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2015 brings new Illinois laws covering speed limits, medical marijuana, boating and more

People eager to rest after a night spent ringing in 2015 can travel home faster along the interstates around Chicago, starting New Year's Day.

But if a boater along the Fox River parties too much and operates under the influence, their boat can be impounded for the first time.

Likewise, if underage kids are caught drinking inside cars, motor homes, campers and private planes, their parents now can be charged with a crime.

As Illinoisans begin a new year, they face 220 new laws that take effect Jan. 1, approved by lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn. The highlights cover various issues, from transportation to wild animals.

New transportation laws

After lawmakers raised the speed limit to 70 mph on downstate interstates in 2014, they decided to do the same in 2015 for Chicago-area interstates under the Illinois Tollway Authority's control.

Another bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Noland, D-Elgin, now prohibits police from taking a person's driver's license as bond after pulling them over for a minor traffic violation such as speeding.

Illinois was one of six states that allowed police to confiscate licenses for minor traffic violations, according to Illinois Senate Republicans.

Boating

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, requires boaters towing a person to display an orange flag. The bill was inspired by Morrison's nephew, Tony Borcia, a 10-year-old from Libertyville who died after a crash along the Chain O' Lakes in 2012.

Borcia fell off an inner tube being pulled by a boat on Petite Lake and died after being struck by another boat. The flag is meant to alert nearby boaters that a person is being towed.

Another law sponsored by Morrison allows police to seize the crafts of intoxicated boaters in certain cases.

Children and health

Kids younger than 18 who suffer from seizures now can qualify for the state's medical marijuana pilot program with a parent's consent.

Another law requires retailers to sell e-cigarettes either behind the counter, in an age-restricted area or a sealed display case.

Lawmakers also expanded schools' jurisdiction with cyberbullying in 2015. Schools can discipline students who bully others through personal phones and computers, along with school-owned devices.

Sponsored by state Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, another measure allows parents to be charged with a crime if their child is caught drinking alcohol inside cars, private planes, motor homes, campers and boats.

It expands an existing law that made it illegal for parents to allow underage drinking at their home. The new law extends the prohibition to property owned by parents outside of their homes.

Animal protections

Black bears, cougars and gray wolves are now protected species in Illinois.

Although still rare, the wild animals in recent years have been spotted around the state, including a black bear seen last summer in a field between Marengo and Belvidere, near Interstate 90.

The new designation allows conservation officials to better protect the animals, as they make appearances in Illinois.

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