SPRINGFIELD – Although it sometimes feels as if nothing gets done in Springfield, over the past year our elected representatives passed 215 new laws, which will take effect on Jan. 1.
The new laws cover many areas of life – everything from criminal justice reforms to health, consumer protections, education and agriculture.
A small sampling of the new laws that will take effect Jan. 1 follows.
* Motor Vehicle Accident Reports (SB 1580/PA 100-0096): Motor vehicle accident data will now be available to the public for a fee. Previously, accident reports remained confidential within the offices of the Secretary of State and Department of. IDOT will now collect electronic crash data and make it available to the public. The law also allows the department to provide for in-depth investigations of accidents involving IDOT employees or other motor vehicle accidents.
* Police Trauma Training (HB 1895/PA 100-0121): The curriculum for police training will be required to include effective recognition and responses to stress, trauma and post-traumatic stress experienced by police officers. An initiative of the Greg Lindmark Foundation, this training is intended to help identify and assist law enforcement officers who are suffering from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
* Crisis Intervention Team Training (HB 375/PA 100-0247): Requires the Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board to create an introductory course to provide all police with an awareness of mental illness issues. This includes history of mental health systems; types of illness and systems; medications; and potential interactions officers may have with sufferers and their families. Mental health awareness and response to minimum in-service training requirements are added.
* Hate Crimes (HB 3711/PA 100-0197): To address the increasing use of technology to attack victims, cyberstalking, transmission of obscene messages and certain acts of intimidation are added to the list of crimes that can be prosecuted as hate crimes. A new civil penalty of up to $25,000 may be imposed for each violation with enforcement authority given to the Attorney General’s office.
* Electronic Cyberstalking (HB 3251/PA 100-0166): Expands the cyberstalking law by prohibiting electronic harassment of a person using spyware or electronic tracking software to transmit a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint toward a person or a family member of the person.
* DCFS Daycare Database (HB 2388/PA 100-0052): Requires DCFS to establish and maintain a searchable database, freely accessible to the public, that provides information on whether, within the past five years, a day care home, group day care home, or day care center has had its license revoked or has surrendered its license during a child abuse investigation, or whether an application for renewal of a license was denied by the department.
* Enhanced Opioid Monitoring (SB 772/PA 100-0564): Requires physicians with an Illinois Controlled Substance License to register and use the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, which is a database that records patient prescription history. This is intended to help deter the practice known as “doctor-shopping” for prescription drugs, by requiring prescribers to check a patient’s prescription history before writing a prescription for opioids.
* Mental Health Council (HB 3502/PA 100-0184): Establishes an Advisory Council on Early Identification and Treatment of Mental Health Conditions to report on evidence-based best practices, identify barriers to statewide implementation of early identification and treatment, and reduce the stigma of mental health conditions.
* Veterans’ Cancer Screenings (SB 838/PA 100-0224): Requires the Department of Public Health to conduct a program to promote the awareness of cancer in veterans, and creates a Veterans’ Cancer Screening Program within the Department. Requires the department to make their information public beginning Jan. 1.
* Inmate Training Dogs for PTSD Veterans (HB 2897/PA 100-0384): Allows the Helping Paws Service Dog Program to train dogs for veterans with PTSD and depression. A non-profit service dog training program will teach committed persons at IDOC how to train service dogs for the purpose of helping veterans with PTSD and depression.
* Organ Donor Registry (HB 1805/PA 100-0041): The age at which an individual may place their name on the organ and tissue donor registry has been lowered from 18 to 16.
* Preexisting Condition Coverage Mandate (HB 2959/PA 100-0386): No individual or group accident and health insurance policy issued, amended, delivered or renewed on or after Jan. 1 may impose any pre-existing condition exclusion for that plan or coverage. Supplemental polices are exempt from this mandate.
* Mammogram Coverage (SB 314/PA 100-0395): By law, insurers must provide coverage for breast MRI if a mammogram demonstrates heterogeneous or dense breast tissue (when medically necessary).
* Genetic Information Privacy (SB 318/PA 100-0396): Employers may not penalize an employee who does not disclose his or her genetic information or does not choose to participate in a program requiring disclosure of the employee’s genetic information.
* Food Handling Regulations and Enforcement (HB 3684/PA 100-0194): Any individual who completes a minimum of eight hours of Department of Public Health-approved training shall be considered a certified food sanitation manager or certified food sanitation manger instructor. Provisions allowing DPH to charge a $35 fee for a certificate are removed as are those regarding recertification, reciprocity and revocation of a certification.
* Educational Credit for Military Act (HB 3701/PA 100-0195): Creates the Educational Credit for Military Experience Act, which requires public universities and community colleges to establish a policy to award academic credits for corresponding military training.
* School Absences (HB 3139/PA 100-0156): Mandates that beginning July 1, 2018 all schools receiving public funds must collect and review chronic absence data and determine what systems of support/resources are needed to engage the students and their families. Defines “chronic absence” as “absences that total 10 percent or more of school days of the most recent academic year” and includes those with or without a valid cause as well as out-of-school suspensions.
* Alternative Dispute Resolution (SB 67/PA 100-0205): Alternative dispute resolution may be used for conflicts arising from family and domestic relations. Aggrieved parties may choose to resolve a dispute through this collaborative process. If they do so, they will retain an attorney and the attorneys will communicate directly with each other in an attempt to reach a resolution.
* Consumer Statements Protection (SB 1898/PA 100-0240): It will be unlawful for a business to include in a contract or a proposed contract for selling or leasing consumer goods or services (retail level) any provision requiring a consumer to waive the right to make any statement regarding the consumer’s experience with the business. This is intended to protect consumers from unknowingly giving up their freedom to speak freely about online retail experiences and prevent them from being intimidated or penalized for doing so.
* Home Kitchen Regulations (HB 3063/PA 100-0035): This law addresses challenges faced by farmers’ market vendors by implementing safe, fair and consistent regulations throughout the state. With relation to farmers’ markets, the “Home Kitchen Operation” provides baked goods and only high-acid fruit pies are allowed. Under the Cottage Food Operation section, the law removes a list of non-potentially hazardous foods allowed and includes a list of prohibited foods. The law also adds a statement regarding safety to the cottage food operation application.
* Reducing water pollution through nutrient trading program (Public Act 100-341, House Bill 659): Authorizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) to participate in nutrient trading programs in Illinois. The program will develop new strategies to reduce nutrients that harm waterways. Requires that MWRD give preference to trading investments that benefit low income or rural communities, and where local water quality improvements can be achieved.
* Snow Inconvenience Fees for Farmers (HB 1800/PA 100-0046): Allows county boards to pay increased inconvenience fees to farmers that allow farmable land to be used as snow breaks on highways.
* Plant Material Sales (HB 2488/PA 100-0061): Allows the DNR to sell plants and plant materials from state-run nurseries to conservation groups for forest restoration and other conservation efforts.
* Recreational Trails Programs Funds (HB 2725/PA 100-0127): Provides that money received from the federal government under the Recreational Trails Program for grants or contracts obligated on or after Oct. 1, 2017 will not be considered for use as aid in construction of highways and will be placed in the “Park and Conservation Fund.”
* Control Funds for Feral Cats (SB 641/PA 100-0405): This law changes the Animal Control Act by allowing a county animal population control fund to be used to support feral cat spay, neuter and vaccinate programs that are recognized by the county or municipality (exempts Cook County).
* Corn as State Grain (HB 470/PA 100-0109): Names corn as the official state grain of Illinois.
* Official State Exercise (HB 2895/PA 100-0383): Designates cycling as the official state exercise of Illinois.