As the clock strikes midnight Jan. 1, more than 200 new laws will go into effect in Illinois, including a database of first-degree murderers, stricter seat-belt enforcement and legislation that gives the public greater access to government information.
“Though many Illinois residents may not realize it, every Jan. 1, hundreds of new laws take effect in Illinois," said State Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-). "While some of the measures will have a greater impact than others, I always think it’s a good idea to let the public know about the new laws—some of them could have a significant influence on someone’s life or career."
Here's a look at some of the new laws:
Illinois residents and law enforcement agencies will be able to easily identify individuals convicted of first-degree murder with the establishment of a new public database.
House Bill 263, better known as "Andrea's Law", will require all former first-degree murder convicts to be on a registry for 10 years following their release from prison. They will be placed on the existing Sex Offender Registry or the amended Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registry.
The law is named after Andrea Will, a Batavia woman who was strangled to death by her boyfriend, Justin Boulay, while she was attending Eastern Illinois University in 1998. According to the Huffington Post, there was significant public outcry last winter when Boulay was freed after serving a sentence of only 12 years, and moved to Hawaii with his new wife.
“House Bill 263, Andrea’s Law, would not only finally service justice for Andrea, but also for all of the families who have lost a loved one at the hands of another,” Will's mother, Patty Rosenberg, . “We need to make sure there is accountability for first-degree murder beyond the prison gate.”
Stricter Seat Belt Enforcement
For the first time, adults sitting in the back seat of a vehicle next year could be ticketed should they fail to wear a seat belt.
House Bill 219 requires all adult passengers sitting in the back seat to wear a seat belt. Failure to comply could result in a fine not to exceed $25.
Previously, the only passengers required to wear seat belts were those in the front seat, children younger than 8 years of age and passengers younger than 19 being driven by someone younger then 18.
Increased Penalties for Financial Abuse of the Elderly
Criminals who take advantage of the elderly for financial gain will face stiffer penalties in 2012.
House Bill 1689, sponsored by Rep. Emily McAsey (D-Lockport), increases criminal penalties for financial exploitation of the elderly, based on the amount of money that is stolen. Exploitation includes taking seniors' money, property or valuables, denying services to conserve funds, or cashing pension or social security checks without permission.
“Financial fraud and abuse of senior citizens is an often underreported crime that requires greater attention from lawmakers and law enforcement,” McAsey said. “By imposing stiffer penalties on criminals who defraud their own elderly family members or other members of the senior community, we can help better protect those who are sometimes unable fight for themselves.”
Other laws taking effect Jan. 1:
- Senate Bill 98 (sponsored by Radogno) provides residents at federal veterans facilities with the same voting options and assistance as residents at state facilities and nursing homes.
- Senate Bill 1833 makes changes to language in state law to replace the term "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" and "crippled" with "physically disabled."
- House Bill 3238 expands the list of those arrested or convicted of certain crimes who are required to submit to DNA testing. Crimes include first-degree murder, home invasion, predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual assault.
- House Bill 3283 enacts tougher penalties for filming, videotaping or creating a moving image of child pornography, or possessing such items.
- Senate Bill 1038 provides tools to prosecute individuals who attempt to lure children for sexual purposes. Under the new law, individuals convicted of child luring must undergo a sex offender evaluation prior to sentencing. The law also increases the penalty to a Class 2 felony for the second offense when the person has a prior conviction of a sex offense.
- House Bill 167 prohibits shining a laser into a cockpit when a plane is taking off or landing.
- House Bill 2595 enacts new penalties for selling manufactured substances known as "cannabinoids," which produce a high similar to marijuana.
- House Bill 1562 provides the public access to hospital report cards through the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
- Senate Bill 43 provides access to information on income, sales, property and business taxes imposed across the state — all of which can be access through the Illinois Department of Revenue's website.
- House Bill 1359 allows fire departments to prohibit open burning on an emergency basis when wind, weather or other factors create a risk of fire spreading.
- House Bill 3033 establishes a statewide criminal street gang prevention and intervention grant program, which will be operated by the Illinois Department of Justice using federal dollars.
- House Bill 2875 states that the natural mother, father or spouse of an Illinois veteran, who was killed in the line of duty, is entitled to admission to Illinois veterans homes if there is space.
- House Bill 2099 requires all employees of licensed child care facilities who care for newborns or infants to complete training every three years on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and on safe sleep recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- House Bill 3281 allows a school board to suspend or expel a student who has made an explicit threat on a website against a school employee or student.
- House Bill 1670 requires all current and future elected and appointed officials in Illinois to take Open Meetings Act training courses administered by the Public Access Counselor in the Attorney General’s office.