Illinois Issues: New Illinois Laws In 2018
With Gov. Bruce Rauner's approval, Illinois legislators designated August 4 as Barack Obama Day in the state. That law along with more than 200 others take effect January 1.
In addition to overhauling the school funding formula and passing a spending plan for the first time in two years, lawmakers approved new consumer protections, rules for electric bikes and animal welfare measures.
Pets And Divorce
P.A. 100-0422 In a litigated divorce, a judge can take into consideration the well-being of an animal by putting forth a custody agreement when both parties are fighting over ownership. The ownership agreement may define the sole or joint responsibility over the animal.
Democratic Rep. Linda Holmes of Aurora, who sponsored the law, says this better defines what a "companion animal" or pet is in state statute. She says current law defines a companion animal as a possession. "We sort of wanted to make sure that we were looking at what's in the best interest of the animal," she says. "Because an animal, while it may be considered a possession, is something that people are attached to much more personally than they are to their actual possessions."
The companion animal definition in this case does not include service animals. Oswego Democrat Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit also sponsored the law.
Electric Bikes and Bike Safety
P. A. 100-0209 Bikes with small motors will have a new set of rules in the new year. The law backed by state Sen. Heather Steans and former Rep. Elaine Nekritz, both Chicago Democrats, mandates that owners put a sticker on their bikes identifying its top speed and one of three state classifications.
Under the new law, a Class 1 bike engages the motor when the rider is pedaling and can reach 20 miles per hour, while a Class 2 bike reaches the same speed but has a throttle assist. A Class 3 bike is pedal-assisted and can go up to 28 miles per hour. A rider on a Class 3 bike must be at least 16 years old.
The law allows cities and counties to decide which classifications of bikes can ride on trails or paths in their communities, according to Steans. As the bikes have grown in popularity, she says more regulations have become necessary.
"Now [the law] is making it so it's more standard across the country," Steans said. Several other states, including California, Tennessee and Utah, have adopted similar rules.
Another new law, PA 100-0359, clarifies that cyclists can ride on the shoulder of the road. It also allows vehicles to pass bikes in no-passing zones, when it's safe to do so.
"This new legislation legalizes some common motorist and bicyclist traffic practices," Ed Barsotti, Ride Illinois' chief programs officer, wrote in a statement. Ride Illinois advocated for the law. "The intent is to make the roads safer while improving car-bicycle interactions."
State Rep. Tim Butler, a Springfield Republican, and Steans backed the bill.
P.A 100-0306 The law, sponsored by Rep. Will Davis of Homewood, prohibits hospitals from maintaining a list of individuals who may not be admitted for treatment. Hospitals may offer alternative providers.
"We fundamentally believe access to care by our hospital systems should never be prohibited based on ability to pay, prior medical/mental health history, nor any other reason that warrants inclusion to a list to deny care,'' said Kyle Hillman, director of legislative affairs for the National Association of Social Workers of Illinois, which backed the law.
"It does provide to hospitals and medical staffs the flexibility to determine the appropriate treatment and setting for treatment," said Danny Chun, spokesperson for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, which also supported the law.
Nursing Home ID Bracelets
P.A. 100-0293 Residents in long-term care facilities will have flexibility when asked to use identifying bracelets. The changes allow a resident's guardian or power of attorney to ask for the removal of a physician-ordered identifying wristlet, which might include the resident's name, as well as the name, telephone number and address of the facility issuing the wristlet. Physicians will still be required to document the reasons for mandatory wear in a resident's clinical record-especially for those residents in an Alzheimer's disease unit who might have a history of wandering. In all cases, the resident, resident's guardian or power of attorney have the final say.
Kirk Riva, vice president of public policy for LeadingAge Illinois, said the changes are "more permissive" than what was proposed in the bill's original language. Mandated wristlets would make these facilities feel more institutional and less home-like, he said.
"Our association has been pushing for years to make a lot of things in long-term care facilities much more homelike and not so institutional," he said. Leading Age Illinois was among the numerous advocates pushing to soften the original mandatory language in the measure. The group says they approved of the final law.
Chicago Democrats, Rep. La Shawn Ford and Sen. Iris Martinez, sponsored the law.
P.A. 100-0207 Sponsored by Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, this law will require salons, barbers, dry cleaners and tailors to provide customers with a price list for services when requested.
Studies on gender-based pricing have found those businesses sometimes charge women more than men for the same services, according to Bush.
"Women have been unfairly charged more than men for the same services for far too long," Bush said. "Transparent pricing among service providers will help women know whether they are getting a fair deal for services. My hope is that this new law will make service providers take a second look at their prices and charge women more fairly."
Local Government Consolidation
P.A. 100-0107 Illinois has the most units of local government of any state, according to counts from the U.S. Census. A new law aims to make it easier for counties to dissolve smaller governing bodies, such as lighting or fire protection districts, through a voter referendum.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton sponsored the bill that expands a model started in DuPage County in 2014. Most of these districts levy a property tax, and the Villa Park Democrat says the law will lower real estate taxes while making local governments more efficient.
"We can show people we're moving toward reducing and helping eliminate the heavy burden they're paying on their property," Cullerton said.
Another provision of the law, which Grayslake Democratic Rep. Sam Yingling also sponsored, allows road districts with less than 15 miles of roads to merge with townships.
Sexual Orientation Of Board Appointees
P.A. 100-0234 This law, which may be the first of its kind in the nation, provides an option for those applying for governor-appointed spots on boards and commission to disclose sexual orientation. By providing the information, the state can track numbers of LBGT applicants.
"The law lets LGBTQ people be counted in the process of application and appointment to state boards and commissions in the same way that other demographic data is currently collected," said Mike Ziri, director of public policy at Equality Illinois. "By using this data to measure effective impact and foster leadership, the law will help leaders gather the necessary information to know if Illinoisans of all backgrounds are inspired to lend their talents and strengths to the service of our great state."
P.A. 100-0250 Couples in divorce proceedings who decide on a team-based approach can now vet that their lawyer is following the approved "collaborative divorce" model. The law breaks down the guidelines to follow when the end goal is to avoid litigation and reach an amicable settlement.
The collaborative divorce process involves the two parties and their lawyers, as well as a team of trained specialists in areas such as mental health, child well-being and finance. If the team is unable to reach a settlement, the act specifies that the attorneys should be dismissed and new attorneys hired.
Collaborative divorce practices began in Illinois around 2002, but have been around since the 1980s. According to Theresa Kulat, president of the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the collaborative process is not for everyone.
"It's really for people who want to stay in control of their own destiny and who have the emotional capability of analyzing their situation, working with professionals and making their own agreements," she said.
Prior to the law, Kulat said there were many divorce attorneys who claimed they practiced collaborative law but a client had no way of verifying if the attorney had prior training or if the attorney was following the proper model.
"The fact that now there is an act-people who used to be able to say that they were doing it, but they weren't really doing it, can't do it anymore," Kulat said.
Orland Hills Democratic Sen. Michael Hastings and Rep. Ann Williams, a Democrat from Chicago, sponsored the law.
Traveling Elephant Ban
P.A. 100-0090 The law bans the use of elephants in traveling shows - acts where animals are transported from one location to another and housed in mobile facilities. The rule applies to African and Asian elephants protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973. The law was the first of its kind in the country when Rauner signed it in August. The state of New York followed in October.
Holmes, who sponsored the law, says these types of traveling shows are not in the best interest of elephants that are "trucked around in circuses and paraded around."
"The care for an animal the size of an elephant-it's quite extensive. We're not eliminating animals from places that do an awful lot to actually promote the well-being of these animals," she said. The ban does not apply to zoos or permanent elephant exhibitions.
Holmes said there are already many traveling circuses that had implemented their own ban of elephants-but several are still following the practice.
The unlawful use of an elephant in a traveling animal act is now considered a Class A misdemeanor, with possible jail time of less than a year and a fine. Glenview Democratic Rep. Laura Fine also sponsored the law.
Illinois Issues is in-depth reporting and analysis that takes you beyond the headlines to provide a deeper understanding of our state. Illinois Issues is produced by NPR Illinois in Springfield.