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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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New Law Prevents Criminal Background Checks Until After an Applicant is Deemed Qualified for a Job
SPRINGFILED, IL, (, July 20, 2014 - Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation to help ex-offenders secure employment in the private sector and become productive members of society. The new law prevents criminal background checks until after an applicant is deemed qualified for a job.

The action follows an administrative order the Governor issued last year to ensure the same consideration for those seeking state employment. The bill signing is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to ensure all Illinois' workers are treated fairly.

"Everyone deserves a second chance when it comes to getting a job," Governor Quinn said in a news release. "This law will help ensure that people across Illinois get a fair shot to reach their full potential through their skills and qualifications, rather than past history. It will also help reduce recidivism, fight poverty and prevent violence in our communities by putting more people back to work."

House Bill 5701, sponsored by State Representative Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) and State Senator Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago), prohibits a private employer or employment agency from inquiring about or considering an applicant's criminal history until the applicant has been determined to be qualified for the job and selected for an interview. The new law does not apply to certain jobs where employers must exclude applicants with criminal histories. The legislation, which was recommended by the bipartisan Illinois Employment Restrictions Task Force, is effective January 1, 2015.

"By allowing applicants to undergo the interview process without being judged as unfit for employment because of their background, we will help individuals get back to work, pursue a higher education and become the responsible residents that our state thrives on," Representative Mayfield said. "I believe this legislation will improve the lives of many residents and give them the opportunities they were previously unable to strive for."

"Everyone should have the opportunity to be considered for employment," Senator Munoz said. "This legislation protects people with criminal records from discrimination, gives deserving people a second chance and allows them to be evaluated based on their suitability for a position."

Route 66 Tour Brings "Cow Bop" to Play at the World's Largest Catsup Bottle
COLLINSVILLE, IL, (, July 20, 2014 - Music lovers can enjoy a free concert under the Catsup Bottle Water Tower, Sunday, July 27, from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., by the greatest cowboy/jazz western/swing ensemble to ever come out of California.

Produced by Rifftime Music, the "Rifftime on Route 66 Linear Music Festival" is the industry's first mobile, interactive music festival. Over 25 bands will kick off from Chicago on July 25 and play their way 2400 miles to Los Angeles by August 9. Nighclubs, bars, house parties & street corners are all on the menu.

The performers will all document and share their experiences through Rifftime's apps and social media outlets. Plus, a team of stringers will "live stream" events all along the route.

"Who would have thought my career would take me to playing under a giant catsup bottle?" said Bruce Forman, acclaimed jazz guitarist and leader of Cow Bop. "It's such an iconic landmark. We love playing there. This will be our third time."

The iconic Catsup Bottle is located at 800 Morrison Avenue in Collinsville.

Illinois Legislation Expands Illinois Military Family Relief Fund
SPRINGFIELD, IL, (, July 6, 2014 - Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation to expand the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund (IMFRF) to cover future conflicts for which the Illinois National Guard and Reserve may be called to duty. Since its inception in 2003, the IMFRF has provided more than $15.4 million in support of 28,840 families of deployed servicemembers.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Quinn worked to launch the IMFRF with Mary Beth Beiersdorf, a military spouse whose husband, Will, a naval reservist, had been called for 13 months of active duty. At the time, the Beiersdorfs had three young children and their income decreased significantly during Will's deployment.

Many National Guard and Reservists who deployed as part of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom suffered a substantial salary cut in order to serve their country (as much as 70 percent of their income). The IMFRF was designed to aid military families with expenses for groceries, rent or utility bills. The fund has been a vital source of support for families who must pay living expenses while their loved ones are away for months or years at a time.

House Bill 3833, sponsored by State Representative Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) and State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), provides benefits for families of Illinois National Guard and Reserve servicemembers who are called to action during future conflicts. The Military Family Relief Fund was originally established to provide family benefits when Illinois National Guard and Reserve members are called to duty for any conflict arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The new law extends those benefits for service in any future global conflict. The law is effective immediately.

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New $675 Million Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge Is a Bridge to Jobs
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