Beginning today, about 150 new laws go into effect in Illinois.
Some of those laws place additional restrictions on cellphone use while driving, enact a strip club "skin tax," prevent convicted sex offenders from participating in certain holiday events, and put into effect a social media privacy law.
It is already against the law for drivers to use cellphones in construction zones with reduced speed limits and in school zones, but a new law goes a step further and prohibits cellphone use in all highway work zones, regardless of the speed limit. Another new law addressing cellphone use will prohibit all commercial drivers from using a hand-held phone while operating a vehicle. According to the new state law, commercial drivers may only use cellphones to call law enforcement or emergency services.
"Any type of law that reduces distracted driving is a benefit for us and the traveling public," said Illinois Department of Transportation Engineer Doug Helfrich. "It just makes for a safe work zone."
A new law will require strip club operators to impose a $3 surcharge per customer with the option that clubs pay an annual fee of $5,000 to $25,000, based on sales. The tax will only affect those strip clubs that serve alcohol. The tax is designed to raise money for rape crisis centers and is expected to raise about $1 million annually.
Illinoisians will also see their basic license plate fees increase by $2 in 2013 to $101 annually. The fee increase is expected to raise as much as $20 million for state parks. Motorists who renew their plates after March will see the increase. Those who renew in January or February will pay the 2012 fee because the law wasn't signed by Gov. Pat Quinn until December and the January and February renewal notices had already been sent out. Beginning in January, the Secretary of State will begin issuing special license plates to all siblings of a person who lost their life while serving in the U.S. armed forces. The special registration plate does not require an additional fee.
The Child Sex Offender Holiday Costume Prohibition law prohibits convicted sex offenders from participating in a holiday event with children under 18. For example, offenders cannot dress up as Santa Claus, the Easter bunny or hand out candy at Halloween. Offenders who violate the law face fines, revocation of their parole or probation and additional jail time. Another law targeting child sex offenders increases the age of a victim of child luring to 17 and makes it a felony if the teenager is traveling to or from school. In addition, anyone convicted of luring a minor will be classified as a sexual predator. Another law enhances child pornography penalties if the child is younger than 13.
Caylee's Law is a new law that increases the penalties if parents or guardians fail to report a child missing or dead within 24 hours. Parents or guardians failing to report a child 13-years-old and under missing within 24 hours can be charged with a class 4 felony. The measure gives parents of missing children under 2-years-old one hour to report their disappearance. The law stems from the death of Caylee Anthony in Florida where she was not reported missing or dead for more than 30 days.
"There is no excuse for withholding information regarding a missing child," said Illinois Rep. Dwight Kay. "Waiting over 30 days to report a child missing is negligent and this new law will ensure there are consequences for negligent and irresponsible behavior."
Underage Drinking Parent Penalties, also known as a social host law, cracks down on parents or guardians who permit underage drinking on property they own. The new legislation makes it a crime to allow underage drinking not only at a parent's or guardian's home, but also on property under their control.
"By protecting our youth, we protect our future," Quinn stated. "Adults know it is unacceptable to allow underage drinking in their home. By putting a social host law on the books, we are sending a strong message to all adults that they will be held responsible when allowing this harmful activity."
Violators of the law will be cited with a Class A misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not less than $500 when they knowingly authorize or permit underage drinking in their home. If the underage drinking results in great bodily harm or death to any person, the individual is subject to a Class 4 felony. However, a person will not be in violation of the law if he or she has taken all reasonable steps to prevent this activity from occurring. Also, no charges will be filed if assistance is requested from law enforcement after discovery of the illegal activity.
A new law bans "cramming," a practice of putting charges on a landline telephone bills for unauthorized services. Reports have shown that telephone companies place at least 300 million third-party charges on their customers' bills each year. According to a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee report, third-party billing generates at least $2 billion annually.
"With our efforts, Illinois became only the second state in the country to ban phone cramming, establishing the state as a national model," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.
Julie's Law -- Motorist caught excessively speeding will no longer be able to receive a sentence of "supervision," and will face increased penalties. The law addresses motorists who are pulled over for driving more than 25 mph over the speed limit in urban areas and more than 30 mph over on highways. The legislation is named after Julie Ann Gorvzynski whose life was taken away by a reckless driver who was going 76 mph in a 40 mph zone just days before her high school graduation. Previously, the courts could give a sentence of supervision for cases where motorists are cited for driving up to 39 mph over posted speed limits on highways.
A new law will ease traffic from fender benders on Illinois roadways by allowing motorists involved in a minor traffic accident to move their vehicles to the nearest off-ramp, access road or other safe location following an accident if it is a property damage-only accident. This law also provides for greater safety for those involved in accidents because they are able to move away from the fast-moving traffic.
Illinois will now allow veterans to request his or her veteran status to be printed on their driver's license. This identification will help cut through red tape and ensure that any benefits that the veterans earned will be easily accessible.
The state has a package of laws directed at preventing elder abuse. One provides law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other first responders with greater access to abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation records so they have better information about a senior's needs when answering a call. Police training also will include a course in recognizing elder abuse, neglect, and other crimes.
Another law allows a judge to freeze the assets of someone charged with financial exploitation of a senior or a person with a disability in case restitution is ordered.
Law enforcement officers will be allowed to use wiretaps or other eavesdropping measures during a felony drug investigation if approved by a state's attorney instead of a judge.
Other new laws include:
* Prohibiting employers from demanding that job applicants disclose passwords to social media accounts, such as Facebook, so they can be reviewed during the vetting process.
* Prohibiting the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins. An expensive delicacy used to make soup, shark fins aren't harvested in landlocked Illinois, but Chicago has a thriving market. Environmentalists say harvesting shark fins is inhumane and threatens the shark population.
* Barring the use of taxpayer or tuition dollars to conduct a college hiring search except for a university president or in a case where the president and trustees can show a need.
For more information about the new laws that go into effect in 2013, visit www.ilga.gov