The New Year provides an opportunity to outline goals and expectations for the future. It is also an occasion to reflect on the events of the past and learn for those experiences.
The year was distinguished by some success. One of the greatest legislative achievements was the negotiation of public employee pension reform. While an extremely difficult and emotional process, I believe the law is fair to the workers who depend on the system as well as Illinois taxpayers. This reform is the foundation of predictability in state finances. It ensures security for state retirees, saves taxpayers and reassures employers as they make decisions on investing in Illinois. While we have a great deal more to do to improve Illinois’ jobs climate, this is a start.
Several state budget transparency and accountability measures I sponsored will take effect Jan. 1, 2014. These laws will allow taxpayers to more easily review how state grant monies are being used and prohibit state grant funds from being used for political purposes.
I was also proud to sponsor an important public health law that takes effect with the New Year. Children younger than 18 will no longer be able to use indoor UV tanning beds. Indoor tanning is a known carcinogen that increases the chance of melanoma by 75 percent for young people. It’s my hope that this new law will save lives and educate the public about the very serious health effects associated with indoor tanning. “Sunless” or spray tanning is exempt.
Motorists will also want to be aware of two new laws. As of Jan. 1, Illinois will ban the use of cell phones while driving unless using hands-free technology. Violating this new law will cost $75 for a first offense and repeat offenders could see fines of $150.
Many Illinois drivers will likely be more excited about the law increasing Illinois’ maximum speed limit to 70 mph. It may take until mid-January before Interstate speed limit signs are updated across the state, but soon Illinois will join the 34 other states with speed limits of 70 mph or more. However, be aware—a provision in the law allows Cook County and the collar counties to opt out of the higher speed limit.
Also taking effect at the turn of the year: Illinois’ new medical marijuana law, which legally allows authorized patients to use medical marijuana. Once the new law becomes effective Jan. 1, state departments will have 120 days to write the rules necessary for developing a registry of patients allowed to use marijuana and govern medical marijuana cultivation centers and dispensaries.
These are just some of the more than 200 new laws that take effect Jan. 1. For information on all new laws, visit the Senate Republican website at www.senategop.state.il.us.
Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy New Year.
Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) is a state senator for Illinois' 41st Senate District and the Illinois Senate Republican Leader.