New year, new laws. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, more than 250 new Illinois laws will go into effect. Here’s a look at 50 of the most interesting new measures that could impact you nearly every day.
HB 26: All Illinois high schoolers with a grade point average in the top 10% of their class will be accepted to Northern Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University and Western Illinois University (provided they meet other criteria like college preparatory curriculum requirements and test scores).
SB 1601: Starting in the 2020-2021 school year, U.S. history classes for K-12 students must include instruction on the history of Illinois.
HB 3550: Sex education courses and instruction in grades 6 through 12 will now be required to include an age-appropriate discussion on the meaning of consent. This includes teaching that consent is a freely given agreement to sexual activity, that consent to one activity does not include consent to others, that a person’s clothing, past activity, lack of resistance and more do not constitute consent, that a person can withdraw consent at any time, and that a person cannot consent to sexual activity if the person is unable to understand due to incapacitation from drugs and alcohol, being asleep or unconscious, having a mental disability or being a minor.
HB 3404: Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, each public university and community college in Illinois must make available to students information on all of the school’s mental health and suicide prevention resources.
HB 2237: Aimed at expanding access to higher education, this new law creates the Illinois Higher Education Savings Program, in which the state will deposit $50 into a college savings account for every child born or adopted in Illinois after Dec. 31, 2020. The funds (plus interest and earnings) can be used for higher education expenses like tuition, fees, books and more if parents or guardians claim the funds by the child’s 10th birthday, the child has completed secondary education or turned 18 and is an Illinois resident.
HB 2691: Under this new measure, transgender students ineligible for federal financial aid (including those disqualified for failing to register for the draft) as well as students who are not U.S. citizens (thus also unable to qualify for federal financial aid) are both eligible to receive state financial aid through the Monetary Award Program.
SB 1624: Under this new law, companies that collect personal information about Illinois residents will be required to report any data breaches impacting more than 500 Illinois residents to the state attorney general, as well as steps taken or plans related to the incident. The attorney general can then publish information about the breach to help give consumers protect themselves even in the wake of relatively smaller-scale incidents.
HB 2189: Companies that provide direct-to-consumer commercial genetic testing (like ancestry.com or 23andMe) are now prohibited from sharing genetic test or other personally identifiable information about a person with health or life insurance companies without written consent from the person.
HB 88: The Consumer Fairness Act reduces the post-judgment interest rate on consumer debt under $25,000 from 9% to 5% and cuts the timeframe to collect on a judgment from 26 to 17 years, aimed at helping people better manage their debt and stopping predatory debt collection practices.
COMBATTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT, ABUSE AND VIOLENCE
SB 75: Lawmakers made several changes this year to employment and civil rights laws to combat sexual harassment in the workplace and provide resources to victims, some of which have already taken effect and some taking effect later.
The Workplace Transparency Act prohibits any contract or agreement (like a non-disclosure agreement) from restricting an employee from reporting allegations of unlawful conduct for investigation.
The state’s Department of Human Rights is now also required to create a sexual harassment prevention training program for employers, plus a separate program specifically for restaurants and bars, and employers must provide training each year.
The Sexual Harassment Victim Representation Act mandates that in any proceeding in which a victim and accused perpetrator are both members of the same union, they cannot be represented by the same union representative.
SB 1507: The Civil Remedies for Nonconsensual Dissemination of Private Sexual Images Act allows victims of revenge porn to recover damages (economic, emotional distress, punitive and more) in the two years after an image is disseminated or threat to disseminate is made.
HB 2135: This new law removes the statute of limitations for criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse for all ages, not just minors. Previously, prosecution could only be brought within 10 years of the offense and only if the victim reported it to law enforcement within three years.
HB 3498: This measure removes the statute of limitations for female genital mutilation for victims under 18, meaning the crime can be prosecuted at any time. It also makes female genital mutilation done by a parent or guardian a Class X felony.
RIGHTS AND RESOURCES FOR INMATES
SB 2090: Cook County Jail will now be required to set up a temporary polling place within the jail during elections to allow those incarcerated but not yet convicted to cast their ballots. The measure also requires every other local election authority in the state to coordinate vote by mail opportunities for pre-trial detainees in county jail, and mandates that upon release of a person who is eligible to vote, the Department of Corrections give that person a specified form informing him or her that voting rights have been restored, as well as a voter registration application.
HB 2541: The Re-Entering Citizens Civics Education Act requires the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice to implement a nonpartisan civics program throughout correctional institutions to teach civics – including voting rights, government, current affairs and more – to those who will be released within the next 12 months.
SB 156: The Department of Corrections will allow inmates to access job search and career building websites in a specified period of time before their release.
HB 2045: This measure prohibits the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice from requiring inmates – who typically make pennies per hour for their labor – to pay a co-pay for receiving medical or dental services. Previously, incarcerated people statewide had to pay a $5 co-pay, which advocates of the new law say deterred them from seeking necessary treatment (potentially leading to more serious health issues and higher medical costs later) and does not bring in enough money to offset the administrative costs of running the program, according to non-profit site The Marshall Project.
LABOR AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS
SB 1: For the first time since 2010, Illinois’ minimum wage is going up in the new year. Beginning Jan. 1, minimum wage will jump from $8.25 to $9.25 statewide, with the minimum wage for tipped workers and employees under 18 (only those working part-time) increasing proportionally as well. Then in July, it will increase again to $10, then $11 beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. It will keep climbing until it reaches $15 per hour beginning on Jan. 1, 2025.
HB 3405: The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act stipulates that gratuities and tips to employees are property of the employees and cannot be retained by the employer.
SB 161: This new law creates a Worker Protection Unit within the Illinois Attorney General’s office, dedicating to enforcing employment laws and protecting workers by ensuring they are paid properly, have safe workplaces and more. The new division will focus on “combatting businesses that underpay their employees, force their employees to work in unsafe conditions, and gain an unfair economic advantage by avoiding their tax and labor responsibilities.”
HB 253: Graduate assistants doing research, teaching or other pre-professional duties will no longer be classified as “students” when it comes to state labor law, and instead will be considered employees, granting them the same rights as employees, including the right to collectively bargain.
PROTECTIONS FOR ANIMALS
HB 3390: Brought forth in the wake of an overnight fire at a kennel near West Chicago that killed 31 dogs in January, this measure requires dog and cat kennels to be equipped with a fire sprinkler or alarm system in each building housing animals if the kennel is not staffed at all times.
HB 2086: This measure designates the month of April as “Healthy Pet Month” in Illinois, during which pet owners across the state will be encouraged to review their pets’ health needs and arrange for annual exams with their veterinarians to “enhance and extend their pet’s quality of life.”
SB 131: Starting in the new year, pet owners are required to have a veterinarian vaccinate their cats older than four months against rabies (with a certificate issued showing the vaccination was completed). Feral cats must also receive a rabies vaccination, but only if they are brought to the vet to be spayed or neutered.
SAFETY ON THE ROAD
SB 1496: The maximum penalty for hitting a worker in a construction zone increases from $10,000 to $25,000 in the new year, and those who disobey traffic-control devices in a highway construction or maintenance zone will face fines between $100 and $1,000.
HB 1873: Be extra careful around school buses: this measure doubles the fines for illegally passing a school bus from $150 to $300 for the first violation and from $500 to $1,000 for any subsequent violations.
SB 1862: After three Illinois State Troopers were killed in crashes while on duty this year, the state’s Scott’s Law is getting an update. Scott’s Law requires drivers to change lanes, slow down and proceed with caution in approaching emergency vehicles or disabled cars on the side of the highway. Anyone who fails to do so will be fined at least $250 for the first violation (rather than the previous $100 minimum penalty) and at least $750 for the second, reaching as high as $10,000.
HB 331: The Expressway Camera Act, also known as the Tamara Clayton Act, requires state law enforcement and transportation agencies to work together to increase the amount of cameras on Cook County highways. Named for a woman who was shot and killed in February while driving on I-57 to her job as a postal worker, this new law allows any law enforcement agency in the area to use images from the cameras to investigate gunfire or detect hazards on roadways.
SB 87: This new law bans tinted or smoked lenses or covers from being installed on car headlights.
SB 86: Drivers are not allowed to use an electronic device to stream or watch videos while on the road under this new law, with violations punishable by a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second, $125 for a third and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.
HB 2028: Beginning in the new year, the burial benefit for first responders killed in the line of duty will double. The state will now pay or reimburse a maximum of $20,000 (previously $10,000) to the family or estate of a law enforcement officer or fireman killed in the line of duty to cover burial expenses. This measure retroactively applies to any first responders who died after June 30, 2018.
HB 2767: After six Chicago police officers committed suicide in less than a year, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure aimed at preventing more. This new law requires the curriculum of police training schools to include information on recognizing signs and symptoms of work-related stress, issues that may lead to suicide and solutions for intervention with peer support services. In-service training for officers, required to be completed every three years, must now include information on officer wellness. And the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board will have to develop or approve an in-service course on wellness and suicide prevention that includes stress management techniques and intervention, among other topics related to mental health.
INSURANCE AND MEDICAL CARE
HB 2847: This new law prohibits insurers from refusing to insure, charging different rates or otherwise discriminating against those who are living organ donors – people who, while still alive, have donated organs like a kidney or portion of their liver to patients who need them. The measure also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who request or take a leave of absence to donate an organ, bone marrow or blood. Finally, it requires the secretary of state to create an organ and tissue donor registry.
HB 3113: Health insurance policies will soon also have to cover one annual office visit for a whole body skin examination for lesions suspicious for skin cancer, without charging the patient a deductible, coinsurance or co-payment.
SB 162: This new law requires insurers to cover diagnostic mammograms, without imposing a co-pay or cost-sharing requirement, when deemed medically necessary.
HB 889: Under this new measure, insurers are required to cover long-term antibiotic therapy (including doctor visits and testing) for people with tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, among others.
HB 3487: Hospitals with emergency rooms will now be required to post in each ER information about how to sign up for health insurance coverage in the Illinois health insurance marketplace.
HB 3435: Does your child need an EpiPen? Then you know that they can be expensive. But in the new year, insurers will be required to cover medically necessary epinephrine injectors for children under the age of 18.
PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH
HB 2895: In April 2018, The New York Times Magazine reported that African-American infants are more than twice as likely to die as white infants, according to government data. And in October 2018, the Illinois Department of Public Health released a report finding that Black women in Illinois are six times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related condition as white women. That report also found that 72% of all pregnancy-related deaths were preventable. To address those grim statistics, lawmakers passed several pieces of legislation. This one requires medical staff caring for pregnant or postpartum women at birthing facilities take annual training on said care, and directs the Illinois Department of Public Health to create an initiative to improve birth equity, including the development of implicit bias training and more.
HB 2: This new measure lays out 21 specific rights of women with regard to pregnancy and childbirth, including things like the right to receive health care consistent with medical standards, the right to choose a midwife or physician, the right to choose her birth setting, the right to receive information on her condition and treatment (including pain relief), the right to privacy, the right to refuse treatment, the right to contact with her newborn, the right to give birth in the position of her choice, and more. Illinois agencies, health care providers, day care centers and more will post these rights in prominent places and on their websites.
DEPARTMENT OF CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
The Illinois Department of Child Family Services faced intense scrutiny this year for several reasons, including the death of 5-year-old A.J. Freund in April. Authorities say the Crystal Lake boy was brutally beaten to death by his parents, who had been in contact several times with the beleaguered agency – accused of missing vital warning signs of abuse.
Then in May, the Illinois auditor general released results of an audit of the agency with troubling findings – that DCFS investigators’ caseloads were too heavy, the agency’s hotline cannot handle the call volume, the department does not always follow its own procedures in investigations and more. In response, House lawmakers formed the Child Welfare Caucus to develop policy aimed at reforming DCFS and protecting some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. Some of that legislation takes effect in the new year.
HB 1551: Among the reforms, this new law requires DCFS to follow several new guidelines when a child is returned to the custody of a parent or guardian. The agency must complete a home safety checklist within the 24 hours before the child is discharged from foster care, as well as again within five days of the child’s return, plus every month thereafter until the case is closed. DCFS must also provide a minimum of six months of aftercare services beginning when the child returns home, as well as ensure that the child is up to date on well-child visits. And when a person who is legally required to report child abuse allegations (known as mandated reporter, a category that includes people like teachers, law enforcement, medical professionals, etc.) makes an allegation using the telephone hotline, about a home with prior contact with the agency, the department is required to accept it as a referral.
SB 1743: DCFS is now required to develop and circulate a standardized survey to gather feedback from children aging out of or transitioning out of the state’s foster care system. The survey will include requests for information on the children’s experience with foster care and their recommendations for improvement. DCFS will submit a report with the survey results to the governor and the General Assembly each time it is conducted, every five years. This measure also requires the department to put a locked suggestion box in each shelter, group home, transitional living arrangement and more, as well as submit an annual report to lawmakers on the issues and concerns raised from the suggestion boxes, plus solutions.
HB 831: This new law mandates that whenever DCFS receives a claim of suspected child abuse while the child was receiving care in a hospital, including a psychiatric hospital, the department must notify the directors of the Department of Public Health and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The measure was passed and signed after a 2018 ProPublica report found that a Chicago psychiatric hospital that treats children in state care was under investigation for more than a dozen allegations of abuse, assault and neglect.
SB 1239: Under this new law, DCFS is required to immediately report to local law enforcement any allegation that a child is being abused or neglected by a person who is not the child’s parent, immediate family, person responsible for the child’s welfare or paramour of the child’s parent for a possible criminal investigation.
SB 556: This law requires all single-occupancy restroom in a public place to be identified as for use by all genders, with a sign indicating it is for no more than one person at a time (unless for family or assisted use) and not designating it for any specific gender.
HB 3711: Dads, rejoice! No more diaper changes in weird places. This new law requires every public place to have at least one “safe, sanitary, convenient, and publicly accessible” baby diaper changing station accessible to either both men and women, or in both the men’s and women’s restrooms. This doesn’t apply, however, to industrial buildings or nightclubs and bars that don’t allow patrons under 18.
SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY
HB 3534: This new law requires the Illinois secretary of state to allow applicants for a driver’s license or state identification card to choose from “male,” “female” or “non-binary” when designating sex – but it may not take effect until the secretary of state’s office updates its license and ID issuance system.
SB 1378: This measure prohibits anyone who is qualified and able from being excluded from serving on a jury on the basis of their sexual orientation.
SB 455: This measure allows a trained school nurse or administrator to administer or supervise the self-administration of cannabis infused products to a student who is part of the state’s medical marijuana program, with the written permission of a parent or guardian as well as proof of the student’s participation in the program in the form of the registry ID card.
HB 1438: The most-discussed and highest-profile of the laws going into effect in the new year is likely the legalization of recreational cannabis. Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize marijuana, with adults over 21 now legally allowed to partake.
At any given time, Illinois residents can have up to 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of THC-infused products, known as edibles. Non-Illinois residents can have up to half of those amounts. You can only buy marijuana at state-licensed dispensaries, and only partake in the privacy of your own home – otherwise you can be ticketed for public consumption. Landlords can prohibit cannabis use in their properties, and employers can still prohibit its use and drug test employees. Growing marijuana plants is only allowed for medical patients and even then, they can only have five plants.
As part of the drug’s legalization, law enforcement agencies will automatically expunge arrests that did not lead to a conviction for amounts up to 30 grams, and the governor will grant pardons authorizing expungement for convictions up to 30 grams. The state has also launched a social equity program aimed at giving easier entry into what promises to be a lucrative business for those who have been historically, disproportionately impacted by drug laws in Illinois.