The more than 255 new Illinois laws taking effect on New Year's Day may affect everything from your car to your paycheck.
We took a look at some of the biggest changes coming in 2020.
Higher Wages, Tip Ownership
Illinois minimum wage is going up by a dollar, from $8.25 to $9.25, starting New Year's Day per P.A. 101-0001. It’s the first increase to the statewide minimum wage since 2010, and is the first of several hikes that will take place over the next five years that will increase minimum pay for Illinois workers to $15 per hour.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who campaigned on the issue during the 2018 election, signed the pay increases into law in February. Sponsors, including state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D, Maywood) said the measure is designed to help 1.4 million people who currently earn less than $15 an hour.
"So many people deserve the opportunity to feel hope, to feel like they can go to work and come home and have dignity in what they do," she told reporters when the bill was signed in February. "This is our first step in giving them this opportunity."
Business groups had opposed the move during session, leading drafters to include wage tax credits for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Those will be scaled back every year until phasing out in 2025.
On a related note, any gratuities workers make on the job are now legally their property alone, according to P.A. 101-0509. If they aren't given by the customer right away, employers will have to hand them over within two weeks or face legal consequences. As Daisy Contreras reported earlier this year, tipped workers can legally be paid a wage as low as $4.95 an hour, with tips making up the difference to reach the minimum wage.
Car Fees, Higher Fines & New Taxes
Both title and license plate registration fees are all going up this year. There will be a $50 increase for most cars, and an $100 for trucks, semis, and farm vehicles. Electric vehicle owners will be hit hardest, as their license plate fees alone are going up by $216 in the new year. You can find a full schedule of those fees here.
Those were all raised in order to help pay for the state’s latest $45 billion capital plan that will fix up roads and bridges over the next six years, and which will help fund other transportation projects. While state policymakers used to be able to spend money from higher driving fees on anything the state required, Illinois voters passed a Lockbox Amendment in 2016 that requires any transportation fee to go directly to transportation-related projects and costs.
State lawmakers also doubled down on speedy and distracted drivers this session, passing three separate laws to increase and even double the fines on those who rush through construction zones (P.A. 101-0172), pass school buses illegally (P.A. 101-0055), and fail to slow down or move over for emergency vehicles. (P.A. 101-0173).
Drivers who have been breaking the latter law, known as Scott's Law, has been a particular source of frustration for Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly and others. At least 16 state troopers alone have been hit or killed on roadways by drivers who didn't give them enough space.
“All first responders...leave their homes every day, go to work, and risk their lives to protect you and I," Kelly said during an event in May. "Please, do your part to protect the people who took an oath to protect you.”
Starting January 1, if a driver doesn’t slow down or move over, they’ll be looking at a minimum $250 dollar ticket. Any money generated by that will now go into a special fund that will pay to educate drivers about Scott’s Law.
It's also about to get more expensive to park your car in an Illinois garage. Included in the capital plan state lawmakers approved this year, P.A. 101-0031, is a new six percent tax on short term parking stays -- i.e. for those paying by the hour, day, or week. The tax will be nine percent tax on monthly and annual rates. Illinois’ Department of Revenue spokesman Sam Salustro estimates that will bring in an extra $60 million per year.
"The state was in dire need of new state financing for critical infrastructure projects, and this will be growing and creating hundreds of jobs across the state over the course of the capital bill, and that’s directly where this revenue is going," Salustro said.
The new tax will not apply to parking lots owned and operated by units of government, state universities and hospitals. Anyone who rents a parking space as part of their lease will also be exempt.
That same capital plan also lowered the tax cap for vehicle trade-in deals to $10,000 from $20,000. That means local and state sales tax will now any trade-ins valued at $10,000 or more.
Perhaps the most talked-about new law in Illinois this year (P.A. 101-0027), legalized recreational marijuana sales will start at 35 locations throughout the state on New Year's Day, while local law enforcement agencies will be processing the first of hundreds of thousands of record expungements for people convicted of non-violent pot crimes.
You can find a full round-up on the new law from NPR Illinois reporter Maureen McKinney here. She asked lawmakers, business owners, and advocates dozens of questions about possession, prices and even drug testing.
Criminal Justice & Legal
Survivors of sexual assault now have even more protections under new Illinois laws that kick in come January. Per an anti-sexual assault omnibus law, P.A. 101-0221, all public and private Illinois employers will now have to provide anti-harassment training for their employees. The state’s Department of Human Rights will come up with guidelines for the training requirement and will offer a training course for free.
Employers will also be prohibited from using non-disclosure agreements to keep employees quiet about workplace sexual violence, a strategy that had been used in the past to stifle workers from coming forward. Rep. Ann Williams (D, Chicago), one of the law's sponsors, said that was needed to encourage more folks to come forward if they’re a survivor.
"We wanted to grow the scope of what is covered by ours laws," Williams states on her legislative website.
The statute of limitations for sexual assault will soon be removed in Illinois via P.A. 101-0130, allowing survivors to pursue charges against a harasser at any point in time.
Other changes in the criminal justice area include an end to the practice of billing prisoners for their stays in Illinois correctional facilities, otherwise known as "Pay to Stay" (P.A. 101-0235). People who file for divorce will also no longer need to get a petition or give public notice in order to legally change their names (P.A. 101-0203).
Public Health & Equity
Insurance coverage was a big theme among public health advocates in Springfield this year. As a result, there are a couple of new laws that require insurers to cover things like epipens (P.A. 101-0281), mammograms (P.A. 101-0580), and even skin cancer screenings (P.A. 101-0500). State lawmakers approved a separate law requiring coverage of insulin medication that will take effect later in 2020.
P.A. 101-0179 includes new legal protections for those that donate organs. An employer can neither retaliate against donors if they ask for time off to donate, and an insurer can’t deny them coverage just because they donate organs. Kevin Cmunt, president and CEO of the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, said organ donors have feared financial consequences of donating in the past.
"[If] they're giving a part of themselves to save a friend or even a stranger [means] they shouldn't be asked to give up their time off or financial compensation," Cmunt said.
A few new Illinois laws regarding bathrooms will also be taking effect. After January 1, there must be at least one baby-changing facility in all public bathrooms, whether for men, women, or transgender folks (P.A. 101-0293). All single-occupancy restrooms must be made available to anyone, regardless of gender. P.A. 101-0165 states any exterior signage on those bathrooms can't indicate what gender they are intended for.
Included among the new state laws in this area is P.A. 101-0448, which is an attempt to get more of Illinois' top-performing students to consider staying in-state for college. The top 10% of graduating high school seniors will now be automatically admitted to each of the directional state universities (think Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western Illinois Universities). The law excludes the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Governors State University, Northeastern Illinois University, and Chicago State University.
Illinois high schoolers will now also be able to take career prep and technical education courses in place of a math course and still fulfill graduation requirements, per P.A. 101-0464.
In the age of at-home DNA testing kits from companies like 23andMe, state lawmakers approved what are designed to be protections for consumers who use the kits. According to P.A. 101-0132, DNA companies can no longer share personally identifiable info with health or life insurance companies without a consumer's consent. One of the law's sponsors, State Rep. Johnathan Carroll (D, Northbrook) said he and others attempted to "get ahead" of potential abuse of newly-available genetic information.
"We always want to protect people’s information especially around health," Carroll wrote in an email statement. "This measure will allow consumers to make decisions on how this information will be used."
Those who fall victim to revenge pornography also now have new legal protections. The Removal of Compromising Images Act, P.A. 101-0385, allows Illinoisans to file a petition for a take-down order and even seek legal damages from someone who knowingly posts a private image or video without that person's consent.
You can find a full list of new laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly this year at this link.
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