A new year is upon us, bringing with it a host of new laws by which Illinois residents need to abide. A total of 218 pieces of state legislation, governing everything from cell phones to medicinal marijuana, took effect Jan. 1.
“There are a couple of bills out there that I don’t think people are really aware of,” said 41st District state Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville. “When people find out, they’re going to go, ‘Whoa, whoa, what?’”
The list of laws is long, but some will impact the general public much more noticeably than others. It’s wise for state residents to familiarize themselves with the more impactful ones.
For starters, hands-free is the way to be in 2014 when it comes to cell phone use behind the wheel. Drivers caught talking on cell phones without hands-free devices can now be ticketed throughout Illinois. First-time offenders will be fined a maximum of $75. The fine rises with each offense.
“Even though I do talk on the phone and drive, I agree with this new law,” said motorist Kimberly Urso-Petry, who lives in Oswego. “I will be getting a (hands-free device). It is a distraction.”
According to the Illinois State Police, Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and voice-activated commands are all permitted.
Senger expects old habits will die hard, though.
“It’s one of those situations where not being aware of that law being out there could get you pulled over,” she said. “Many individuals have habits, and they’re hard to break — particularly in this area. Everybody has their cell phones.”
Just for the moment, hold the phone; the new laws don’t stop there.
Beginning with the March primary, the ballot booth will be open to minors.
“If you know a Republican-leaning 17-year-old in your neighborhood, make sure to register him or her to vote,” Darlene Ruscitti, chairwoman of the DuPage Republican Central Committee, implores in the organization’s current newsletter. “New state law allows 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, but only if they turn 18 by the November general election.”
The change — which affects voters who declare party affiliation on either side of the aisle — has already been made in other states, Senger noted.
“This is good for individuals that just miss that deadline in November,” she said.
Thinking about letting your teenager hit the tanning bed before prom this spring? Think again. A new law prohibits anyone younger than 18 from tanning at commercial businesses.
“Even with parental permission, they can’t use tanning beds,” Senger said.
The change could leave a mark at local tanning salons.
“The ones that have proms coming up, those are the ones that it will affect more. And spring break, that kind of stuff,” said Kord Willis, owner of Island Tan and Boutique in Naperville.
Other than that fairly narrow demographic, however, Willis doesn’t think it’s likely the restriction will make a huge difference. Young tanners, he said, don’t comprise a very large segment of his business.
“It’s not like they really ever abused it that much,” he said. “They’d just come in to get a little bit of color, so they’d be able to stay outside.”
Another much-discussed legal shift taking root with the new year is the statewide legalization of marijuana use by people who receive doctors’ prescriptions for the treatment of debilitating illness. Senger is a little leery of the change that, under local regulations passed by the City Council in mid-December, allows cultivation centers and dispensaries with drive-up windows to be located at select locations in the city.
“Some of the states that have gone ahead and put these facilities in place have found it’s not working well,” said Senger, who sees potential for the new laws to be abused.
A broad array of regulations affecting everything from Illinoisians’ smoking habits to the way the state’s children learn about sex in school have taken hold with the arrival of 2014. Here are some of the new laws.
HB 3243: If you smoke cigarettes, you should find a place to throw your butts other than out the car window or under the heel of your boot. This bill changes the definition of “litter” to include cigarette butts, and anyone caught tossing them could be fined.
HB 0064: This bill provides students with a little Facebook freedom. It makes it illegal for post-secondary schools to ask for or demand a student’s social networking password, unless the school has reason to believe the student’s account contains evidence that a school disciplinary rule or policy has been broken.
HB 3038: This bill ensures that parents/guardians cannot be sued for eavesdropping on electronic communications of minors in their care.
HB 2675: The teaching of the birds and the bees will be broader in the new year. This bill states that any public school sex education course offered to 6th- through 12th-graders must cover both abstinence and contraception.
HB 1814: This new bill separates speeding in a work zone into two offenses, with one offense being when workers are present, and the other offense defined as when workers are not present.
HB 1199: Trying to track someone’s vehicle without their consent is now illegal. This bill prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices on vehicles without the consent of the owner, or a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
SB 1214: Are you a frequent toll violator? Watch out. This new bill allows the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to publish the names of toll violators if they owe more than $1,000 and after other avenues to collect the tolls have been taken.
SB 2356: This bill changes the speed limit to 70 mph on certain highways throughout the state. However, it allows some counties in the Chicago area to establish lower speed limits.
HB 1309: Thinking about posting that fight on YouTube? Think again. This bill increases the penalty for assault if the offender audio or video records the assault with the intent of disseminating the recording.