Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New laws take effect in 2014

IDOT Map of highways where the new speed limit will apply.
By Jamey Dunn

With the new year come new laws in Illinois. Two important changes for drivers will begin on January 1, and several of the state’s new laws will affect young people.

Speed limit increase
Senate Bill 2356, Public Act 98-0511 The speed limit on some Illinois interstate highways will increase from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. The new law allows for highways in some more densely populated areas to be exempted from the increase. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, the new speed limit will apply to about 87 percent of interstate highways and about 28 percent of the Illinois Tollway.

With the new law comes the replacement of an estimated 900 speed limit signs at a projected cost of $200,000. New signs for the Illinois Tollway will cost an estimated $18,000. The department plans to start the task on January 1 and complete it by the middle of the month. IDOT says drivers must continue to obey posted speed limits until the transition is complete.

Cell phone ban 
House Bill 1247, PA 98-0506 Starting on January 1, chatting on a hand-held cell phone while driving will be illegal in the state. Texting while driving is already illegal, and the new law means that drivers are not be allowed to press more than one button to dial a phone number must either use a Bluetooth device or put the phone on speaker to talk on a cell phone while driving. Those who are caught chatting on their phones behind the wheel will face a fine of at least $75. Several municipalities in the state already have bans on using hand-held phones while driving. A 2012 survey from the Chicago Tribune of 270 municipalities in the Chicago area found that more than a quarter had restrictions on cell phone use behind the wheel.

Tanning ban 
HB 188, PA 98-0349 Kids younger than 18 will not be able to tan at commercial tanning salons, even if they have parental permission. The law does not apply to privately owned tanning beds, and teenagers will still be able to get spray-on tans, which do not require exposure to ultraviolet lights. Chicago and Springfield already had tanning bans for minors in place.

Electronic cigarettes 
SB 1756, PA 98-0350 The sale of electronic cigarettes to minors is banned in the state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Illinois joins at least 26 other states in making the sale of e-cigarettes to minors illegal.

Sexual education 
HB 2675, PA 98-0441 Schools that offer sexual education will have to provide students with comprehensive and scientifically accurate information, including information on contraceptives. Schools will have discretion to decide which curriculum meets those requirements, and parents could opt to keep children out of sex education if they don’t approve of the subject matter covered.

Voting rights
HB 226, PA 98-0051 Beginning this year, 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the time of the general election. For example, 17-year-olds can vote in the March 18 primary if they will turn 18 by the November 4 general election.

Juvenile justice 
HB 2404, PA 98-0061 Some 17-year-olds charged with felonies will remain in the juvenile justice system. In 2010, 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors were moved to from the adult system to the juvenile system. Under the new law, all 17-year-old offenders except those who commit felonies that are automatically transferred to adult court will fall under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system

Puppy lemon law 
SB 1639, PA 98-0509 Consumers who purchase cats or dogs at pet stores will now have some protections under law if their pets get sick or die shortly after purchase. Stores will be required to reimburse customers if a dog or cat dies within 21 days of sale. They will also be required to cover veterinary costs of an animal is found to have a congenital disease. Sellers will be required to report outbreaks of illness among their animals to the state.

Drone regulation
SB 1587, PA 98-0569 Law enforcement agents will have to get warrants to use unmanned aerial vehicles, known as drones, for gathering evidence. The law has exceptions for emergency situations and also allows for police to use drones to aid in searches for missing persons. The Illinois State Police has confirmed that it has purchased a drone, Champaign County reportedly has one, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has said he is considering using drones, as well.

Cigarette butts 
HB 3243, PA 98-0483 Some Illinois residents will likely pledge to quit smoking cigarettes as a New Year’s resolution. Those who don’t may want to resolve not to flick their cigarette butts on the ground, or they could face a hefty fine. Cigarette butts have been added to the litter control act, and those who toss them on the ground could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no less than $50 and up to $1,500.

Medical Marijuana 
HB 1, PA 98-0122 The law establishing the state’s medical marijuana pilot program goes into effect on January 1. But the agencies in charge of licensing medical marijuana dispensaries, patients and growers will not begin accepting applications until well into 2014.

Growers would be licensed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, and only 22 permits will be issued — one for every state police district. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will license 60 dispensary operations. Many of the details of the law still must go through the state rule-making process. A news release from the IDFPR said that the rules would not be completed until the winter of 2014. Licenses will not be issued into the rules are approved.

Once the four-year pilot program is up and running, patients will have to meet several requirements to receive a permit. Patients must be at least 18 years old to apply for a medical marijuana card through the Illinois Department of Public Health and must prove they have one of 33 serious or chronic conditions specifically listed in the bill. They must have an established relationship with a doctor who approves their use of the drug. Successful applicants will be allowed 2.5 ounces of marijuana per a two-week period. Patients, caregivers, owners and employees of growing operations and dispensaries will all be required to pass background checks Owners of growing operations or dispensaries will be banned from making campaign contributions. At the end of the four years called for by the law, legislators could vote to continue to program.

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