Springfield Business Journal Articles


New Year -- New Laws

For all the talk of last minute executive orders and appointments out of the Governor’s Mansion, our Illinois legislature actually passed and enacted some significant new legislation that became effective on January 1, 2015. Some of these laws haven’t really been publicized, yet they may well impact your life. Here’s a quick summary of some of the most important of the more than 200 new laws for 2015.

Boating.  Lake Springfield and other Central Illinois lakes are at the heart of many social plans. Ignorance of a few new laws, however, may ruin those weekend outings.
First, any boat that tows a person must display a bright orange flag continuously from the time that person gets into the water until she gets out. It must be visible from all directions and needs to be displayed at the highest part of the boat in the area surrounding the helm.

    Second, starting in 2016, anyone born after January 1, 1998 must successfully take an Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved certification course before operating a boat with an engine larger than ten horsepower. State Senator Morrison, who sponsored the law, stated that “We require people who drive cars to get licenses; it only makes sense to ask people who operate powerful boats to have some safety training.”  

    Finally, a new law brings boating DUI penalties more in line with those for the terrestrial world. Get convicted of more than 3 boating DUIs or operate one with a revoked license and you can have your boat seized and taken away. Be smart – don’t drink and boat.

Driving. You will all be happy to know that law enforcement agencies can no longer require ticket quotas of their officers. And, Illinois has now joined most of the rest of the 50 states in no longer allowing officers to hold driver’s licenses hostage pending resolution of minor traffic offenses. Given increasing identity requirements, this is a particularly welcome change.

Employment. One of the more significant new laws is known as “Ban the Box.” It states that, for private companies that employ more than 15 employees, it’s now illegal for an employment application to inquire of one’s criminal records. This is usually seen with an application that contains a “check the box” if you’ve been convicted of a crime. Such inquiries may now only be made during the interview or, if there’s no interview, after a conditional offer of employment has been made. The theory is that applicants should have a chance to explain in person why they have a criminal background.

Also, all employers must now provide “reasonable accommodations” for all working pregnant employees unless doing to would case “undue hardship.”

Real Estate. If you sell or buy residential real estate without a licensed broker, be aware that the property disclosure statute has changed. For the first time in many, many years there are new conditions that must be disclosed – defective doors and windows, problems with asbestos or lead paint, and whether the house has ever been used as a meth lab. If you’re one of those who’s been using the same form year after year, wise up and get with the times.

Technology/Schools. A new law charges public schools with addressing “cyber bullying” even when it occurs off of school property and uses private equipment. The law only applies when the bullying causes a substantial disruption at school. Opponents of the law claim that it is unconstitutional and places an unrealistic burden on schools. I wouldn’t be surprised to see litigation regarding this new law. Also, newly constructed schools must now contain storm shelters.

Consumers. E-cigarettes must now be sold from behind a counter, in an age-restricted area or in a sealed display case. And, sellers of goods to so-called “resale dealers” (such as swapshops, cash for gold operators, and jewelers) must now provide adequate identification information so that the items being sold can be traced. Interestingly, the law does not apply to pawnshops or coin dealers.

Taxes. In response to a recent Supreme Court case throwing out the so-called “Amazon” tax, the legislature rewrote the definition of out-of-state sellers who must now collect sales tax. 

Crime. In a significant win for crime victims, they must now be notified of an offender’s parole release.  And, another new law prohibits the release of a victim’s identification other than to law enforcement officials or others authorized to receive such information.

If your minor children have had some brushes with the law, there’s also good news.  All arrest records for minors (whether felony or misdemeanor) where the arrest does not result in charges being filed will automatically be expunged when the minor turns 18 (with some exceptions.) The theory is that this should eliminate barriers to education, employment, housing or the military.

Similarly, adults convicted of municipal ordinances (other than speeding or minor traffic offenses) constituting Class C misdemeanors can petition a court to expunge those records two years after completion of sentence.

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