With the arrival of a new year, a number of new laws took effect in Illinois.
Perhaps the biggest is that speaking on your cellphone while driving a vehicle is now illegal unless you use a hands-free device. Fines for being cited for using a hand-held cellphone while driving range from $75 to $150.
You probably are aware of other new laws that received a lot of exposure when they were approved, including the legalization of medical marijuana. Patients suffering from certain diseases can now use marijuana as treatment with a doctor’s permission.
Other laws that took effect Wednesday:
n Cigarette butts are now considered litter, and disposing of them by flicking them aside could get you a $50 fine.
n The government, taking parenting away from parents, made it illegal for anyone under 18 to use indoor tanning equipment.
n The new pet lemon law mandates a refund, replacement, or reimbursement for veterinary costs from the seller if you buy a pet with an undisclosed illness.
n You still can’t speed through construction zones, but if you do and workers aren’t present, your fine won’t be as high.
n Speaking of speed, some interstate speed limits increased to 70 mph.
n 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in a primary election if they will turn 18 before the general election.
n School buses are now allowed to have video cameras on board to record motorists who pass buses illegally. Those videos can be shared with police.
n It is now illegal to wantonly waste or destroy usable meat from game animals.
n Schools are no longer allowed to ask for or demand a student’s social networking password without cause.
n Public school sex-education courses offered to sixth- through 12th-graders must cover abstinence and contraception.
Think what you will of Illinois’ new laws. While approving them, the Legislature failed to address festering issues.
n Illinois’ “temporary” income-tax increase is due to expire Jan. 1, 2015. With the state still in dire financial straits, what will lawmakers do?
n Some legislators, and even Gov. Pat Quinn, have talked about trying to replace Illinois’ flat tax with a graduated income tax, where higher-income earners pay a higher rate. Any change would require amending the Illinois Constitution.
n Illinois’ business climate needs help. Business-by-business negotiated deals are bad for Illinois and are unfair to other businesses, particularly small businesses.
n The Local Government Consolidation Commission is expected to release its report soon on consolidating government. We hope the commission offers substantial and meaningful ways to eliminate needless levels of government in Illinois, and that the General Assembly takes appropriate action.
Illinoisans would be better served if lawmakers spend less time debating tanning beds and more time dealing with sound budgets, fair taxation, and efficient government.