New laws go into effect

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Hands-free phone devices only while driving, 70 mph speed limit on interstates

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

As of Wednesday, motorists on Illinois’ interstate highways could drive a little faster. But if they’re talking on a cell phone while driving, they had better be using some type of type of hands-free device.
Those are a couple of the new laws that went onto the state’s books on New Year’s Day.
Senate Bill 2356, which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon), increased the speed limit on rural state interstates and toll highways from 65 to 70 mph.
That new law also allows eight counties with heavily congested highways, including St. Clair, to opt out and maintain a 55 mph speed limit.
According to the Illinois State Police, enforcement of the new speed limit on interstate highways technically begins after new speed limit signs are posted, with the state estimating that it will take about two weeks to complete that work.
Speed laws have been strengthened on all state roads in Illinois. Driving more than 26 mph over the speed limit is now a Class B misdemeanor, and driving 35 mph or more over the limit is a Class A misdemeanor.
Public Act 98-0506 bans the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Now permitted are Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and voice-activated commands.
Exemptions from this law are drivers who are reporting emergencies or those who are parked on the shoulder of a roadway.
The penalty for a first offense of this law is $75, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.
A driver who is distracted due to the use of a cell phone and causes a traffic accident can be cited for a Class A misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Distracted drivers who cause a fatal accident can be charged with a Class 4 felony, which has a penalty of up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $25,000.
Another new law allows some teens who are under the legal voting age of 18 to cast ballots in a primary election.
Under that new law, those who will turn 18 by the general election in November may now vote in the primary election.
Also new on the books is a law allowing for the use of medical marijuana.
According to McCarter, the state’s Department of Public Health, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and Department of Agriculture “have 120 days to develop the rules to implement the regulation needed to allow the growing, sale and use of so-called medical marijuana.”
This will include developing a registry of patients who are allowed to use marijuana, and establishing the rules and regulations governing medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries, McCarter said.
The senator that he opposed the idea of allowing medical marijuana when it was first proposed and when it was debated in the Senate.
“ Recognizing the fact that this drug has been legalized in Illinois hasn’t changed my mind about the dangerous door we are opening to a decades-long and counter-culture effort for complete legalization,” McCarter said.
“I’m also concerned about the mixed messages we are sending our youth. It seems to be common sense to me that even limited legalization for medical reasons undermines years of anti-drug education,” he said.
Another new law includes cigarette butts as litter, and allows police to ticket drivers for throwing cigarette butts out their window.
Vandalia Police Chief Jeff Ray said that his department will not go out looking for offenders of this law, but that they will ticket them if they see it.
“I have pulled people over for this before, because it is, basically, littering,” Ray said.
Information on other new laws, as provided by state Rep. John Cavaletto (R-Salem), includes:
HB 83 (PA 98-101) – Amends the Humane Care for Animals Act to put in place certain requirements for an owner to lawfully tether a dog outdoors.
A dog owner must ensure that the dog does not suffer from a condition that would be exacerbated by tethering, will not become entangled with other tethered dogs, is tethered with a properly fitting harness or collar and other requirements. HB 83 also specifies exemptions, such as walking a dog with a hand-held leash or restraints necessary for the dog’s safety.
HB 129 (PA 98-304) – Sets the first Monday in October as “Bring Your Parents to School Day.” The bill specifies that school board’s may set this date, instead of being required to do so. The day is meant to give parents or guardians the opportunity to attend class with their children and meet their teachers and administrators during the school day.
HB 188 (PA 98-349) – Bans tanning facilities from permitting any person under the age of 18 from using tanning equipment, including sunlamps, tanning booths or tanning beds. Specifies that parental permission does not exempt the person under 18 from the ban enacted by HB 188.
HB 804 (PA 98-370) – Creates the offense of failure to report sexual abuse of a child. If a person over the age of 18 personally observes sexual abuse between a person he or she knows to be over 18 and a person he or she knows to be a child, and knowingly fails to report the matter to law enforcement, that person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for the first violation, and a Class 4 felony for subsequent violations.
HB 830 (PA 98-373) – In the case of a delinquent fine, fee, cost, restitution or judgment of bond forfeiture, an additional fee may be assessed to an offender for the cost of service of process.
HB 1683 (PA 98-403) – Whenever a state mental health or developmental disabilities facility operated by DHS closes, HB 1683 requires the governor to transfer funds from the closed facility to the appropriate line item providing appropriation authority for the new venue of care.
HB 2590 (PA 98-430) – Creates the Workplace Violence Prevention Act. HB 2590 allows an employer to seek an order of protection if an employee has suffered violence or threats of violence at work, or if the threat can be reasonably assumed to be carried out at work.
HB 2647 (PA 98-437) – Allows for tougher prosecution of child pornography offenses by providing that each individual film, videotape, photograph or other image in violation of the statute constitutes a separate violation of the law. The bill also amends the Unified Code of Corrections to allow courts to impose consecutive sentences when the child depicted is under 13.
HB 2893 (PA 98-263) – Creates a “Blue Alert” system, also known as a Crimes Against Police Officers Advisory. The system would provide a regionwide rapid dissemination of information regarding a suspect wanted in the killing of a police officer. The bill sets out the conditions under which such an alert can be issued.
HB 3070 (PA 98-471) – Requires school personnel who work with pupils in grades 7-12 shall be trained to identify the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior.
SB 1479 (PA 98-103) – Provides that a person’s driver’s license can be suspended for operating a boat while under the influence. The bill also states that the operator of any motorboat involved in a boating accident shall be deemed to have given their consent to testing for alcohol or other intoxicants. Refusal, a test of .08 or a positive result of drugs means that person can have their drivers’ license suspended.
SB 1639 (PA 98-509) – Also known as the “Puppy Lemon Law,” SB 1639 provides certain remedies to a customer who purchased a dog or cat that possesses or has died from certain diseases, illnesses or conditions, if within 21 days of the date of sale, a licensed veterinarian states in writing that at the time of sale the animal was unfit for purchase due to illness or disease. The bill gives pet shops a procedure to contest the remedy. The bill requires pet shops to give every customer; prior to the time of sale; a copy of the store’s warranty, refund and return policy, and must give the customer an explanation of the remedy provided for customers who have purchased an animal with a congenital or hereditary disorder.
SB 1756 (PA 98-350) – Prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The bill requires sellers to verify that a buyer is over 18.