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From cellphones to fees, new state laws take effect today

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Of the more than 150 new laws to take effect today, an expansion of a cellphone ban for construction zones is one of the few that will affect most Illinois residents.

The law prohibits the use of cellphones in all work-zone sites, not just those with a reduced speed limit. Another new law bans drivers of commercial vehicles from using a hand-held cellphone or texting while driving.

Illinois drivers also will see the cost to renew license plates go up.

A $2 surcharge is among a variety of new and increased fees designed to raise more than $32 million for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has struggled to make ends meet. The Legislature has cut the amount of sales tax the department receives.

The department also now can charge for environmental reviews it conducts, require stickers to use all-terrain vehicles in parks, charge an entrance fee to the ­Illinois State Museum and charge out-of-state visitors entering state parks.

Two new laws are aimed specifically at McHenry County.

After the Fox Waterway Agency struggled to find a new executive director, the Legislature changed its requirements for the position, eliminating the need for a four-year college degree in civil engineering, biology, public administration or similar field.

Now, the executive director needs to have only a “recognized ability in business or waterway management.”

The Legislature also created the Northwest Metra Commuter Rail District, which includes all the municipalities in McHenry County. Any property taxes proposed by the district must be taken to the voters.

Other laws that take effect today:

• Strip clubs and other adult entertainment facilities, beginning in 2014, will be required to charge $3 on entrance fees or pay an annual surcharge of $5,000 to $25,000.

Most of the funds will go toward organizations that prevent sexual assault and assist sexual assault victims.

• In response to the Casey Anthony case in Florida, the Illinois General Assembly increased penalties for failing to report the disappearance or death of a child 13 years old or younger. The law also allows authorities to charge parents or other caretakers, also of children 13 years or younger, to be charged with obstruction of justice if they lie to police during the investigation of the child’s death or disappearance.

Anthony was found not guilty in July 2011 of first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. She was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to police.

• Family members can be charged with aiding a fugitive. Only minors remain exempt from the Class 4 felony.

• Employers cannot ask job applicants for access to their accounts on social networking sites such as Facebook.

• Motorcycle drivers caught doing wheelies while speeding can be fined a minimum of $1,000.

• The salaries of local government employees are to be added to the state’s Transparency and Accountability Portal website.

• In response to an ongoing investigation by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Illinois Department of Revenue, the Legislature made evasion of sales tax a crime.

The investigation found that hundreds of gas stations were underreporting revenues to pay less in sales tax, the Attorney General’s Office said in a news release.

Penalties vary depending on the amount of sales tax not paid. More than $100,000 is deemed a Class 1 felony and carries a prison term of four to 15 years.

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