Stories by Amanda Vinicky

Legislators Question Authority to Punish Schools Over Masks

(WTTW News)

It was early August, just before most students returned to their classrooms for the new school year, that Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order requiring students, teachers and staff to wear masks in school, regardless of their vaccination status — or face the consequences.

Lightfoot Gets Pushback on Her Plan to Go After Gangs’ Profits

A file photo shows a crime scene blocked off by the Chicago Police Department. (WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants to employ a new tactic in the fight against crime and violence: sue gang members in civil court. But the plan is proving controversial.

Illinois House Approves Energy Bill

(WTTW News)

An ambitious – and controversial – energy package that aims to move Illinois to 100% clean energy within the next several decades is on the path to becoming law. 

Energy Package Teed Up for Springfield Vote

Exelon has been steadfast that it will begin to shut down its nuclear plant in Byron unless a law is passed by Monday’s end, a law that would have ratepayers pay an extra charge on electric bills to keep Exelon nuclear plants running. (WTTW News)

The Illinois House is reconvening Thursday for what lawmakers hope will be the penultimate chapter of yearslong energy negotiations. And now it’s truly down to the wire for a far-reaching omnibus package.

What the Texas Abortion Law Means for Illinois

Abortion rights protesters hold signs at a rally in this file photo. (WTTW News)

Texas has taken a controversial approach to banning abortions once cardiac activity is detected, with a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone involved with the procedure. Now, activists on both sides of the abortion debate are gearing up for a legislative battle.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Set to End, Organizations Work to Bridge Employment Gap

(Tim Mossholder / Unsplash)

Unemployment has been a major issue throughout the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders spurred layoffs — many who lost their jobs had trouble accessing benefits — in part because there was a whole lot of fraud.

Energy Bill Flickers as Time Runs Short To Save Nuclear Plants With Subsidy

(WTTW News)

Legislators have been working toward a measure that would keep two Illinois nuclear plants open. Despite a rash of talks during Tuesday’s special session, there is still no concrete path — and less than two weeks remain until Exelon says it will close the plants.

Illinois Democrats Advance New Legislative Districts With Little Public Review

(WTTW News)

Democrats have a stranglehold on the Illinois General Assembly, and Tuesday they muscled through legislation that will help the party maintain power for the coming decade despite objections from community organizations and Republicans.

Amid Paramedic Shortage, Pritzker Likely to Veto Bill Favored by Ambulance Companies

(WTTW News)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker may soon make the rare move of vetoing a bill that passed both houses of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly — unanimously. The bill has to do with how private ambulance companies are reimbursed when they transport Medicaid patients. 

Will Cameras on Chicago Expressways Help Deter Shootings?

(WTTW News)

In 2019, Tamara Clayton was driving to work along I-57 when she was shot and killed. Years later, a law passed in her honor that allows cameras to go up along certain Illinois expressways is taking effect — as expressway shootings are skyrocketing.

Illinois Republicans Gear Up to Take On Biden and Pritzker

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of the Peoria-area laid out his vision for what would happen in Washington if the White House and Congress were in Republican hands, at the State Fair on Thursday. (WTTW News)

Democrats had their day in the limelight at the Illinois State Fair on Wednesday. Next, it was Republicans’ turn to get into campaign mode, with an annual meeting of the Illinois GOP’s top leaders and a rally.

Bye, Bye Byron? Exelon Prepares to Shutter Illinois Nuclear Plants

At full power, Byron’s nuclear plant is pumping out enough energy to power some 2 million northern Illinois homes. (WTTW News)

Illinois legislators may be back in Springfield soon for a second extra session. Their sole goal: to strike a deal on a massive energy package. The result will impact everything from Illinois’ role in climate change to your energy bill. But the stakes are particularly high in one Illinois town. 

Lawsuit Seeks to Strike School Mask Mandate

A young student wears a mask while working on a laptop. (WTTW News)

Masks must be worn in Illinois schools when students and staff return to the classroom in the coming weeks. But a just-filed lawsuit could void that statewide executive order. We talk with the attorney who filed it — and a local pediatrician. 

Will Pot ‘Piranhas’ Take Over Illinois’ Market?

Illinois selected another 55 winners from a pool of 589 qualifying applicants seeking to open cannabis dispensaries. (WTTW News)

Illinois today selected another 55 winners from a pool of 589 qualifying applicants seeking to open cannabis dispensaries. It’s another step on a long-delayed process of growing Illinois’ marijuana market, with a mind toward social equity. But is it working?

Pushback on Illinois’ Latest COVID-19 Mandates

In this file photo, restaurant patrons wear masks while dining indoors. (WTTW News)

Masking will be universally required in Illinois schools, and some state employees must get vaccinated for the coronavirus, according to mandates handed down Wednesday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker — a move that immediately drew rebuke from friends and foes alike.

Unions, Environmentalists Declare Impasse on Energy Deal

Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Ogle County, Illinois. (Christopher Peterson / Wikimedia Commons)

With possibly just a few weeks left before Exelon shutters a nuclear reactor in Byron, feuding and politically powerful interests have failed to reach a deal that would keep the plant open and otherwise move Illinois toward its renewable energy goals.

Illinois’ Disgraced Former Governor Tries to Make a Comeback

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich talks about his criminal complaint outside the Dirksen Federal Building on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (WTTW News)

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Illinois’ only governor to be impeached and removed from office, was back at the Dirksen federal courthouse on Monday, but this time it was on his own volition — rather than as a defendant in criminal proceedings.

Has Illinois Fixed its Flawed Marijuana Industry Expansion?

(WTTW News)

Three lotteries have been set where successful applicants will win coveted licenses to collectively open another 185 cannabis dispensaries throughout Illinois.

Governor Pritzker Meets with President Biden in D.C.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among a handful of governors and mayors who scored an invitation to the White House July 14, 2021. (WTTW News via CNN)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was among a handful of governors and mayors who scored an invitation Wednesday to the White House. His visit comes as the primary for the 2022 governor’s race is less than a year away. 

Sheriff Faces Lawsuit for Not Protecting Female Employees from Harassment by Detainees

(WTTW News)

More than 500 current and former employees of the Cook County jail say they were subject to “vulgar” “and “offensive” misconduct by detainees, and that Sheriff Tom Dart’s office did not do enough to protect them from the constant harassment.

Efforts to Draw New Chicago Ward Map Getting Started

A map of Chicago includes boundaries for some of the city’s 50 wards. (WTTW News via Google Maps)

Members of the Chicago City Council are in the early stages of drafting new ward boundaries, but so too are community members hoping to supplant a map drawn by alderpeople. We check in on the drafting process.

New Illinois Law Allows College Athletes to be Paid for Endorsements

The Loyola Ramblers get ready for their Sweet 16 matchup in March 2018. (WTTW News)

 A new state law allows Illinois college athletes to play ball with – and make bank from – businesses, by entering into endorsement deals and doing commercials. 

Moody’s Upgrade a ‘Major Milestone’ for Illinois, Pritzker Says

Gov. J.B. Pritzker comments on the state’s bond rating upgrade from Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (WTTW News via Governor’s Office)

Illinois broke a 23-year streak on Tuesday, when credit ratings agency Moody’s upgraded the state’s bond rating for the first time since 1998 – the same year the Chicago Bulls won their last championship.

Illinois’ New Criminal Justice Law Begins to Take Effect

(WTTW News)

Major changes to Illinois’ criminal justice system that passed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder will begin to take effect Thursday, including a requirement that officers track and report to the state incidents in which they use a gun on someone. Here’s what else is changing.

Juneteenth Becomes Official State Holiday in Illinois

Plus: Our Spotlight Politics team on the new law, Springfield summer session and more

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs House Bill 3922 on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. The new law makes Juneteenth an official state holiday. (WTTW News via the Governor’s Office)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the law Wednesday at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, where a rare copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by the country’s 16th president is currently on display.

Lights Out for Energy Bill

Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Ogle County, Illinois. (Christopher Peterson / Wikimedia Commons)

Lawmakers couldn’t clinch a deal on a comprehensive energy package before their regular session ended in May, but were called back to Springfield on Tuesday to try again. Instead, the Senate adjourned once again without taking action.