Metro-East News

Say goodbye to ‘tampon tax’ and hello to pitchfork fishing in Illinois

Illinoisans will now be allowed to use pitchforks to harvest catfish.
Illinoisans will now be allowed to use pitchforks to harvest catfish.

Happy New Year!

In addition to trying to remember to put 2017 on your checks — for those of you who still use them -— there are more than 200 new laws set to take effect in Illinois with the start of the new year.

There are no sweeping changes to worry about, but there are some laws to keep in mind. Here are some laws that are most likely to affect or be of interest to most people:

▪  The cost for essential woman’s health products, such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups, will go down. Those products previously were charged the same sales tax as shampoo. The law eliminates the 6.25 percent tax on feminine products, which was called the “tampon tax” by some lawmakers.

▪  All licensed cosmetologists in the state must take one hour of domestic violence and sexual violence awareness classes as part of their continuing education requirements. Failure to take those classes would cost the cosmetologists their licenses.

▪  People earning less than $13 an hour cannot be asked to sign non-compete agreements by their employers. Jimmy John’s, which operates nearly 300 sandwich shops in Illinois, had required its employees to sign non-compete agreements, which are no longer valid.

▪  Employers must give their workers more flexibility when it comes to using sick time. Any company that allows sick leave must allow their employees to use up to half of that time to care for family members.

▪  Two laws center on the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Grandparents now will have visitation rights to children who are in DCFS care. Also, incarcerated parents and foster parents will be included in DCFS case planning and DCFS will no longer have the right to seek termination of parental rights when a parent is incarcerated if specific efforts are being shown by the parent.

▪  The selling of synthetic cathinones, also known as “bath salts,” at a retail store is now classified as a Class 3 felony, punishable by two to five years in a prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

▪  An employer or a prospective employer can’t demand that employees or prospective employees provide usernames and passwords to their personal social media accounts.

▪  Police will be able to receive training on how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector.

▪  The state now has an official artifact. The pirogue, a long narrow canoe, has earned that designation.

▪  Catfish have been added to the list of fish that can be caught using pitchforks, underwater spear guns or bows and arrows. Other fish on that list include carp, buffalo, suckers, gar, bowfin, shad and drum.

▪  In an effort to protect first responders, Scott’s Law, the “Move Over” law, requires that motorists slow down or change lanes when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle with emergency lights activated. Beginning in 2017 this law will also apply to any vehicle on the side of the road with hazard lights activated. If you see flashing lights ahead, please move over or slow down.

▪  When entering a work or school zone, you need to eliminate distractions and make sure you are driving at the posted speed limit. If you decide to speed through a work or school zone after the first of the year, you may end up in jail. Speeding 26 miles per hour or more, but less than 35 miles per hour, is now a Class B misdemeanor, and 35 miles per hour or more in excess of the posted work or school zone speed limit is now a Class A misdemeanor.

▪  If you have been convicted of driving without insurance and you still choose to drive without insurance, your vehicle could be impounded the next time you’re stopped by the police. The law now requires officers to tow your vehicle if you have been convicted of driving without insurance within the prior 12 months and you are receiving another citation for driving without insurance.

Don O’Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND