New Illinois laws take effect on January 1

Published: Dec. 28, 2022 at 5:51 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Over 180 new laws will take effect in Illinois on Jan. 1. From criminal justice reform to health care and education, there are plenty of changes you should know about before Sunday.

The pretrial fairness portion of the SAFE-T Act is the most popular law taking effect on New Year’s Day. Anyone charged with a crime on or after Jan. 1 will enter into the pretrial fairness system. No one should consider this to be a purge when the clock strikes midnight as there will be a tiered system for granting pretrial fairness hearings for people currently in jail.

Judges will prioritize low-level non-violent offenders with cases heard within seven days. People detained and considered to be flight risks will get hearings within 60 days while criminals who could be dangerous to public safety would have hearings within 90 days.

Pretrial release can be denied for anyone charged with a felony who poses a real and present threat to a person or the community based on specific facts of a case. Judges can also deny pretrial release for anyone charged with forcible felonies such as treason, murder, and sexual assault or more intense crimes like reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

”I know that I’ll say that this is my version of the Voting Rights Act,” said Sen. Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “This is my version of Obamacare. This is what I did in Springfield and changed the fortune for thousands of working-class Illinoisans.”

Another new law adds fair housing protections to the state’s Human Rights Act to stop discrimination against people trying to get affordable housing based on their legal source of income. This change applies to non-employment income such as Section 8 vouchers or disability payments. Sponsors said no one should be denied housing when they have the means to pay rent.

“Refusing to rent to a housing applicant because of their source of income disproportionately affects renters of color, women, and persons with disabilities,” said Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Jim Bennett. “Through the hard work of dedicated housing rights advocates along with our housing team at the Illinois Department of Human Rights, HB2775 ensures that a single parent in Quincy, a veteran in Murphysboro, or a retiree in East Peoria can now seek affordable housing without fear that their lawful source of income will be rejected.”

Meanwhile, state lawmakers passed a plan encouraging schools to teach safe gun storage to students in every grade to prevent future shootings. Safe gun storage will be added to required topics for safety education courses that could be taught at Illinois public schools.

”It really just provides a framework that schools can use and they can play a role in keeping students and families safe,” said Rep. Maura Hirschauer (D-Batavia).

This plan received strong bipartisan support as it moved out of both chambers this spring. It passed out of the House on a 99-5 vote on March 4 and the Senate voted 53-0 to send it to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk in April.

A separate law will lower the fees older adults and people with disabilities pay to renew their license plates. Drivers who qualify for the Illinois Department on Aging (IDOA) Benefit Access Program will only pay $10 for license plate stickers compared to the current price of $24. To qualify, Illinoisans must be at least 65, or 16 and disabled and meet an annual income cap of $33,562.

“During this time of high inflation, many older adults are finding it increasingly difficult to cover everyday expenses,” said IDOT Director Paula Basta. “This income-based discount on license plate renewals is welcome news for older drivers, helping them save money and keep their vehicle registration current.”

Senate Bill 3616 addresses negative perceptions of hairstyles such as dreadlocks, twists, and braids traditionally worn by Black people. The law codifies protections for Illinoisans discriminated against due to hairstyles historically associated with specific racial groups.

”We had our own stories about being treated as though we were not professional, or on par, simply because of the way that our hair grows out of our head,” said Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria).

Illinois will also recognize emergency medical dispatchers as first responders on Jan. 1. The recognition would allow dispatchers to be eligible for more benefits and they would join the ranks of other frontline workers during the pandemic. Sponsors hope the law will bring more attention to the current shortage of dispatchers and first responders.

“Dispatchers are there to answer the initial call on probably, 99% of the time, the worst day of someone’s life,” Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) said. “They not only work to protect first responders and keep us safe, but also the citizens of our communities.”

Another plan will include information about mental health resources and specialized treatment in health education programs for elementary and secondary schools. It also calls for the inclusion of more voices in decisions made about mental health programs for young people in Illinois.

”My goal here is to make sure that we have a full set of perspectives at the discussion around youth mental health,” said Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago). “Nothing in this bill that we have drafted would exclude anybody from participation.”

Illinois coroners and medical examiners will be required to notify the FBI when human remains are not identified within 72 hours of discovery. The FBI would be allowed to work alongside the Illinois State Police for those investigations. This new state law honors the life of former Illinois State University student Jelani Day. The Black graduate student went missing in the Twin Cities in late August of last year. His body was found in the Illinois River in LaSalle County on Sept. 4, but wasn’t positively identified for almost three weeks after that. Authorities said they believe Day drowned, but Carmen Bolden Day, thinks foul play was involved in her son’s death.

People shouldn’t forget that the minimum wage will also increase by another dollar in 2023. Minimum wage workers will make $13 per hour while workers earning tips will see their wage increase to $7.80 an hour. Part-time or seasonal workers under 18 will earn $10.50 per hour starting Jan. 1.

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