Republicans notch big win against Obamacare

In a major win for House Republicans, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the Obama administration inappropriately spent money to pay for part of the Affordable Care Act.

Here’s a link to the story.

Tax hike, budget cuts part of proposal submitted to Rauner, legislative leaders

Rank-and-file budget negotiators have submitted a proposal to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four legislative leaders to show how a balanced budget could be achieved through a combination of tax hikes and budget cuts.

Here’s a link to the story.

Measure to provide $700M for human services advances in Illinois House

An Illinois House committee has given preliminary approval to legislation to spend $700 million to help out financially strapped human services.


Here’s a link to the story.

Madigan’s Democratic lawyer sues to block redistricting reform referendum

An attorney who’s long been a close ally of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has filed a lawsuit trying to block voters from considering a proposed constitutional amendment that seeks to remove some of the influence of partisan politics from how state House and Senate district boundaries are drawn.


Here’s the link to the story.

Video gaming brings positives and negatives to region

CARBONDALE — Video gaming in Illinois has become a nearly half-billion-dollar industry, according to the latest reports from the Illinois Gaming Board.

Here’s the link to the story in the Southern Illinoisan.

Shimkus rails on job-destroying EPA rules

Governor Rauner issues statement on HB 580

Statement on the Senate’s Vote of HB 580


SPRINGFIELD – The following is a statement from Catherine Kelly, Press Secretary to Governor Rauner:

“HB 580 is unprecedented and unaffordable, putting hard working families in Illinois on the hook for a $3 billion tax hike. Once again the Democrats in the legislature pandered to special interests and prioritized them over taxpayers. The Governor thanks those Senate Republicans who took the pro-taxpayer position today.”

Lineup set for 2016 HerrinFesta

(This story first appeared in the Southern Illinoisan.)

By Vince Hoffard

Jake Owen and Chris Janson give a potent one-two punch of superstar country music to the 2016 HerrinFesta Italiana lineup, which was officially released today. They will serve as bookends for the five-day celebration, which kicks off on May 26 and concludes on Memorial Day.

Sandwiched between the country standouts will be iconic rockers Foreigner, 3 Doors Down and a Saturday night headbanger spectacular featuring Great White, Dokken, FireHouse and Tom Keifer, former frontman and lead guitarist for Cinderella.

“We are pushing the envelope a little this year,” says HerrinFesta President Cris Trapani. “When the entertainment committee was able to lock down a superstar like Jake Owen on the opening night, it became obvious that we were going to step up our game and try to make this the best across-the-board booking we’ve ever been able to put together.”

Founded in 1991, past performers at the festival have included Luke Bryan, the Dixie Chicks, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line and hometown hero David Lee Murphy. Many marquee rock, alternative and blues acts, including the late Snooky Pryor, a legendary delta blues harmonica player from Ullin, have appeared at the festival.

Music in HerrinFesta’s formative years was played on a makeshift semi-trailer stage. Today, the high-tech stage configuration rivals any used by huge festivals in major cities. The commitment to excellence was rewarded in 2014 when the festival won the Governor’s Award for Best Festival in Illinois.

Trapani says there are eight major committees that plan the 37 events that comprise the annual festival. He says it takes a “small army” of several hundred volunteers to staff the event.

“Everyone pours their heart and soul into this thing. We work hard to make it better every year. The whole thought process is to showcase not only Herrin, but all of Southern Illinois,” Trapani says.

The 34-year-old Owen is a Florida native. His career plan A was to qualify for the PGA tour. He won his first golf tournament at 15, but a nasty skiing injury that required reconstructive shoulder surgery erased that option. While recovering, he learned to play guitar and developed a loyal following at clubs surrounding Florida State University.

His entrance into the country music world is not typical. On his first day relocating to Nashville, he went into a bank to open a savings account. He struck up a conversation with a teller, gave her a demo and was soon contacted by Warner/Chappell Music.

Thompsonville songwriter Kendell Marvel played a key role in Owen’s early days in Music City. Marvel co-wrote six songs on Owen’s first album, including debut single “Yee Haw.” He also collaborated with Owen on “Startin’ With Me” and “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You.” Owen also topped the Billboard charts with back-to-back singles “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and “Alone With You.”

Owen will release his fifth studio album later this year and his new single “American Country Love Song” drops Monday.

3 Doors Down is best known for its 2000 single “Kyptonite,” in addition to “When I’m Gone” and “Here Without You.” The group will release its sixth album, “Us And The Night,” on March 11.

Foreigner dominated the rock charts for more than a decade, starting in 1977, with classic hits: “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Cold As Ice,” “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero.”

The 29-year-old Janson, a native of Perryville, Missouri, is nominated for New Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The awards will be announced April 3 on CBS. He also is nominated by the ACM for Single Record of the Year for his career-launching single “Buy Me A Boat.”

Before breaking out as a solo artist in 2016, Janson was already firmly established in Nashville. His vocals were first displayed in 2009 on duets with the critically acclaimed Holly Williams. He is a very successful songwriter, inking “Truck Yeah” for Tim McGraw and the title cut of Justin Moore’s “Off The Beaten Path” album. He has had tunes cut by Randy Houser, Frankie Ballard, Jerrod Niemann and LoCash.

The complete entertainment schedule for the ‘Festa is as follows:

  • May 26, Owen and opening act F-150;
  • May 27, 3 Doors Down with American Lion and Lori’s Puppets;
  • May 28, Keifeer, Great White, FireHouse and Dokken;
  • May 29, Foreigner with special guests Sinical and Mr. Swamp Fox and
  • May 30, Janson with local favorite Murphy 500 and Amelia Eisenhauer, originally of Du Quoin, fresh off her appearance on American Idol.

Tickets for the Owen concert will be $27 in advance and $30 after April 22. A pit pass is available for $40. All other shows are $22 in advance and $25 after April 22, or opt for the $35 pit pass. Visit to make a purchase or for additional information.

Office Systems revamping, modernizing programs to fit local needs

INA, Ill. – With new and improving technologies, the Rend Lake College Office Systems program is updating some core curriculum to remain competitive and reliable for today’s graduates. Two Office Systems Technology (OFTC) programs are creating two new associate degrees and three new occupational certificates to give students the skills necessary to work in the industry.

Classes are enrolling now for the five credentials. Though they are pending Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) approval, Sarah Bilderbeck, Office Systems Technology Associate Professor, said she’s confident the programs will be accepted to help local students improve their skills.

“These programs are similar to what was offered before, but due to evolving technology and the changing role of an administrative assistant, the curriculum needed some adjusting,” said Bilderbeck. “Technology in the workplace is woven throughout every semester of the curriculum.”

Bilderbeck added students will complete work on Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint, as well as on QuickBooks, to be prepared for any office setting. Classes will also spend time on social media and basic web page design.

“A student pursuing an OFTC degree can also dual major, which means when they graduate, they can receive both OFTC degrees and all of the accompanying certificates,” said Bilderbeck. “Only four or five classes is the difference between the two degrees, and many students opt to spend an extra semester finishing up both credentials.”

To learn more about any of these five degrees and certificates, contact Sarah Bilderbeck at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1754 or bilderbeck@rlc.eduThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Office Systems Technology Specialist & Office Technologies Assistant

The new Office Systems Technology Specialist (OSTS) degree and Office Technologies Assistant (OTA) certificate will replace RLC’s Administrative Assistant program. Bilderbeck said part of the transition is to include more job responsibilities assistants see in their workplace.

“In the past, an assistant was someone who greeted customers, answered the phone, and directed traffic, but times have changed, the role has evolved, and that version of an assistant no longer exists,” said Bilderbeck. “The list of tasks for a new age assistant is endless.”

Some of these new responsibilities include creating and formatting business reports in Word, performing complex functions in Excel, setting up databases in Access, putting together presentations in PowerPoint, and much more. Bilderbeck said these assistants are sometimes considered the experts when it comes to new software or updates.

“Assistants are likely to be training staff on the latest and greatest when it comes to software or various types of office technology,” she said. “They’re no longer simply communicating on the telephone or behind the desk. An assistant’s role reaches out to the entire department or even company.”

The OSTS Associate in Applied Science degree is a two-year program requiring 64 credit hours of work to prepare students with the technical skills and general studies required of clerical staff. Students will focus on the concepts and methods used to organize and manage information, as well as the development or enhancement of skills necessary to work in an office or business setting.

Specifically, Bilderbeck said she’s excited to include Integrating Microsoft Applications, Office Procedures and Technology, and Integrating Technologies courses into the new curriculum.

The OTA Occupational Certificate requires two semesters, or 30 credit hours, of work, and is geared toward those looking for an entry-level position in an office or building setting. This program is best suited toward those not looking for a degree at this time, but are interested in a new career path or improving skills.

At the end of these programs, graduates can sit for Microsoft User Certification in the RLC Academic Advisement Testing Center. RLC is now a Certiport testing center. Academic awards are available for students interested in pursuing this added certification.

According to the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 3.98 million jobs for administrative assistants across the country, a number that is continuously growing. Median pay for an office specialist falls around $35,970. The BLS also states, with increasing use of complex software, job prospects will be available for those will a higher skill set.

Medical Office Specialist, Assistant & Associate

Because many office specialists are employed in the medical industry, the new Medical Office Specialist (MOS), Medical Office Assistant (MO Assistant) and Medical Office Associate (MO Associate) programs are geared toward providing students with administrative skills, but also with several factors in the medical environment.

The MOS Associate in Applied Science degree will replace the Health Information Assistant degree to offer students experience with office technologies, but also a special focus on medical policies and procedures. The degree requires four semesters and 64 credit hours of work.

New courses to this degree program are Anatomy & Physiology Fundamentals, Communication in Technical Services, Integrating Technologies, and Billing and Coding to get students prepared to work as an office manager, medical assistant, medical transcriptionist, or receptionist.

“Many students love the idea of working in a medical-related field, but they don’t want anything to do with actual patient care,” explained Bilderbeck. “The Medical Office Specialist degree offers this specific niche of students a career option that can be found in any medical facility. They’re taught medical terminology, medical transcription, and the basics of medical coding and billing. All of these core areas will be found within a medical office specialist’s daily tasks.”

For those students looking to improve on skills or immediately get into the workforce, the MO Assistant and Associate occupational certificates are the right path.

The daytime MO Assistant certificate requires two semesters and 30 credit hours of work and graduates will have the knowledge to receive an entry-level position in any medical office setting.

For those working full-time, the MO Associate certificate offers evening, online, and hybrid courses to work around a busy schedule. The 10-credit hour program offers eight-week classes that can be completed in as little as one semester.

The BLS states, for medical specialists particularly, there are approximately 516,000 jobs available – most commonly found in physicians’ offices, hospitals, dentists’ offices, and outpatient care centers. Median pay for these individuals is approximately $32,240 or $15.50 per hour.

Miner annual retraining for surface and underground set for March 18

INA, Ill. – A one-day Annual Refresher Training class for Surface and Underground miners is scheduled for Friday, March 18 at Rend Lake College.

The training will fulfill the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s requirements for eight hours of annual retraining for anyone working in a coal mine. Safety and first aid will be among the topics covered.

Both courses will run from 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. in the Coal Mine Training Center on the Ina campus. The cost of the class is $30. For more information or to register, contact Sally Heathcoat or Joy Fitts at 618-437-5321, Ext. 2373 or 1261.