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. 

Gov. Bruce Rauner has consistently said he's waiting to give details on his plans for Illinois' finances until his budget address, on February 18th. But decisions by previous lawmakers may force him to make closely-watched decisions sooner.

Illinois has a program that helps low-income parents pay for day-care. But -- because the previous General Assembly cut funding for it by millions from the current state budget - state money for has run out.

The millions of dollars Republican Governor Bruce Rauner poured into his campaign landed him near the top of a national list of last year's biggest campaign contributors to state races.

The Center for Public Integrity gathered data on political giving to state races. It then used that information to crown "sugar daddies of state politics."

Gov. Rauner and his wife, Diana, came in seventh.

Gov. Bruce Rauner amped up his anti-union rhetoric Tuesday at a speech in Decatur, a city with deep labor roots.  The Republican bemoaned prevailing wage  requirements on public projects for costing the state extra, said Project Labor Agreements are synonymous with "uncompetitive bidding" and introduced a plan to create local right-to-work zones.  

It has been two years or so since 26 people -- most of them young children -- died in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The shooter was 20-year-old Adam Lanza.

A report studying him was released late last year by Connecticut's child advocate office; it shows problems identifying and treating his mental illness.

"There were several missed opportunities to help Lanza," said longtime Speaker of the Illinois House Michael Madigan on the opening day of the new General Assembly.

As they seek to permanently toss Illinois' pension overhaul, state employees and retirees are asking the state Supreme Court for more time to make their arguments. Lawyers filed the request Tuesday.

It's a case that's supposed to be on the fast track: After a Sangamon County judge in November found Illinois' pension law unconstitutional, the Attorney General appealed straight to the state supreme court -- which agreed to hear it on an expedited basis.

Anyone will be able to look up the names of political appointees to state jobs under an executive order Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Thursday, Jan. 15.

  By law, the vast majority of state employees are to be hired based on merit, not their political affiliation. Higher-level jobs are the exception. A governor gets to choose whoever he wants to be in his inner circle, and in policy-driven jobs. Rauner's executive order requires the names of these political hires to be published on a state website.

Yesterday, on Mon. Jan. 12, 2015,  Illinois got a new governor:  Bruce Rauner -- the first Republican to win the governor's mansion in more than a decade.. The former private equity investor spent a record $26 million to win his first ever bid for elected office. And he didn't stop there. At the end of the year, Rauner contributed another $10 million that his spokespeople say he'll use to advance his agenda. Questions abound over what exactly that agenda is. He made a lot of campaign promises, but so far has painted his mission for Illinois in broad strokes.

If you listened to Bruce Rauner on the campaign trail, you'd think that he would want to steer clear of Illinois' lawmakers. He reviled them. Especially those who had long careers in Springfield. Rauner, remember, ran on a platform advocating for term limits. But that was before he won election. Now, as he prepares to be Illinois' next governor, Rauner has spent a time reaching out to the politicians he'd once vilified. Amanda Vinicky checked in with some of them about how it went.

A special election next year for the office of Illinois comptroller is almost surely on the horizon. Democratic members of the Illinois General Assembly hurried Thurs., Jan 8 to pass a measure setting it up.

It goes back to last month, when Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka suddenly died. She was about to begin a new, four-year term.

Chances the state will hold a special election for comptroller in 20-16 have improved, now that the Illinois House Speaker has signaled his support. Lawmakers will be back in Springfield for special session Thurs., Jan 8 to vote on it.

Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says Madigan will support giving voters a say, instead of allowing an appointee to take over long-term. Brown had previously only said that Madigan believed the future of the comptroller's office was a matter to be settled by the executive branch.

Judy Baar Topinka, who died of a stroke last week, was no stranger to the dizzying world of Illinois politics. The state comptroller had also been state treasurer, served in the legislature and lost a race for governor to Rod Blagojevich. So it's easy to imagine that Topinka would not be surprised at the ongoing furor and partisan divide over how to replace her.

The trade magazine "Institutional Investor" has ranked Illinois' incoming governor as its most influential player in U.S. pensions. An article says Bruce Rauner may regret ever having run for office, given the state's massive longterm pension debt, and the difficulty he is expected to have in addressing it.

Many of Illinois' top politicians will pay their respects to the late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka at a memorial service today (Wed., Dec. 17). Topinka died last week at the age of 70, shortly after having a stroke. Even as she's being mourned, political jockeying is underway to determine who'll next take her job.

Topinka passed away a month before she was to be sworn into her next term as Comptroller -- the position in state government responsible for paying the bills.

Credit ratings agencies have taken notice of the court ruling on Friday that tossed out Illinois’ law reducing workers’ pensions. But they’re not worried enough to lower the state’s rating.

Illinois’ credit rating remains unaffected by last week’s court ruling, which found a landmark pension law to be unconstitutional. But agencies are watching.

Credit ratings are important as, the lower the rating, the more it costs the state to borrow.

It’s also an important indicator of a state’s relative fiscal health.

Although one court has tossed out Illinois’ mega pension overhaul, state leaders are likely to wait on another legal opinion before deciding what to do next.

There’s no question -- the Sangamon County Circuit Court judge’s ruling is meaningful. But Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office is appealing to the state Supreme Court.

Madigan has said it makes sense for lawmakers to wait to hear from those justices.

When he was a candidate, Bruce Rauner promised that if elected, he would freeze property taxes. Now that he's won the race for governor, he's holding off on details about how.

It was a campaign promise that struck a chord.

With Bruce Rauner's win, Illinois Republicans have something to celebrate. But they failed to make gains in the General Assembly, which could have big repercussions for Rauner down the line.

Two years ago, Illinois Democrats gained historic super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

There were more than enough Democrats in the Senate, and just enough (71) Democratic members of the House, to override a governor's veto.

Then, the governor was also a Democrat -- Pat Quinn.

Next year, Illinois Democrats will once again hold veto-proof majorities.

Illinois voters have until seven tonight, when the polls close, to help decide the state's future.

Let's begin with the top of the ballot, with two proposed constitutional amendments. One would create protections for voters against discrimination; the other would give crime victims more rights, like a guarantee they be notified when a perpetrator is released.

Governor Pat Quinn wants to proceed with getting rid of dozens of Illinois Department of Transportation employees. But the layoffs won't happen for at least another month.

  They no longer had to do it through campaign commercials. Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner faced one another in a joint interview before the Chicago Tribune's Editorial Board Tuesday.

Even though Illinois' general election is months away, a controversial ballot question could be answered by the end of this week. Friday is the deadline for a term limits initiative to make it on the ballot.

Republican's nominee for governor, Bruce Rauner, has made instituting term limits for legislators a central plank of his campaign.

That would require a constitutional amendment. Rauner funded an effort to collected a half million signatures, so that the question could go before voters this fall.

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state.

It has been just over half a year since Illinois made it illegal to talk on your phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. There are some exceptions: you can hold your phone if your car is stopped -- say at a railroad crossing for a freight train -- and in park or neutral, or if you pull off onto the shoulder. The law also makes an exemption for law enforcement. A recent YouTube sensation that raises the question: should police get special treatment?

    

A court is being asked to prevent any aspect of Illinois' pension overhaul from taking effect, until it's decided whether the law is constitutional. A motion was filed Friday in Sangamon County Court.

Pages