On January 1, 2020, 255 new laws took effect in Illinois in the areas of transportation, agriculture, crime, business, insurance, state and local government, veterans, labor, energy, education, public safety, health, and more. It’s likely that you or someone you know will be affected in some way by one or more of these changes. While we won’t be going over all 255 laws, we will break down some of the laws that impact the greatest number of people in the state. Let’s start by taking a look at how Illinois is attempting to make roadways safer.
Increasing Traffic Fines
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, there were 311,679 traffic accidents in the state in 2017. Because of the serious number of crashes that happen every year and the associated injuries and deaths, the state is constantly trying to improve road safety through initiatives, programs, and laws. This year, legislators are attempting to reduce accident rates by increasing the penalties for those who disobey the rules of the road.
The fines for illegally passing a school bus have doubled from $150 to $300 for an initial violation. Subsequent violations will result in a fine of $1,000, as opposed to $500. Additionally, the maximum penalty for hitting a construction worker in a marked construction zone has increased from $10,000 to $25,000.
To encourage safe driving around disabled or emergency vehicles, the fine for violating Scott’s Law has increased to a maximum of $10,000. Scott’s Law requires vehicles to slow down, change lanes, and proceed with caution when approaching a vehicle that’s stopped on the side of the highway or to safely get out of the way for an emergency vehicle like an ambulance.
Rights of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth
Statute 410 ILCS 50/3.4 amends the Medical Patient Rights Act to provide every woman with certain rights in regard to pregnancy and childbirth. Those rights include receiving care that is consistent with current scientific evidence regarding the risks and benefits, choosing a birth setting, receiving certain information, and being treated with respect before, during, and after pregnancy by health care professionals. Additionally, the health care professionals that treat pregnant women are required to be culturally competent and treat patients appropriately regardless of religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
The Department of Public Health, Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Children and Family Services, and Department of Human Services are required to post information about these rights on their websites.
Legalizing Recreational Cannabis
Illinois is the eleventh state to legalize marijuana. Adults 21 and older can purchase and possess up to 30 grams, which is about one ounce, of marijuana plant materials, edibles totaling no more than 500mg of THC, and five grams of cannabis concentrate products. Non-residents are allowed to purchase half of those amounts.
To purchase marijuana, a consumer must go to an existing medical marijuana cultivator or a dispensary. The state plans to begin receiving and processing new licenses on March 15, 2020. New dispensary licenses will be issued starting on May 1, 2020. Marijuana and cannabis-infused products with less than 35% THC will be taxed at 10%. Cannabis-infused products with more than 35% THC will be taxed at 20% and marijuana with more than 35% THC will be taxed at 25%.
In regard to growing, medical marijuana patients are allowed to grow plants in their homes, but they are limited to five. Smoking marijuana in public is not legal, but consumption in a private residence is allowed.
Raising the Minimum Wage in Illinois
Beginning on January 1, 2020, the minimum wage in Illinois went from $8.25 to $9.25. This was the first statewide increase since 2010. It’s also the first of several hikes that will take place over the course of the next five years. Over that time, the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour. According to Governor J.B. Pritzker, this measure will help 1.4 million Illinois residents who currently earn less than $15 per hour.
In addition to that, any gratuities employees earn while working is now legally their property. If the customer doesn’t give the tip directly to the employee, the employer has two weeks to hand the money over or face legal consequences. Compared to the now $9.25 minimum wage, tipped workers can legally be paid as low as $4.95 per hour, so long as tips make up the difference to reach the minimum wage.
At Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP, we’re dedicated to ensuring that residents of Illinois understand their legal rights and obligations. If you have questions about the laws discussed above or any of the others becoming effective in 2020, let us know.