Hundreds of new laws go into effect on Jan. 1
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
More than 200 new laws took effect on Jan. 1, including laws that make talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving illegal unless it is hands free, minimum $50 fines for littering and legal use of marijuana for the treatment of serious diseases.
Under the cell phone ban, the use of Blue Tooth headsets and speakerphones are allowed as long as they can be activated by a voice command or a single-button touch. The law was sponsored by state Representative John D’Amico (D-15) in the Illinois House and state Senator John Mulroe (D-10) in the Illinois Senate.
Illinois will join 11 other states and the District of Columbia in banning the use of hand-held devices while driving. Drivers caught using hand-held cell phones for any purpose will face a $75 fine.
Those caught littering face a minimum $50 fine, and cigarette butts now are included in the definition of "litter" under House Bill 3081 and House Bill 3243. Both bills were sponsored by former state representative Deborah Mell, who now is the 33rd Ward alderman.
The first offense is a Class B misdemeanor and the second offense is a Class A misdemeanor. Those convicted for the third time face a Class 4 felony and possible jail time and stricter fines.
Under House Bill 1, physicians are able to recommend the use of marijuana to patients diagnosed with one of 42 illnesses. The diseases listed in the bill include cancer, glaucoma, positive status for HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, nail-patella syndrome, muscular dystrophy, severe fibromyalgia, spinal cord disease, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette syndrome, lupus, interstitial cystitis, myasthenia gravis and hydrocephalus.
Patients who been authorized to use medicinal marijuana must obtain the drug from one of up to 60 dispensaries that have been authorized by the legislation. The dispensaries will obtain marijuana from one of up to 22 authorized cultivation centers. Illinois is the 19th state to allow the use of medical marijuana.
Another new law prohibits people under the age of 18 from using tanning beds because studies show that excessive tanning, especially in younger years, leads to an increased risk of skin cancer.
The law states that tanning facilities may not permit any person age 18 or younger tanning equipment. Under the previous law, minors who had the permission of a parent or guardian were allowed to tan at the facilities.
House Bill 226 allows people age 17 who will turn age 18 by the day of a general election to vote in the previous primary election. The law is designed to allow people who become eligible to vote in a general election to be able to select the candidates they want to vote for in the primary election.
Senate Bill 2306 bans schools from checking their students’ Facebook pages and e-mail without permission. It is now illegal for schools to ask for the students’ site passwords.
However, employers may obtain account information or access an employee’s social networking Web site if the account is a professional account and access is necessary to comply with law.
House Bill 49 prohibits the sale of devices that steal credit card information, and under another law felons who have threatened or harmed minors will not be able to be guardians of disabled people.
Another law requires water utility companies with more than 15,000 customers to notify customers of potential bill changes, previous rate increases, dates of increases, options to install separate water and sewer meters, and water conservations tips.
Senate Bill 2356 increases the state speed limit from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. Counties near Chicago and Saint Louis have the ability to opt out of the higher speed limit.
Another new law updates qualifications, testing and the application process for certified shorthand reporters and stenographers, and another law prohibits title insurance agents from having felony convictions for theft or dishonesty on their records.
Under Senate Bill 1639, buyers of sick cats and dogs are allowed to receive a refund or a replacement of the pet or reimbursement of veterinary costs for up to 21 days after the purchase. The law also requires pet shops to report disease outbreaks.
Another new law extends aggravated assault charges to a Class 3 felony for attacks on on-duty nurses, and House Bill 958 increases penalties for domestic battery if the defendant has prior convictions.
A new law restricts child sex offenders from loitering within 500 feet of a public playground. House Bill 2647 makes possession of each item of child pornography count a separate violation, and judges now have discretion on sentencing for child pornography involving minors older than age 13.
Another law prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices on cars without the consent of the owner or for legitimate law enforcement purposes.
Under House Bill 3010, people who are convicted of a drug charge are allowed to have second chance probation if it is their first offence. The law does not apply to violent offenders or crimes of deceptive practice or fraud.
Senate Bill 1005 creates harsher sentences for people who use electronic communication to create flash mobs or be involved in mob action.
Senate Bill 1852 allows peace officers to conduct temporary questioning or make arrests outside their jurisdiction if the officer becomes aware of the immediate admission of a criminal offense.
Another law requires drunk drivers who are in an accident that causes death or injury to cover the cost of blood tests up to $500.
A law requires public school sex education courses offered to students in sixth through 12th grade to cover abstinence and contraception. Schools are able to opt out of offering sex education.
House Bill 2943 requires lobbyists to disclose their employer.
Senate Bill 722 allows patrons of wineries to seal and take home a bottle of opened wine.
Another law allows school districts to place cameras on school buses to track drivers who do not stop when the bus stop signs are extended.
Senate Bill 1737 allows tax collectors to collect and assess fees on unpaid taxes that were not collected due to administrative error.
Another law separates speeding in work zones into two offenses, depending on whether workers are present or not present.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is now required to put up signs for business that are open during construction projects explaining alternative routes and locations.
House Bill 2695 requires the state to purchase vehicles that are electric or powered by natural gas after January of 2016. The law provides for the construction of charging stations and requires that 25 percent of state police vehicles must use alternative fuels.
Another new law allows the Toll Highway Authority to publish the names of toll violators if they owe more than $1,000 and other avenues to collect the tolls have been taken.
The Illinois secretary of the state now is able to revoke someone’s driver license for operating a water craft under the influence of alcohol and requires blood alcohol content tests if an accident occurs on the water.
House Bill 1854 changes the definition of "imprisonment" to include electronic home detention when an offender in the sheriff’s custody is placed in an electronic home detention program. The law also establishes that placement in such a program may satisfy the minimum term of imprisonment requirements.
Another law requires parents in a joint-custody relationship of children to offer the other parent the option of temporarily caring for their children before hiring outside help.
House Bill 83 puts requirements in place to lawfully tether dogs outside. It requires that each animal has sufficient food and water and protection from the weather, that the animal does not suffer from a condition that can be worsened by tethering, and that the tether is at least 10 feet in length.
Senate Bill 2101 requires that when a licensee or owner of a mobile home park is notified by law enforcement that one of the homes in the park has been used for methamphetamine production, any potential buyer must be given that information.