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. 

A year ago, Illinois' income tax rate fell by 25-percent. The top Democrat in the Illinois House is suggesting it go back up, according to news headlines...but that's not what he meant to convey.

Following a rare speech at the City Club of Chicago, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan was asked this question about the state budget:

"How high do you think taxes need to go?"

Madigan tried to avoid getting specific, saying at first:

"Alright, let me avoid creating a headline for tomorrow's newspaper..." This drew a laugh from the audience.

WUIS

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is denouncing recent anti-Muslim statements from his party's front-runner for president.

But he's sticking to his position on Syrian refugees, and he's even taking it a step further.

Rauner described Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. as "an extreme action."

"What he's proposing is just fundamentally counter to American values," Rauner said Tuesday in response to reporters' questions. "I strongly, strongly disagree with candidate Trump."

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Illinois' Legislative Black Caucus says more changes could be on the way.

Representative Elgie Sims, a Democrat from Chicago, says the new law forbids chokeholds.  It requires police to receive cultural competency training. And it sets standards for use of body cameras.

"At the end of the day, what we're trying to do is improve the quality of policing statewide. It's not just the city of Chicago. It's the quality of policing services in Danville and in Champaign and in Peoria. So we're trying to improve the quality of policing services everywhere," Sims said.

Governor Bruce Rauner has signed a partial budget into law, releasing some $2 billion that thus far has been caught in the political fight between the Republican and legislative Democrats.

Funds can now be released to local governments and community organizations that have been waiting for state funding since July.

Shortly after the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly approved a partial budget plan Monday, the governor signed it into law. 

Flickr user Pictures of Money / "Money" (CC BY 2.0)

A stopgap budget plan moving through the Illinois General Assembly won't be enough for the Secretary of State to resume mailing reminders of expiring driver's license stickers.

The office announced in September it would stop sending the notices via post because of the budget impasse. A stopgap spending plan will give the Secretary of State’s office $10 million.

But spokesman Dave Druker says they will not use it on the reminders:

“Not at this point,” he said. “We thought paying the landlords and the utilities rated as a higher priority.” 

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Illinois' unemployment insurance program will see some changes next year ... the result of something that's rare in Springfield these days as a budget stalemate persists: hard-fought negotiations giving way to a compromise.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration, labor, and business, all agreed on something: changes to the unemployment insurance program.

The measure awaiting the governor's signature would make it easier for businesses to prove worker misconduct.  That could decrease employer’s costs by exempting them from having to pay benefits.

Brian Mackey / Illinois Public Radio

Illinois' lingering budget stalemate means public universities will keep waiting on state funding, as will many social service agencies.

But it's possible the Secretary of State's office will soon get money to keep drivers' license facilities open.  The state Lottery is expected to get the money it needs to pay winnings. And domestic violence services will receive millions.

That's because the Illinois House today approved some $3 billion in spending.

Members of both parties had complaints -- some that the measure goes too far, others that it doesn't go far enough.

WUIS

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is rebuffing a bid by the White House to assuage concerns over Syrian refugees.

Rauner is one of about 30 governors nationwide who said no to taking in people fleeing war-ravaged Syria. Rauner, a Republican, cited security concerns following the terror attacks in Paris.

"What matters is a coordinated, cooperative, highly communicative effort at a national scale to protect the people of America against terrorists," he said in November.

Illinois could see its already worst-in-the-nation credit rating sink further--all the way to "junk" status.

Moody's Vice President Ted Hampton says investors have asked the ratings agency if that's even possible.

Because they can raise taxes, states are generally considered safe, and mostly have high ratings.

But Hampton says there's no credit floor.  It is possible for Illinois' rating to drop to "junk."

Flickr user Teemu008 / "Executive Mansion" (Creative Commons)

The initial phase of repairs to the run-down governor's mansion in Springfield is just about complete.

Architect Jeff Evans, who's coordinating the project as a volunteer , says it was in bad shape.

"The roof has been replaced. We've got about a week's worth of work to finish up odds and ends,” Evans said. “The leaks have stopped. There's no more water infiltration. The next thing will be just to complete the rest of the rehabilitation."

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