Thursday, December 22, 2011

New year brings new laws

By Jamey Dunn 

As the new year begins, more than 200 new laws will take effect in Illinois. Among them are:

Safety belts 
The new law that will likely have the broadest impact on Illinoisans is House Bill 219 (Public Act 97-0016). After January 1, passengers in the back seat of vehicles will be required to wear their safety belts. Passenger of emergency vehicles and taxis will be exempt. Those who do not wear seatbelts will be subject to a fine.

Red lights 
Motorcyclists can proceed after waiting a “reasonable” amount of time at a red light if it fails to change according to HB 2860 (PA 97-0627). Traffic signals can sometimes fail to register the weight of a motorcycle and will not change as they would for another vehicle. Motorcyclists in such a situation are required to yield to oncoming traffic.

Crime database 
HB 263 (Public Act 97-0154) will require first-degree murderers who have been released from prison to register with the state as part of an online database searchable by the public. Those released 10 years prior to the new law will not be required to register.

Internet threats
Under HB 3281(PA 97-0340) school boards will be able to suspend or expel any student who makes an online threat to another student or school employee.

DNA testing 
Those accused of certain crimes, including murder, home invasion and sexual assault will be required to provide a DNA sample. HB 263 (Public Act 97-0154) requires that DNA be destroyed if the arresting charges were dismissed or if the individual was acquitted.

Juvenile sentencing 
Judges will be required to consider the least restrictive options when sentencing a juvenile offender. Under HB 83 (PA 97-0362), incarceration must be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted or deemed inappropriate.

Electronic waste
Illinoisans will not be able to toss out old computers, and other electronic waste and landfills will no longer be allowed to accept such unwanted items. Electronic devices that cannot be thrown in the trash under Senate Bill 2106 (PA 97-02870) will include: televisions, keyboards, video game consoles, DVD players, fax machines and MP3 players, such as iPods. Consumers who throw away such items face a $25 to $50 fine, and businesses face a fine of up to $500. Instead of pitching such devices, consumers will have to take them to recycling centers.

Home cooking 
People who make foods such as certain baked goods, jams and fruit butters for sale at farmer's markets by themselves or family members can prepare such foods in their home kitchens. The law previously required that so-called “cottage foods” be made in an industrial kitchen. The exemption in SB 840 (PA 97-0393) is for anyone who sells less than $25,000 worth of food in a year.

Shining a laser, such as commonly found laser pointers, at an airplane that is in taking off, in flight or landing will be a Class A misdemeanor under HB 167 (PA 97-0153).

For a complete list of the 214 laws that will go into effect on January 1, see Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno’s website.

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