Almost 200 state laws went into effect with start of new year





by KEVIN GROSS

Almost 200 new state laws took effect on Jan. 1, and Illinois Senate Democrats have released a compilation of bills that were passed by the Illinois General last year.

Jan. 1 is the default date for a new law to become effective if passed before June 1, unless there is language establishing another date. Some pieces of legislation specify an effective date, while other bills that carry an "immediate" effective date can go into effect at other times of the year.

Some of the new laws include the following provisions:

Creates tougher sentencing guidelines for repeat gun offenders while working to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison. For instance, repeat offenders of crimes such as battery or home invasion with a firearm will now face a sentence of at least 7 years if convicted for unlawful use or possession of a firearm. On the other hand, harsher sentencing for dealing drugs in a school zone now only applies if drug selling is in the presence of children or during hours where children are expected to be present.

Defines crimes committed on the grounds of religious facilities as hate crimes. The law also removes the $1,000 restitution cap and allows courts to impose higher fines based on the severity of the crime and damages. Another law includes intimidation, stalking, cyber stalking, or transmission of obscene messages as possible hate crimes and creates a civil penalty for hate crimes.

Another law clarifies that no person shall operate, register, or maintain registration of a motor vehicle anywhere in the state, including on private property, unless the vehicle is covered by a liability insurance policy.

Prohibits hospitals from denying coverage to state residents with pre-existing conditions or maintaining a list of individuals that cannot be admitted for treatment. Instead, hospitals will have the ability to recommend an alternate provider or arrange access to care services that best meet the needs of an individual patient. Another law requires health care providers to only refer patients to other providers that are properly licensed by the state.

Removes a trigger provision from state law that reinstates a ban on abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the ruling in Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion.

Another law allows high schools to establish partnerships with local law enforcement agencies creating police academy job training programs. The Illinois Student Assistance Commission would also be required to administer a scholarship program for participating students who have also been accepted into a public state university.

New laws also require that all school districts notify qualified eleventh and twelfth grade students of dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities at public community colleges, that information about gifted education be listed on the Illinois School Report Card Web site, and that the State Board of Education posts resources regarding the teaching of high-skilled manufacturing to be used in high school and vocational education programs.

Requires school districts to provide feminine hygiene products for free to students as well as reasonable breastfeeding accommodations.

Other laws eliminate instances in which juvenile records may be shared publicly, create an automatic expungement process for some juvenile offenses such as certain misdemeanors, aggravated speeding or possession of less than 2.5 grams of marijuana. New laws also change the criminal offense of "unlawful contact with a gang member" to "unlawful participation in street gang related activity," and remove the statute of limitations on prosecution for aggravated driving under the influence causing death, which allows prosecution of such offenses after any passage of time.

Requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to create a course on mental health awareness, including recognizing mental health crises that require an immediate response. Also, new laws change the Illinois Police Training Act to include training in handling stress, trauma and post-traumatic stress as well as creating a formal process for the county sheriff and Department of Human Services to handle in a timely manner the custody of defendants within a mental institution who are either found unfit to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Another new law requires each law enforcement agency to develop a written policy regarding investigation of officer-involved criminal sexual assaults.

Prohibits early childhood programs receiving grants from the Illinois State Board of Education from expelling enrolled children.

New laws prohibit jurors from being excluded from jury service on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin or economic status, as well as preventing someone who has testified as an individual from being named as a defendant in a lawsuit.

Codifies current state practice relating to school districts working with the Department of Children and Family Services when a teacher is subject to an abuse investigation, which grants school administrators the right to place an employee on paid administrative leave or separate the employee from the alleged victim if the Child Protective Service Unit has not conducted an investigation within 3 weeks of an initial report. School districts retain sole responsibility over school employment decisions. Another law provides that school employees have due process rights when they are the alleged perpetrator of child abuse or neglect.

Allows emergency medical services personnel to administer Schedule II, III, IV or V controlled substances to a person without a written, electronic or oral prescription. Such substances are regulated based on potential of abuse or harm but may also have accepted medical purposes. Also, a new law creates an imprisonment term for a person who delivers a fatal dose of a controlled drug substance to another person.

Another law adds and removes several scheduled substances from the Illinois Controlled Substances Act to prohibit synthetic drugs. Various types of the synthetic opiate fentanyl and fluoroamphetamine, derived from methamphetamine, are among new Schedule I substances, and methorphan except for prescription medication containing dextromethorpan is now classified a Schedule II substance.
Provides that an individual who is at least 18 years of age may purchase from a pharmacy and have in his or her possession up to 100 hypodermic syringes or needles, an increase from the previous limit of 20.

Designates Aug. 4 of each year as Barack Obama Day. Other laws make corn the official state grain and designate cycling as the official state exercise.

Protects the right of customers to leave negative online reviews by prohibiting the use of non-disparagement clauses between consumers and consumer businesses, which restrict individuals from making negative statements or actions against an organization or its reputation.

A new law provides that if there isn’t a local newspaper within a unit of local government or school district, then public notices required by law to be published by a newspaper may be published in a secular newspaper that has general circulation within the area such as a county newspaper or local newspaper of an adjacent town.

Editor’s note: Other laws will be published in next week’s Press.