SPRINGFIELD– Despite Speaker Madigan’s refusal to allow common-sense reforms that can keep jobs in our state, members of the Illinois General Assembly were still able to come together to pass nearly 200 bills in 2016.
A significant number of the new laws target crime, make changes to the criminal justice system, seek to assist law enforcement, and advance safety provisions for Illinois motorists. Other new laws cover everything from veterans’ affairs to families and children, hunting and trapping, and public safety.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to pass a complete budget, and I don’t agree with every bill that the legislature pushed forward,” said State Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria). “But the biggest thing I learned during my first year in the Senate was that rank and file lawmakers, working through the committee process, can reach compromises on tough issues. This gives me hope that if we can continue to push together, we will be able to successfully end this unacceptable budget impasse.”
Criminal justice reforms poised to take effect
One measure to allow greater flexibility in granting probation for certain non-violent offenders with no prior conviction for a violent crime is set to take effect on Jan. 1. Senate Bill 3164 is part of a bipartisan package of legislative reforms to Illinois’ criminal justice system, and was introduced at the recommendation of the Governor’s Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform.
The commission was charged with identifying policy changes to reduce recidivism and make significant reductions to the state’s prison population, which had increased by more than 500 percent in the last forty years. Senate Bill 3164 is one measure that seeks to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in Illinois’ correctional facilities—which are operating at roughly 150 percent of recommended capacity.
New laws aim to address sexual assault and domestic abuse
Another new law, Senate Bill 3096, seeks to increase the reporting, investigation, and successful prosecution of sexual assault cases in Illinois. This new law gives victims a longer period of time to request a rape kit, speeds up forensic testing to address the backlog of testing rape kits in sexual assault cases, and requires more detailed reporting of sexual assault cases by police.
Additionally, cosmetologists will receive special training to spot the signs of domestic violence and sexual violence as part of their license renewal process under House Bill 4264. Advocates of the measure said the training is intended to reduce domestic violence by increasing awareness and offering victims another place to turn for help – especially those who may not feel comfortable going to the authorities.
Minors protected by new laws
Child victims of battery will be able to give testimony via a one-way closed circuit television thanks to Senate Bill 2880. This legislation allows children involved in battery or aggravated domestic battery cases to avoid the serious emotional trauma and distress of testifying in a courtroom.
Senate Bill 2370, sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), requires legal counsel during the interrogation of minors under the age of 15 who have been charged with murder. This law addresses concerns that minors may not fully understand their legal rights, and as a result should have legal representation present when speaking with police.
New law strengthens employee privacy
Another new law, House Bill 4999, seeks to further protect employee’s online privacy by strengthening and clarifying existing laws that make it unlawful for any employer or prospective employer to require an employee or prospective employee to provide usernames and passwords to their personal online accounts, including social media accounts.
“Bath salts” sales
Senate Bill 210 aims to curb the sale of all synthetic cathinones, drugs that are often sold under the disguise of legitimate products such as “bath salts.” “Bath salts” have made headlines in recent years for the bizarre, zombie-like behavior exhibited by those under its influence. Under this new law it will become a Class 3 felony with a maximum fine of $150 to sell these drugs in a retail store.
Police dog retirement plan
Police dogs will be able to enjoy their retirement in permanent homes with the police officers and staff they worked with under Senate Bill 3129. Should the officer or employee who worked with the dog be unable to take their canine work companion, under the new law the dog may be offered to another officer or employee in the agency, a non-profit agency, or a no-kill animal shelter that will find an appropriate owner for the dog.
New transportation laws increase public safety
Don’t forget to stop at a railroad crossing when the warning gates and lights are on! Under Senate Bill 2806 the fine for failure to stop at a railroad crossing will double. A first violation will now cost you $500 and subsequent violations will cost $1,000.
Private transportation companies will be allowed to operate video recording devices under Senate Bill 629. The new law stipulates that vehicles using this type of technology must have a notice posted stating that a passenger’s conversation may be recorded. Any data recorded becomes the sole property of the vehicle’s owner.
The Annie LeGere Law
Prompted by the tragic death of 13-year-old Annie LeGere, who suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction while at a sleepover party, House Bill 4462, also known as the Annie LeGere Law, will take effect as 2017 begins.
Annie’s Law provides better access to live-saving treatment for allergic reactions by expanding training for law enforcement on how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis, including the administration of an epinephrine auto-injector.
Veterans and military families aided by new laws
Student musicians may now be excused from school in the case of a military funeral procession under a new law that takes effect on January 1. House Bill 4432 ensures that any Illinois public student, grades six through twelve, is permitted to attend a funeral of a deceased veteran during school hours for the purpose of playing “Taps,” a bugle call traditionally performed during flag ceremonies and military funerals.
To honor fallen soldiers, House Bill 4344 creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act. The law allows for the families of veterans who were killed in action while on active duty to apply for a designation to honor the departed with a personal sign on designated roadways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
This new law was inspired by a similar law in Missouri that allowed interstate interchanges to be designated for Missouri residents who were killed in action on or after September 11, 2001, in either Afghanistan or Iraq.
New laws focus on children
Children under the care of the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) will now have access to a greater family support system. House Bill 5656 requires that DCFS provide visitation privileges and accommodations to the grandparents and great-grandparents of a child under the department’s supervision—as long as it’s in the best interest of the child.
Amending Childhood Hunger Relief Act, Senate Bill 2393 is a new law this year that requires all school districts in Illinois to implement and operate a "breakfast after the bell" program. The legislation asserts that schools must provide breakfast for their students after the instructional day has begun—and may also begin serving before the day has begun.
New laws provide new ways to hunt and trap
In order to trap wild game in past years, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) required that all individuals must complete a hunting training course. Senate Bill 2410 has lifted that requirement and now permits that individuals ages 18 and under can trap wild game without certification as long as they are accompanied by an adult age 21 years or older.
Lastly, thanks to House Bill 5788, a new fishing law states that fishermen can now add catfish to the list of species that may be caught with a pitchfork, underwater spear gun, bow and arrow, or a bow and arrow device. Under the new measure, the DNR will authorize the selling of species taken by the above methods.
Being able to sell these fish not only benefits fishermen, but is also crucial to the state’s overall environmental health. The current overpopulation of Asian Carp throughout the state is causing irreparable damage to Illinois’ waterways and ecosystems. The DNR’s authorization will allow fisherman to sell the carp carcasses, which are often taken by non-traditional methods and can be used to make fertilizer—providing incentives to catch them in greater numbers.
VIDEO: 17 in 17
While nearly 200 new laws will take effect as the New Year begins, click here to see a video highlighting 17 of these new laws.
More details on these laws, and a full listing of all the new laws taking effect on January 1 can be found at www.senategop.state.il.us.