Our state’s biggest problem – its yawning, multibillion dollar pension shortfall – remains unsolved, but our state’s lawmakers did accomplish a few things in 2012.
More than 150 new laws will take effect this year, and most Illinoisans will be affected by them in one way or another.
Many new laws are aimed at protecting public safety. New restrictions on gun permits require that authorities be notified if a person has a “mental disability” that would make it dangerous for him or her to possess a gun. There also are stronger penalties for adults who allow underage drinking on their property.
Possession, sale and distribution of shark fins – for use in shark-fin soup – also becomes illegal in Illinois this year. There is a thriving market for the delicacy, which often is served as a display of social status, but the harvesting of the fins is inhumane, environmentalists say.
Stricter punishments for child-sex crimes also will take effect, along with several laws aimed at preventing elder abuse, including a training course for police to teach them ways to spot possible abuse.
There also are new rules designed to raise money, or reinforce the state’s right to raise it. There will be a $2 increase in fees for basic license plates. The increase is expected to raise $20 million for the state park system. The state Department of Natural Resources is also raising other fees to generate an additional $15 million this year.
A new $3 entry tax on people who visit strip clubs also takes effect this year, and sales-tax evasion by retailers also will become a felony crime.
On the personal privacy front, potential employers will be prohibited from asking for a job applicant’s social media passwords when they are considering their application.
Although new fees are rarely welcome, most of these laws passed because they are relatively easy to agree upon. We want child-sex offenders to be punished harshly, we want to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people, we want there to be some consideration for our personal privacy when applying for a job.
However, we also want a solution to the state’s most difficult problem: public pension obligations. If 2013 brings no other legislation than a reasonable solution on that issue, we’ll take it.
The next shark-fin-soup-style problem can be solved in 2014.