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A look at some of the new state laws

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New Illinois laws that take effect Sunday focus on crime, public safety and helping families and children.

State Sen. Chuck Weaver detailed several of the new laws the General Assembly approved this year, despite the fact there is no new budget in place as the new year begins.

 “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 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

One new law is a measure to allow greater flexibility in granting probation for certain non-violent offenders with no prior conviction for a violent crime. Senate Bill 3164 is part of a bipartisan package of legislative reforms to Illinois’ criminal justice system and was recommended by the 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 40 years. Senate Bill 3164 seeks to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in Illinois prisons, which are operating at roughly 150 percent of recommended capacity.

Sexual assault and domestic abuse

Senate Bill 3096 will increase the reporting, investigation, and successful prosecution of sexual assault cases in Illinois. This law gives victims more time to request a rape kit, speeds forensic testing to address the backlog of testing rape kits, and requires more detailed reporting of sexual assault cases by police.

House Bill 4264 provides that cosmetologists will receive special training to spot the signs of domestic violence and sexual violence as part of their license renewal process. Advocates 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 testify via a one-way closed circuit television thanks to Senate Bill 2880. It allows children involved in battery or aggravated domestic battery cases to avoid the emotional trauma and distress of testifying in a courtroom.

Senate Bill 2370 requires legal counsel be present during the interrogation of minors under age 15 who are charged with murder. This law addresses concerns that minors may not fully understand their legal rights, and so should have legal representation present when speaking with police. 

Strengthening employee privacy

House Bill 4999 seeks to further protect employees’ 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 guise 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.  It will be 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, the law allows that the dog may be offered to another officer or employee in the agency, a non-profit agency, or a no-kill shelter that will find an appropriate owner for the dog.

Increasing public safety

Be sure to stop at railroad crossings when warning gates and lights are on. Under Senate Bill 2806 the fine for failure to stop at a rossing will double. A first violation will now cost $500 and subsequent violations will cost $1,000.

Private transportation companies will be allowed to operate video recording devices under Senate Bill 629. The law stipulates that vehicles using this technology must post a notice stating that a passenger’s conversation may be recorded. Any data recorded is 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 life-saving treatment for allergic reactions by expanding training for law enforcement on recognizing and responding to anaphylaxis, including administration of an epinephrine auto-injector.

Aiding veterans, military families

Student musicians may now be excused from school for a military funeral procession under a new law. House Bill 4432 allows any Illinois public student, grades 6 through 12 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.

House Bill 4344 creates the Heroes Way Designation Program Act, which allows for families of veterans who were killed in action 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.

New laws focus on children

Children under the care of the Department of Child and Family Services will now have access to greater family support. House Bill 5656 requires DCFS provide visitation and accommodations to grandparents and great-grandparents of a child under its supervision, if it’s in the best interest of the child.

Amending the Childhood Hunger Relief Act, Senate Bill 2393 requires all school districts in Illinois to operate a "breakfast after the bell" program. It asserts that schools must provide breakfast after the instructional day has begun and may also begin serving before the day has begun.

New ways to hunt and trap

To trap wild game in past years, the Department of Natural Resources required individuals to complete a hunting training course. Senate Bill 2410 lifts that requirement and permits those 18 and under to trap wild game without certification if accompanied by an adult 21 or older.

House Bill 5788 allows fishermen to 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 measure, DNR will authorize the selling of species taken by those methods.

Being able to sell these fish benefits fishermen and is crucial to the state’s environmental health. The overpopulation of Asian Carp throughout the state is causing irreparable damage to Illinois’ waterways and ecosystems. This authorization will allow fisherman to sell 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.

More details on these laws and a full listing of all laws taking effect Jan. 1 can be found at www.senategop.state.il.us.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).