SPRINGFIELD — Veterans groups could get a better chance to make money serving beer at the state’s two state fairs under legislation introduced in the Illinois Senate.

A year after a change in state bidding laws left a veterans group in Southern Illinois without the ability to conduct beer sales at the Du Quoin State Fair, state Sen. Gary Forby said his proposal could reverse that decision.

The measure is designed to protect service organizations such as the Combined Veterans Association from being outbid and losing their contracts to sell beer at the fairs, the Benton Democrat said.

The group counted on the money raised at the fair to finance a number of charitable endeavors throughout the region, including college scholarships for Marines’ children, the Women’s Center in Carbondale, Girl Scouts and the Anna Veterans Home.

The proposal would exempt state fair contracts between nonprofit service organizations and the Illinois Department of Agriculture from state bidding rules.

“This would allow the vets to continue their contract with the Illinois Department of Agriculture without requiring the department to receive bids from at least three vendors,” Forby said. “There are times when providing a valuable, charitable service to our communities trumps the need to make a profit.”

While the Combined Veterans Association lost its contract for the 2012 fair, the contract for beer sales at various locations at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield expires this year.

“There could potentially be the same problems at the state fair in Springfield,” said Illinois Department of Agriculture spokesman Jeff Squibb.

Squibb said the department will follow whatever laws are on the books, but Forby’s legislation must be acted on quickly in order to ensure the law is changed before the bidding starts for this year’s beer tents in the spring.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1561.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|(217) 782-4043

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