More than 250 new laws take effect Jan. 1 in Illinois
By Len Wells
With the arrival of the new year comes a slew of new Illinois laws.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, more than 250 new Illinois laws will take effect, covering everything from cannabis and cats to zipper merging.
One new law drawing a great deal of attention is Illinois’ recreational marijuana law.
In drafting the law, legislators wrote “In the interest of allowing law enforcement to focus on violent and property crimes, generating revenue for substance abuse prevention and treatment, freeing public resources to invest in communities and other public purposes, and individual freedom, the General Assembly finds and declares that the use of cannabis should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older and should be taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.”
Under the recreational marijuana law, an individual over the age of 21 may purchase or possess up to 30 grams, or about one ounce of marijuana plant material, edibles totaling no more than 500 mg of THC (the active ingredient of cannabis) and five grams of cannabis concentrate products. Non-residents will be permitted to purchase half those amounts.
Recreational marijuana will be taxed in various ways.
Cannabis and cannabis-infused products with less than 35 percent THC will be taxed at 10 percent of the purchase price.
Cannabis infused products with more than 35 percent THC will be taxed at 20 percent of the purchase price with marijuana containing more than 35 percent being taxed at 25 percent of the purchase price.
Additionally, individual municipalities may also impose a tax on recreational marijuana sales.
Starting Jan. 1, existing marijuana dispensaries will begin selling to adults until new licenses are approved.
The state will start receiving and processing new licenses on March 15, 2020, with the new dispensary licenses being issued on May 1, 2020.
Some downstate marijuana dispensaries approved to begin selling recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1 include The Clinic in Effingham, HCI Alternative in Collinsville, Harbory in Marion and Phoenix Botanical Dispensary in Champaign.
Making fewer headlines than the state’s recreational marijuana law are the following:
Minimum Wage: Illinois’ minimum wage will increase to $9.25 per hour starting Jan. 1.
A second increase will come on July 1, 2020 when the rate goes up another 75 cents, making the official rate $10 per hour.
The wage hike is part of a multi-year plan to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
Tipped workers may still be paid 60 percent of the regular minimum wage. The new law also includes a payroll deduction tax credit for employers of 50 or fewer workers.
Cats: A new law requires cats to receive a rabies vaccination with a tag and certification. The requirement does not apply to feral cats unless the feral cat is taken to a veterinarian for sterilization.
Animal Shelters: Changes the Animal Welfare Act and requires dog or cat kennel operator buildings to be equipped with a fire sprinkler or fire alarm system if the establishment is not staffed at all times.
Animal Health Month: Makes April Healthy Pet Month to be observed by reviewing your pet’s health needs and making arrangements with your veterinarian to enhance and extend your pet’s quality of life.
Cosmetics: Cosmetics that have been tested on animals will be banned in Illinois.
The new law prohibits manufacturers from selling cosmetic products developed by using animal testing with fines starting at $5,000. The law applies to all products manufactured after Jan. 1, 2020.
Acupuncture: Changes the Acupuncture Practice Act to provide title protection for Chinese herbology.
Interest on Debt: Lowers the annual rate on consumer debt judgments valued at or below $25,000 from 9 percent to 5 percent.
Revenge Porn: Creates the Civil Remedies for Non-consensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images Act, which allows victims of revenge porn to recover economic, non-economic and punitive damages.
Public Bathrooms: Requires single-occupancy restrooms in a public location to be identified as all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use and requires exterior signage that marks the restroom as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.
Changing Stations: Requires all public restrooms in a public building to have a baby changing facility.
Genetic Testing: Prohibits companies that provide direct-to-consumer commercial genetic testing from sharing any test results or other personally identifiable information with any health or life insurance company without the written consent from the consumer.
Pay to Stay: Removes provision requiring incarcerated people to reimburse the Department of Corrections for the cost of their incarceration: Pay to Stay.
School Threats: Expands the offense of disorderly conduct to cover threats against schools that are made online or do not specifically mention a bomb.
Sexual Assault: Removes the statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse for all ages, not just those 18 and under.
Education Savings Plan: Establishes Illinois Higher Education Savings Program and creates the Illinois Higher Education Savings Program Fund, which will deposit $50 into a 529-style college savings account for every child born or adopted in Illinois after Dec. 31, 2020, for the purpose of expanding access to higher education. The Illinois treasurer says it will take most of 2020 to actually set up the program.
Math Classes: Requires students to take three years of math to graduate high school but provides local school districts flexibility over required classes to remove barriers to graduation for some students.
Illinois History: Requires that, beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, current courses in U.S. history for K-12 students must also include instruction about the history of Illinois.
College Acceptance: All students in the top ten percent of their school’s grade point average must be accepted at Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, Western Illinois University or Eastern Illinois University provided other criteria is met.
Sex Education: Requires sex education course material instruction in grades 6 through 12 to include an age-appropriate discussion on the meaning of “consent.”
Financial Aid: Permits transgender students and non-citizen students to be eligible for State financial aid at all institutions of higher education in the State of Illinois.
Medical Cannabis in School: Allows a school nurse or school administrator to administer or supervise self-administration of medical cannabis infused products to a student who is a registered qualifying patient of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program.
Tips: Provides that gratuities to employees are the property of the employees and may not be retained by an employer.
University of Chicago Alcohol Sales: Allows the University of Chicago to sell liquor at its new hotel and conference center, preempting a 1950s referendum for a dry campus.
Strip Joints: Allows counties to regulate businesses that involve nudity and sexual activities.
Streaming While Driving: Clarifies that people cannot stream videos on a cell phone while they are driving.
Headlights: Bans tinted headlights from being installed on cars.
Construction Worker Safety: Increases the maximum penalty for hitting a construction worker to $25,000 from the current $10,000.
Line of Duty Deaths: Increases the burial benefit for a fireman, Illinois State Police or local law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty from $10,000 to $20,000.
Gender Identification: Requires the Secretary of State to allow applicants to choose between “male,” “female” or “non-binary” when designating the applicant’s sex on their driver’s license or identification card.
School Bus Safety: Raises the mandatory fines for illegally passing a school bus from $150 to $300 for an initial violation and $500 to $1,000 for a subsequent violation.
Emergency Lights: Allows deputy and assistant fire chiefs to operate a vehicle with red or white oscillating lights.
Freight Trains: Requires freight trains to be operated by a crew of at least two people.
Idling Diesel Trucks: Prohibits a diesel truck from idling for more than a total of ten minutes within an hour if the vehicle is within 200 feet of a residential area.
Zipper Merging: Creates the Move Over Task Force and requires the Illinois Secretary of State to include “zipper merging” in the Illinois Rules of the Road.
What is zipper merging? Here’s an example: When most drivers see the first “lane closed ahead” sign in a construction area, they often slow too quickly and move to the lane that will continue through the construction area.
This particular driving behavior can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and even road rage.
A zipper merge occurs when the driver uses both lanes of traffic until reaching the defined area, and then alternate in “zipper” fashion into the open lane.