More than 190 changes to Illinois law took effect with the new year.
No, none of them is an actual state budget or meaningful pension reform. You know better than to expect that of state lawmakers. On the bright side, Illinois did enter 2017 with an official state archaeological artifact.
Some of the new laws are meant to save you money at the checkout line, others seek to keep your local governments from wasting money, others have public safety in mind, and a handful give the appearance that some of our state lawmakers may have too much free time on their hands.
Government waste and ethics
Shenanigans at the College of DuPage and Northern Illinois University inspired several government spending reforms.
Senate Bill 1102 forbids governments from paying the legal fees of employees who plead guilty to crimes committed while they were employed by that government. The bill was inspired by Northern Illinois University, which did exactly that for several former employees who pleaded guilty to stealing university scrap metal and selling it to pay for parties and other gatherings.
The controversy surrounding the compensation and spending of the former president of the College of DuPage prompted several reforms. Senate Bill 2159 limits contracts for university and college presidents to four years, and severance packages to one year. Another bill, Senate Bill 2158, prohibits community college boards from approving employee contracts from six weeks before an election or during the “lame duck” period between the election and the seating of new members.
Embarrassing expenses racked up at COD and elsewhere inspired House Bill 4379, which limits the amount that non-home-rule governments can spend on travel, meals and lodging, and outright bans spending on entertainment expenses.
Local governments will find it much more expensive to willingly violate the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. House Bill 4715 gives courts the power to fine governments between $2,500 and $10,000 for willful noncompliance – after 30 days, the courts can increase the fine to $1,000 a day.
Senate Bill 210 makes it a Class 3 felony for retailers to sell “bath salts,” which mimic the effects of other dangerous drugs. Besides the felony, which carries a fine of up to $25,000 and five years in prison, the new law allows local governments to revoke a business’ license for selling them.
Licensed hairstylists and cosmetologists now have to undergo domestic violence training to help identify potential victims and encourage them to seek help under House Bill 4264. The training consists of an hourlong course every two years. Beauty workers do not have a reporting requirement under the law.
It is now a felony offense if you rent more than $500 in equipment and fail to return it within three days, under Senate Bill 1120.
One bill puts limits on how police can collect cellphone data. Senate Bill 2343 requires police to obtain a warrant before deploying “stingray devices,” or cell-tower simulators that can locate and track a person’s cellphone without their knowledge. Any data collected that does not deal with the target suspect must be deleted within 24 hours.
Rules of the road
Illinois law now clarifies that bicyclists have the same rights applicable to drivers, including right of way, courtesy of House Bill 5912.
House Bill 6006 requires drivers to change lanes when coming up on a car with its hazard lights on, and Senate Bill 2806 doubles the fine for disregarding railroad crossing lights or gates to $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
And for those of you who want to celebrate your birthday by renewing your vehicle registration sticker, House Bill 5651 allows you to set its expiration date to your date of birth.
Employees may now use sick leave for absences due to illness, injury and medical care for immediate family members under House Bill 6162. House Bill 5576 mandates that insurance companies provide coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs.
Senate Bill 3163 makes it illegal for employers to force any employee making less than $13.50 an hour to sign a noncompete agreement. The bill was inspired by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office suing Jimmy John’s for requiring employees to sign agreements forbidding them from working for other sandwich shops two years after leaving the company. Another bill, House Bill 1288, creates a “Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights,” which extends Illinois’ employment protections to housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers.
House Bill 4999 makes it illegal for your boss or a potential employer to ask you to sign into an online or social media account to view your online activities.
The sales tax on tampons, pads and menstrual cups is lifted under Senate Bill 2746.
A slew of new laws seek to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in Illinois.
Senate Bill 2410 expands the youth license program to include trapping. People younger than 18 may apply for a license, and must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older who also has a valid state trapping license.
House Bill 5788 adds catfish to the list of fish that can be taken by bow fishing or pitchfork, and House Bill 4604 allows the state to issue permits to hunt bobwhite quail, chukars and gray partridge on public hunting grounds.
Under Senate Bill 3003, the state can offer free landowner hunting permits for deer and turkey as long as the landowner has at least 40 acres.
Because they can …
House Bill 538 officially designates the pirogue, a narrow canoe carved from a tree trunk, as the official state artifact of Illinois.