By Tom Speedie
Attorney At Law
In the Illinois General Assembly, even numbered years, when members are running for reelection, are referred to as “rules years.” Laws passed during rules years are generally supposed to be limited to appropriations, fiscal matters, and state government emergency operations.
About 200 laws took effect at the beginning of the year, and one of these so-called “emergencies” included changing the name of a law from “Carnival and Amusement Rides Safety Act” to “Amusement Ride and Attraction Safety Act.”
Most people’s lives will never be affected in the least by the vast majority of these laws. There are, however several laws that will have a significant impact. Here are some of the highlights.
Employers are now required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. Although discrimination against pregnant women was already illegal under federal law, this expands the law considerably within Illinois. The federal law applies to businesses employing 15 or more, while the new law applies to all employers. The law outlines the sort of accommodations employers might be expected to provide, including lifting restrictions, more frequent restroom visits, and breaks to get a drink of water.
A trio of laws related to boating also go into effect this year. First, all boats towing a skier, wake boarder, etc., will have to display an orange flag. Second, people operating a boat or watercraft under the influence can have their vessels seized if their driver’s license is suspended or revoked for DUI, if they have been convicted of reckless homicide where drugs are alcohol were a factor, have a prior conviction for operating a boat under the influence (OUI), or have committed 2 prior OUIs.
The third new boating law will impact the most people. It expands requirements that certain people operating a motorboat have a “Boating Safety Certificate (Certificate),” which requires taking classes that are something akin to driver’s education for boats. Most of the changes made by this law will take effect in January 2016.
Up until this year, youths between the ages of 10 and 18 were only allowed to operate a motorboat under the direct control of a parent, guardian, or someone at least 18 years old designated by a parent or guardian. There was an exception for people between the ages of 12 and 18, who could operate a motorboat without supervision if they held a Certificate.
The changes for 2015 actually loosen those restrictions, which previously applied to all motorboats. Now those restrictions only apply to boats over 10 horsepower, although kids under 10 are still not allowed to operate any motorboat, regardless of horsepower.
Starting in 2016, though, anyone born after January 1, 1998, will be required to possess a Boating Safety Certificate to operate a boat over 10 horsepower by themselves. Also, the parent, guardian, or other adult who is supervising an operator without a Certificate, and is under 18, will have to hold a Certificate. Finally, anyone who owns a boat will be required to make sure that anyone they lend it to, regardless of age, has a certificate. There are exceptions for, among other things, people operating a boat on an electric motor only, boat operators on private property, and people who take over the helm when the person who had been operating the boat becomes ill.
Also, for the first time, Illinois law is providing guidelines for marital maintenance (formerly alimony). As always, a judge will decide whether maintenance is appropriate, but once it is determined that it is proper, the new law provides guidelines for the length and amount of maintenance.
School anti-bullying policies now include “cyber-bullying” and school policies can extend to computers that do not belong to the school and student activity outside of school hours, if the bullying “causes a substantial disruption to educational process or orderly operation of a school.”
Police can no longer require you to post a license, or any other bail, for petty traffic violations. You only need to sign the ticket.
Vehicles and boats join homes as places you are not allowed to serve your children’s friends, if they are under 21 years old.
Some juvenile arrests records will be automatically expunged. This applies to some cases where either there was no petition for delinquency filed, the minor was found not delinquent, the minor successfully completed court supervision, or the charge was a Class B misdemeanor or less.
Businesses with 15 or more employees can’t ask about criminal record before either the employer selects the applicant for a job interview or makes a job offer. Exceptions to this law include where state or federal law excludes applicants with certain convictions from employment, and EMS workers.
E-cigarettes have to be kept behind the counter, like regular cigarettes.
Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, are now a qualifying condition for medical cannabis, and the only condition for which people under the age of 18 can be prescribed cannabis. If cannabis is prescribed for people under 18, it has to be provided in a non-smokable “infused” form.
Finally, comprehensive legislation took effect, regulating the sale and possession of reptiles and amphibians.
Disclaimer: space and readability constraints require that the explanations contained in this story are simplified. If these laws affect you or your business, please do some additional research and seek the advice of an attorney.