Senate Week in Review: New Laws for the New Year

Laws taking effect on Jan. 1, 2015

On Jan. 1, 2015, more than 200 new laws will take effect in Illinois touching many areas of state government from education and public safety, to transportation and wildlife. Following are a few of the notable measures taking effect when the new year begins.

New Transportation Laws

Notable laws taking effect on Jan. 1 include several that will affect Illinois motorists. SB 2015/PA 98-1128, sponsored by State Senator Jim Oberweis, brings the state’s Toll Highway system in Chicago up to the same 70 mph speed limit as the rest of the state, unless the Toll Highway Authority can prove that speed is unsafe on those roadways. The legislation is a follow-up measure to legislation that took effect in 2014 raising Illinois’ speed limit on interstate highways to 70 mph.  Senate Bill 2015 had been vetoed by Governor Quinn, but the General Assembly voted to override that veto during the fall veto session.

Legislation reinstating “sign and drive” will also take effect on Jan. 1. HB 2583/PA 98-0870 prohibits law enforcement from taking a driver’s license as bail following a traffic law or ordinance violation. Currently, Illinois is one of only six states that confiscates a driver’s license for a minor traffic offense.

Marijuana and Epilepsy

Another measure that gained attention during the spring legislative session and will take effect on Jan. 1 is SB 2636/PA 98-0775, which allows seizures, like those common among epilepsy patients, to be treated with medical marijuana under the state’s medical cannabis pilot program. The legislation also extends the state’s medical marijuana program to children who suffer from seizures.

In 2013, CNN highlighted the story of a little girl in Colorado who, before using medical cannabis oil, suffered up to 300 seizures a week.

Since starting treatment, her seizures have essentially stopped. Since the report, a number of states have taken steps to allow minors to use medical cannabis in the form of an oil to treat seizures.

New Technologies Inspire New Laws

New technologies, like surveillance drones and online communication platforms, continue to develop, inspiring a number of new laws taking effect on Jan. 1. HB 4594/PA 98-0905, sponsored by State Senator Dale Righter, allows for electronic search warrants to utilize services like Skype, which provide simultaneous audio and video transmission, as a way to request search warrants.

A number of laws have been introduced in recent years to regulate the use of drones and mitigate any potential violations of privacy that may result. One such law taking effect Jan. 1 is SB 2937/PA 98-0831, which prohibits a law enforcement agency from using a drone owned by a third party to acquire information.

HB 5623/PA 98-0930, sponsored by State Senator Michael Connelly, requires that a unit of local government or a school district that maintains a website (other than a social media or networking website), to post an email address that members of the public can use to communicate with elected officials of that unit of local government or school district.

In recent years, social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have become increasingly popular. Unfortunately, so has the practice of “cyber bullying.” In what some argued was an overreach of a school’s authority, HB 4207/PA 98-0801 requires schools to address electronic bullying under certain circumstances, even if the bullying occurred off-campus and was conducted by using private computers, cell phones, etc.

Sex Trafficking

One measure, co-sponsored by a number of Senate Republican legislators, was introduced in response to the growing sex trafficking industry in Illinois. SB 3558/PA 98-1013 provides that solicitation of a sexual act does not apply to a person younger than 18. The law will ensure that minors who have been forced into the sex trafficking industry aren’t erroneously charged and convicted of prostitution.

Pregnancy Accommodations

Another new law that garnered support from several Republican State Senators is HB 8/PA 98-1050, which requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for all working pregnant women unless the accommodation would impose an “undue hardship” on the business.

E-Cigarette Restrictions

HB 5868/PA 98-0983, which requires e-cigarettes to be sold from behind the counter in an age-restricted area, or in a sealed display case, will also take effect on Jan. 1.

Ban the Box”

HB 5701/PA 98-0774 gives job applicants the opportunity to address questions about a past criminal record in person, during an interview. The new law prohibits private employers with 15 or more employees from asking a job applicant about their criminal history until the applicant has been selected for an interview or, if there is not an interview, until after a conditional offer of employment is made.

Propane Emergency Weight Limits

Last winter, Illinois experienced propane shortages that drove up the cost of propane to historic highs. Understanding that many in Illinois rely on this fuel to heat their homes, State Senator Sam McCann sponsored SB 3139/PA 98-0956, which allows propane trucks to weigh up to 90,000 pounds during a declaration of an emergency propane supply disaster by the Governor under the Illinois Emergency Agency Act. This legislation is intended to increase the supply of propane and therefore decrease the price.

Photo Line-Ups

A new law taking effect Jan. 1 seeks to reduce wrongful convictions by changing the state’s existing police photo lineup procedure. HB 802/PA 98-1014 requires police departments, unless not practical, to use an independent administrator, an automated computer program, a random folder photo lineup method, or any other procedure that does not allow the lineup administrator to know the identity of the suspect. The legislation also allows police departments to present each individual in the line-up separately. Research suggests that viewing the line-ups simultaneously may contribute to wrongful convictions.

Liability for Underage Drinking

HB 4745/PA 98-1017, sponsored by State Senator Pam Althoff, expands current law that makes it illegal for parents or guardians to allow underage drinking at a residence or other private property. State law will now include vehicles; conveyances, like trailers, mobile homes, and campers; or a watercraft under the parent or guardian’s control.

Wolves, Bears, Cougars

The gray wolf, American black bear and cougar are added to the list of protected species in Illinois under SB 3049/PA 98-1033. The new law also spells out conditions that allow landowners to kill the animals if they are causing an immediate threat of physical harm or death to a person, livestock, domestic animals, or harm to structures or other property. In recent years, all three animals have started to return to Illinois in very limited numbers and this is an effort to manage that reintroduction.

For a full list of laws taking effect in 2015, visit: http://senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/January%201%20New%20Laws%20WEB.pdf

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