesses have to pay for injured workers.  

House Democrats scheduled a hearing on the subject Monday, and yet Rauner's fellow Republicans wanted nothing to do with it.

When is a company on the hook to compensate an injured worker, and for how much?

Legislation encapsulating Gov. Rauner's preferred plan has sat idle, for a year-and-a-half.

But after he recently asked Democratic leaders to take another look at his bill; the House obliged and scheduled a hearing on it.

BRIAN MACKEY / NPR ILLINOIS

Any companies that may end up helping build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border would stand to lose Illinois investments, under a proposal unveiled Tuesday.

The legislation would forbid the state's pension funds from investing in any firm that participates in the wall proposed by President-Elect Donald Trump.

State Representative Lisa Hernandez, a Chicago Democrat, says the plan sends a message that Illinois supports immigrants, not divisiveness.

"Application - pen2" By Flickr User Flazingo Photos / (CC X 2.0)

Fewer than one percent of applicants with criminal records are turned away when they apply to the state for a professional license.

But Illinois' Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation, Bryan Schneider, says anecdotally, the department knows many former convicts don't even try:

"What was going on was people perceived it as being impossible. So why come downtown, or anywhere quite frankly, for an interview, if you know you're going to be denied?"

Schneider is optimistic that a new license application will change that.

Governor Bruce Rauner's Facebook page.

 

Gov. Bruce Rauner was part of an 80-member delegation that traveled to the Vatican.  They witnessed Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich become a cardinal.

Other notable members of the group included Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emaneul.   None of their trips were financed by taxpayers.  

In a Facebook video, Rauner said he had a lot of “interactions” with the delegation.  

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Now that a state board says there's no point to Gov. Bruce Rauner resuming negotiations with AFSCME, his administration is beginning to impose new terms on members of state government's biggest labor union. AFSCME, however, wants Rauner to return to the bargaining table. State employees across Illinois rallied for their cause Thursday.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and all four leaders of the Illinois General Assembly met Wednesday to discuss pending issues after Democrats weren't able to make a previous meeting.  

Among the conversation topics was the state budget.  The Illinois deficit currently exceeds $10 billion, and a report from the governor's budget office says it could reach $47 billion within five years.  

A stopgap spending plan is in place through December, but Illinois remains without a complete budget.

Democrats say Illinois needs to focus on identifying cuts and hiking taxes.

Illinois Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is suggesting lawmakers work on another partial budget without any of Gov. Bruce Rauner's demands.

However GOP legislative leaders say they won't agree to another stopgap plan.

Madigan's comments Tuesday indicate the parties remain far apart in discussions about how to end a 16-month budget standoff that has crippled social service programs and higher education institutions.

Rauner wants Democrats to adopt business-friendly, union-weakening legislation as part of a budget agreement.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Illinois legislators' fall veto session is getting underway, and already a bipartisan split is festering.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said Sunday a conflict prevented him from accepting an invitation to meet with the governor Monday.

The Democratic Senate President said he would not attend either, because it would not be productive without all four legislative leaders.

GOP Governor Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly's minority leaders met anyway.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno called Democrats' absence disappointing.

Illinois legislators will only get a brief post-election respite from politics. They are scheduled to be back in Springfield next Tuesday to begin the veto session. The current makeup of the General Assembly will remain in place for that but, come the new year, the Capitol welcomes a new set of lawmakers elected Tuesday night and the balance of power will shift -- slightly.

Election Day is like the Super Bowl of politics.

duckworth.house.gov

She may be a Democrat, but the new U.S. Senator from Illinois says she's prepared to work with President-Elect Donald Trump to reunite and heal the nation.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth is a veteran; she lost her legs 12 years ago while flying a helicopter in the Iraq War.

Trump will be the first President who hasn't served in government or the military.           

Illinois is one year into its four-year medical marijuana pilot project, and doctors' opinions are divided.  

Doctors' trade group, the Illinois State Medical Society, has no official stance on pot's medical benefits, or lack thereof. However, the Society's current president, Dr. Thomas Anderson, says the membership is split. 

"Because we have doctors within the organization who feel like it is a value drug in certain settings, we have doctors in the organization who feel like it's a useless substance that doesn't even belong on the shelf with other medications."

Candidate websites

There wasn't supposed to be an election for a statewide constitutional officer this year.  But Democrats essentially forced one, following the sudden death of Republican Judy Baar Topinka after she'd won the 2014 election for comptroller, but before she'd been inaugurated. 

The race has been expensive and competitive, and it could show who's winning the war of public opinion between Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Who knows what would have happened had Democrats held onto the governor's office in 2014?

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk says it's "disappointing" two groups have withdrawn endorsements. He's trying to fight off a challenge from Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

Kirk was a rare Republican to receive recommendations from the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights, and a gun control group led by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords. 

Both pulled their endorsements after Kirk made a wisecrack minimizing the Duckworth family legacy of military service; many critics immediately condemned it as racist. 

BRIAN MACKEY / NPR ILLINOIS

The group Illinois Parents of Adults with Developmental Disabilities has published its first legislative report card.

Deb Hamilton cares for her 27-year old disabled daughter, who lives at home in the Chicago suburbs.

"I am hoping it will influence legislators' behavior, I'm hoping it will bring awareness to the specific cause itself, but also to create an awareness of what is really happening in Springfield," Hamilton said.

Illinois has taken steps to prevent 260,000 residents from losing government food assistance. That gives the state a year to prepare these individuals for the job market.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

About 260,000 low-income Illinois residents were in danger of losing food stamp privileges early next year.

But the administration of Governor Bruce Rauner has applied for a federal waiver to continue their access through 2017.

Diane Doherty, with the Illinois Hunger Coalition, says Illinois was one of 11 states eligible because it’s so hard to find a job.

Incumbent Republican U.S Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth covered a variety of issues, including college affordability, how to make Social Security solvent, and the Iran nuclear treaty (Duckworth voted for it, Kirk did not) Thursday in Springfield in their only downstate debate.  

Both agreed that climate change is real, and caused by humans.  They differed on tax policy and Syrian refugees, and, in response to a question about the Common Core, Kirk suggested expanded school days.

Flickr user Tim (Timothy) Pearce / "Prison cell with bed inside Alcatraz main building san francisco california" (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Supreme Court is committing to a redesign of pretrial justice procedures, which is the system in place to deal with individuals from the time they're arrested, until their case is resolved.

The state is working with the national Pretrial Justice Institute, which is trying to get 20 states on board. Its CEO, Cherise Fanno Burdeen, says Illinois is the second. 

Burdeen says one aim is to replace the cash bail system; she says risk should be based not just on the charge someone was arrested for, but also their criminal history.

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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner used a live Facebook video session Wednesday to tout a new law he signed this summer requiring insurance companies and Medicaid to cover 3-D mammograms.

Immediately after the governor's stream, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force held one of its own.

Rauner, speaking from the Simmons Cancer Institute in Springfield during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, also congratulated a nurse practitioner for being cancer-free for one year. She stood beside the governor to answer questions.

The top candidates for Illinois comptroller squared off last night in a televised debate and interview on Chicago's WTTW.

Incumbent Republican Leslie Munger was appointed to the post by Governor Bruce Rauner.  Her Democratic opponent, Chicago City Clerk Susanna Mendoza, says Munger is controlled by the wealthy governor. 

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