New Laws Starting January 1

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Driving in Illinois will be more worry-free in 2015 — but you’d better watch out for any and all oscillating lights.

Dozens of new laws take effect on Jan. 1 and some will make motorists happy, indeed.

Remember when you had to hand over your license after getting a speeding ticket? Now you keep your license. The state adopted a “sign and go” law (Public Act 98-870) that lets drivers keep their licenses after getting ticketed.

And don’t panic if you forgot to update your vehicle registration sticker; Springfield now allows you to skate if you can show you paid for a sticker or bought one online (Public Act 98-1103), even if the new sticker has not yet arrived in the mail.

Peru police chief Doug Bernabei said both laws were overdue in Illinois.

“’Sign and go’ was the law that I worked under as a police officer in Florida back in the 1980s and it was not problematic,” Bernabei said. “I don’t understand why it took Illinois so long to pass such a simple thing.”

Bernabei dubbed the new registration rule “a good common sense law.”

“With readily available technology officers know instantly if the registration is valid or not regardless if the sticker is on the vehicle,” he said. “Let’s not issue tickets to people if they really don’t deserve it.

“We need to focus on bigger issues.”

Another traffic rule
Now for the bad news: Be prepared to pull over for flashing, oscillating lights — any lights.

Scott’s Law, which has long required motorists to move into the next lane to not brush past police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances, has been expanded (PA 98-0873) to include vehicles used by the Illinois Tollway system.

Helping the down-on-their-luck
At the office, employers can no longer conduct background checks until after an applicant has been deemed qualified for a job.

The so-called “Ban the Box” law (PA 98-0774) does, however, contain exemptions for police and other positions that require criminal background checks.

Carol Alcorn, executive director for Public Action to Deliver Shelter, said criminal convictions are an obstacle for many needy PADS clients who want nothing more than a second chance. The new law won’t keep employers from asking probing questions, she noted, but at least ensures that once-troubled applicants will at least make it in the door to answer such questions.

“The new law is going to give people an opportunity to answer questions in person,” Alcorn said, “instead of having their applications thrown onto the ‘No’ pile.”

Getting tough on bullies
Prosecutors and courts will also get tougher on stalkers. Starting Jan. 1, anyone convicted of stalking is ineligible for state-funded drug abuse treatment programs. (PA 98-0896) Additionally, courts are expanding the use of GPS monitoring to include cases involving domestic battery, stalking, unlawful restraint as well as attempted murder.

“Obviously, the nature of these offenses creates a significant threat to certain members of the public,” said Greg Sticka, chief deputy assistant La Salle County state’s attorney, “and the use of GPS tracking devices is a further tool to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society.”

Courts are also cracking down on domestic battery suspects who’ve committed prior offenses in other states. PA 98-0994 gives courts the option of enhancing domestic violence penalties when a suspect has a battery conviction (or its equivalent) across state lines.

Schools must also crack down on bullying. PA 98-0801 givens schools the authority to punish bullies who use social media and electronic devices to harass their peers, even if the bullying happens off school grounds, outside classroom hours or on privately-owned devices.

Steve Wrobleski, superintendent of La Salle-Peru Township High School, said the new law aligns school policy with recent court decisions, though he and other administrators are waiting for guidance on how it will be implemented.

School will be in session for non-violent offenders, too. Springfield is allowing convicts to reduce the length of probation by getting high school and college degrees. Under PA 98-1114, getting a high school diploma will shave three months off probation and getting a bachelor’s degree trims probation by six months.

“I believe any person who works to earn a high school diploma or college degree is putting themselves into a position to access better jobs with higher pay and benefits,” Wrobleski said, “which certainly have a net gain for the local community and society as a whole.”

E-cigarette precaution

Tobacco laws are being expanded to include e-cigarettes, too. Springfield passed measures that requires refilling liquids be secured in child-safe packaging (PA 98-1021) and that e-cigarettes be sold behind the counter (PA-0983), or in a sealed display case, in an age restricted area of the store.

More new laws in '15

Several notable state laws take effect Jan. 1.

Among them are:

No smoking on state-supported college and university campuses in Illinois. (Public Act 98-0985)

Tornado country: All new school buildings must include storm shelters. (PA 98-0883)

Purple Heart license plates are exempt from registration or renewal fees. (PA 98-0902)

Juveniles can’t satisfy community service by giving blood or volunteering at a blood bank. (PA 98-0824)

Public records: Intentionally altering, destroying, defacing, removing or concealing public records is a felony. (PA 98-1063)

Military spouses and children remain eligible for state disability services if the service member is reassigned out of state. (PA 98-1000)

Manufacturing meth within 1,000 feet of a school carries 6-60 years in prison and fines up to $400,000. (PA 98-0980)

Pregnancy rule: Requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. (PA 98-1050)

Creates a law enforcement registry for caregivers found to have abused, neglected or exploited their clients. (PA 98-1039)

Unpaid interns are allowed to file sexual harassment claims. (PA 98-1037)

Complaints about a nursing home or care facility may be submitted electronically to the Illinois Department of Public Health. (PA 98-0988)

Sex trade, slavery: Establishes a fund to provide services for human trafficking victims. (PA 98-1013)

Wildlife: Adds black bears, gray wolves, mountain lions and cougars to the list of protected species in Illinois. (PA 98-1033)

Voters can dissolve a fire protection district and consolidate with an adjoining district. (PA 98-1003)

Police departments no longer are allowed to hold their officers to ticket quotas. (PA 98-0638)

Source: News Tribune