Courtesy of legislators in the Land of Lincoln, a total of 218 new laws will be on the books as of Jan. 1.
One of the most impactful public acts taking effect tomorrow includes the ban on handheld cell phones while operating a vehicle.
The new law is an expansion of the prohibition of texting while driving and includes exemptions for hands-free devices, two way radios and devices capable of performing multiple functions as long as the devices are not used for a banned purpose. A first offense is not considered a moving violation. Fines: $75 maximum for first offense; $100 for a second offense; $125 for a third offense and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.
The legislation was sponsored by 13 Chicago area or upstate House members – 11 Democrats and two Republicans. In the Senate, the bill was co-sponsored by three Chicago-area Democratic legislators.
How local legislators voted in the House:
Dan Beiser (D-Alton): No
Jerry Costello, II (D-Red Bud): No
Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville): Yes
Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr. (D-East St. Louis): Yes
Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville): No
Charlie Meier (R-Highland): No
In the Senate:
Bill Haine (D-Alton): Yes
Kyle McCarter (R-Vandalia): Yes
In case you think civil liberties are being eroded in Illinois, note that it’s still legal to smoke, put makeup on and eat a Big Mac while driving. It’s also still legal to operate a motorcycle without a helmet.
Other new laws of note include…
70 Miles Per Hour
Favored by all Metro-East area law makers and having passed both Chambers by large margins, speed limits on rural Illinois interstates will be increased to 70 miles per hour.
“I was quite pleased that we were able to pass a speed limit increase that brings Illinois in line with the rest of the nation,” said Rep. Kay in a press release.
The new law allows certain urban and suburban counties – including Madison and St. Clair counties – to opt out of the higher speed limits. It also lowers the number of miles over the legal limit for serious traffic offenses from 30 miles per hour or more above the legal speed limit to 26 miles per hour or more.
Also taking effect in January is the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. It establishes a pilot program that sunsets after four years. A specific list of debilitating, or terminal medical conditions are outlined in the bill which patients must be suffering from in order to qualify. The number of dispensaries are limited to 60 throughout Illinois, and the Department of Agriculture may approve up to 22 cultivation centers. A patient is prohibited from possessing more than 2.5 ounces at a time.
Area lawmakers were split on the vote, which passed in the Senate 35-21 and barely in the House 61-57.
Haine was a co-sponsor of the bill that originated in the Senate. McCarter voted no.
In the House:
Costello, II: No
Stiffer Penalties for Boating DUI
The new law provides that an individual’s driver’s license can be suspended for operating a boat while under the influence. The bill also states that the operator of any motorboat involved in a boating accident shall be deemed to have given their consent to testing for alcohol or other intoxicants. Refusal, a test of .08 or a positive result of drugs means that person can have their drivers’ license suspended.
“In response to numerous incidents regarding boating DUIs it was time for the Illinois General Assembly to strengthen these laws,” Kay said in a statement. “Hopefully, these stronger penalties will help to deter individuals from operating a boat while impaired.”
The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate.