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10 New Laws that Begin January 1, 2014

Have you ever wondered how nice it would be if the Illinois State Legislature took a year off?  Of the making of new laws there seems to be no end. People who count these things estimate over 40,000 new laws are passed in the United States each year. Many people might be glad to give our State Legislature a year off, even with pay!

When you are done day dreaming, you might want to consider the laws our State Legislators passed into law in 2013 that take effect in the new year.

In this piece, we highlight 10 new laws that take effect when the ball drops on January 1 that we find particularly interesting or noteworthy. Consider the following:

  1. The New Cell Phone Law. Talking on a cell phone while driving anywhere in the State of Illinois, unless the cell phone is integrated into the vehicle and can be activated by voice or a single touch, will become illegal starting January 1.  There are many nuances to this law, which you can read about in a previous blog article that we posted here.
  2. Medical Marijuana. Medical marijuana becomes legal in Illinois beginning January 1, but do not expect to see dispensaries available right off the bat.   The legislation is a pilot program limiting dispensaries to 60. Cultivation sites are limited to 22 in the State of Illinois.  Both dispensaries and cultivation sites must be approved by local zoning and other laws, which will likely take some time to get approved. Once available, medical marijuana must be prescribed by a doctor and will only be available only for certain conditions.  Patients are limited to purchase up to 2.5 ounces every two weeks.  Sales will be taxed like other pharmaceuticals.  Smoking marijuana in public and smoking marijuana without a prescription remains a criminal offense. Law enforcement people are bracing for problems. See commentary here. We will see how things go when the smoke clears.
  3. Pet Lemon Law. If you buy a sick dog or cat after January 1, 2014, you may be entitled to reimbursement for veterinary costs up to 21 days if the animal was sick at the time of the sale.  A pet consumer has up to one year to receive reimbursement for veterinary costs if the dog or cat has a significant genetic condition.  You can read the full text of the law that was passed as Public Act 098-0509 here if you want a better description of the point when a dog or cat becomes a lemon.
  4. Cigarette Butts Are Litter. It was only a matter of time for cigarette butts to be added to the definition of “litter”.  (See Public Act 098-0483).  It is hard to believe that cigarette butts were not officially considered litter before.
  5. Facebook and Schools. Laws are always a step behind technology. January first marks the State Legislature’s foray into Facebook and other social media. Public Act 098-0129 prohibits post-secondary schools from requiring passwords or access to students’ social media sites. That is the good news. The bad news is that a post-secondary school can demand a password or access if there is reasonable cause to believe a student has violated a school disciplinary rule or policy. The same rule (basically) applies to elementary and secondary schools, though notice of the right to demand a password or access must be given to students and parents must be published in a handbook, rule or policy. The full Public Act can be found here. Of course, the public domain is still the public domain. Anything posted for all to see is fair game. Students be forewarned.
  6. Raised Speed Limit. Illinois follows most other states by raising the maximum speed on interstate highways to 70 mph.  The bulk of commuters in the State will be disappointed, however. The increased speed limit does not apply in Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Lake County, McHenry County or Will County.
  7. Violation of Work Zone Speed Limits. The Illinois Vehicle Code has been amended to create separate offenses for exceeding the speed limit in a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present and when workers are not present. A person’s driver’s license can no longer be suspended for multiple violations of the speed limit in construction unless the violations occurred while workers were present.
  8. Passing School Busses. Senate Bill 923 was signed into law that allows cameras on school buses and the enforcement of violations for passing school buses caught on camera. As with red light cameras, the notice of violation, itself, is considered prima facie proof of the violation. The fine for a first violation is $150 and $500 for a second or subsequent violation. School buses with cameras must include a posted notice.
  9. Child Care Right of First Refusal. The State Legislature has added another tool for the courts to require parents to get along for the benefits of their children. A right of first refusal is likely to become a standard provision of joint parenting agreements and divorce decrees. The right of first refusal can be ordered by the court to require one or both parents to offer the other parent the opportunity to provide care for their child(ren) when child care is needed for a “significant period of time” during the parent’s parenting time. This is a welcome change that will avoid gamesmanship that is too often played between divorced or never married parents. Nuances will need to ironed out, and attorneys and courts are likely to develop standard language for this new tool in the family law tool box. The full text of the law is available here.
  10. State Toll Highway Hall of Shame. In an effort to tighten the screws on toll way scofflaws, the Legislature has approved the Toll Highway Hall of Shame that will take effect beginning January 1st. They will now be allowed to publish the names of all persons who have racked up more than $1000 in fees and fines. Whether shaming will work to encourage payment of the fines and fees remains to be seen.

Many more laws were amended or passed by the Illinois State legislature in the past year which will take effect in the coming year. The forgoing are a just a few that are just a note worthy few. Happy New Year!

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