Illinois lawmakers have never let items such as the lack of a state budget or a $110 billion unfunded pension liability get in the way of passing a battery of new laws, and 2015 was no exception.
More than 200 new laws take effect Friday. Some are meant to keep us safe, others appear well-intentioned, and some appear silly – at least in the context of debating whether pumpkin pie should be the official state pie of Illinois rather than working on the state’s deep financial problems.
The following is a small list of new legislation, from the significant to the seemingly ridiculous.
State lawmakers last year rewrote Illinois divorce law in its largest overhaul in 20 years.
In one major change under Senate Bill 57, all divorce filings will be no-fault, meaning parties will no longer be able to file for divorce based on fault-based grounds, such as adultery, desertion or cruelty. Under the new law, parties seeking divorce must show that irreconcilable differences resulted in an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Another major change rewrites child custody and visitation, which is now called “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Rather than focus on where children live and the time spent with each parent, the law now specifically allocates parental responsibilities based on factors such children’s health, education, travel distance and special needs.
Underage drinkers who call 911 to get medical help for those who have had too much to drink will have immunity from a citation under House Bill 1336. The law, which is in place in more than 20 other states, is similar to one enacted several years ago for drug overdoses.
Amnesty applies only to the person in need of medical help and the person who made the call, and does not negate criminal acts such as driving under the influence. Police have discretion as to whether amnesty should be granted.
Another law, created by House Bill 3988, makes people who make prank or false 911 calls potentially responsible for reimbursing the cost of the emergency response up to $10,000.
Leaving a dog or a cat for a prolonged period in extreme heat or cold that results in injury or death to the pet is now a Class A misdemeanor under Senate Bill 125, which is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or up to a year in jail.
A second or subsequent conviction is a Class 4 felony punishable by between one and three years in jail, and the court can order the convicted individual to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and treatment. The court must order an evaluation or treatment if the convicted person is a juvenile or an animal hoarder.
Alcohol and caffeine
Two new laws mean bad news for people who believe that pouring an alcoholic drink or a cup of coffee is just too much work.
Senate Bill 67 made powdered alcohol illegal in Illinois. It joins 24 other states that have likewise banned it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. People who want to buy powdered caffeine still are OK, provided they are adults. Senate Bill 9 limits it to people 18 years and older.
One new law cracks down on repeat offenders, while another gives the worst offenders a chance at regaining limited driving privileges.
One law, created by House Bill 3533, allows drivers who have had their licenses permanently revoked after a fourth DUI conviction to obtain a restricted driving permit after five years if he or she demonstrates a minimum of three years of sobriety and has completed rehabilitative treatment.
The offender’s car must be fitted with an interlock device.
The law was inspired by the DUI arrest of a repeat offender who struck and killed a 17-year-old Wonder Lake girl in 2003. He had gotten his license back a year before his 2014 arrest.
Another law, created by House Bill 1446, allows drivers who have had their licenses permanently revoked after a fourth DUI conviction to obtain a restricted driving permit after five years if he or she demonstrates a minimum of three years of sobriety and has completed rehabilitative treatment. The offender’s car must be fitted with an interlock device.
A one-year pilot program will examine whether placing locks on certain opioid prescriptions can cut down on abuse.
House Bill 3219 requires pharmacies that are opting into the program to put numerical locks on bottles of any painkiller containing hydrocodone. The program seeks to prevent accidental poisoning of minors, and to stem the growing tide of opioid abuse.
Illinois’ pilot program is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Law enforcement now can use the Emergency Alert System, electronic bulletin boards and other mediums to alert the public when an adult with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia goes missing.
The new system created by Senate Bill 1846, called the Silver Alert, is similar to the Amber Alert system for missing children.
Illinois joins 40 other states that have such a system, according to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
State lawmakers last year voted to make pumpkin pie our official pie via House Bill 208. About 85 percent of the pumpkins consumed in the U.S. are grown in Illinois.
The designation now joins more than 20 others under the State Designations Act, which includes the official state soil, state amphibian and state tartan pattern.