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The Illinois General Assembly approved several bills in 2014 that will add new regulations to businesses. While some of the bills that were approved and signed into law have merit, most place additional mandates onto the backs of business owners and further define Illinois as a "business-unfriendly" state. New laws that will affect businesses as of January 1 include:

PA 98-0776 (SB 1098) Corporate Liability post dissolution
Allows for a corporation that has been dissolved to continue to be liable up to five years after the dissolution.  Any legitimate claim against the corporation could be from any period before, during, or after dissolution up to five years.  The law reverses a decision made by the Illinois Supreme Court.

PA 98-0774 (HB 5701) ‘Ban the Box’ bill
Prohibits employers from seeking information regarding a potential employee’s criminal history until after an invitation to interview or a conditional offer of employment has been extended.  Intended to allow job seekers with criminal history to be considered on their merits and experience rather than being dismissed out of hand for an offense

PA 98-0862 (HB 5622) Payroll cards
This law establishes requirements and regulations for the use of payroll cards by employers - stored value cards offered by some companies to their employees as an alternative to payroll checks or direct deposit. Payroll cards are similar to debit cards and can be used to make purchases or withdraw cash at ATMs. Regulations include prohibiting the employer from forcing an employee to accept a payroll card in lieu of other payment, and ensuring the employer provides a complete written explanation of the terms and conditions of the payroll card account including any fees that may be involved.

PA 98-0911 (HB 4790) Hair braiding licensure standards
Provides that an individual licensed as a hair braider teacher may practice hair braiding without being licensed as a hair braider.  The purpose of this change is to bring the same standards to barber oversight as is done with cosmetology.

PA 98-1037 (HB 4157) Employee status for interns
Adopts the federal definition of “intern” to the Illinois Human Rights Act, giving employee status to unpaid interns at Illinois businesses for the purpose of sexual harassment claims.  An “intern” is considered an employee if:   the employer & intern agree to no wages; employer is not committed to hiring the person; and the closely supervised work provides experience for the benefit of the person performing the work, but does not displace regular employees.

PA 98-1119 (SB 3405) Protecting small businesses from patent trolls
Any person sending demand letters about patent infringement must have an actual legal claim that is valid. Offenders will be subject to sanctions for engaging in a deceptive business practice.

PA 98-1051 (HB 5563)   Equal pay investigations
Allows Departments of Labor (DOL) and Human Rights (DHR) to combine Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination investigations and investigate an equal pay violation when a sex discrimination violation is also alleged, so that employers do not have to undergo TWO investigations.

PA 98-1050 (HB 8) Workplace pregnancy accommodations 
Provides that it is a civil rights violation for employers: to not to make reasonable accommodations for employees with conditions commonly related to childbirth or pregnancy; to require a job applicant or employee to accept accommodations; to require an employee to take leave for a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy; or to retaliate against a person who has requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use a reasonable accommodation.

PA 98-0838 (SB 2999) Licensing of roofing contractors
An applicant for licensure must submit to IDFPR evidence that they have an unemployment insurance employer account number issued by IDES, and that there is not a delinquency in payment under the Unemployment Insurance Act.  All persons performing roofing services under the Act shall be licensed as roofing contractors, except for persons who are deemed to be employees of a licensed roofing contractor.

PA 98-0874 (SB 1103) Occupational Safety and Health Act
This new Act, like the two Acts it replaces, applies only to public employers (the federal OSHA Act governs occupational health and safety in the private sector). One new change in the combined Act allows the Attorney General to bring an action in a circuit court to enforce the collection of any civil penalty assessed under the Act.

PA 98-1096 (SB 1778) Resale Dealers Act
The act requires that a resale dealer maintain a standard record book that has been approved by local law enforcement. It provides that the resale dealer shall record a detailed account of each transaction in the record book and establishes additional requirements concerning record books. Further provides that every resale dealer shall require that ID be shown by each person selling any goods, articles, or other things to the resale dealer and establishes additional requirements concerning acceptable forms of ID. It establishes criminal offenses that a person may be charged with for violating the Act, and amends the Pawnbroker Regulation Act to repeal a provision concerning requirements for unregistered buyers conducting business at temporary buying locations. Defines resale dealer.
Of the 200+ new laws that will take effect on Thursday of this week, several will affect drivers and the transportation industry. The new laws include:

PA 98-1074 (HB 5326) Public transportation registration fees
There is an annual $8 registration fee for all PACE vehicles.  This law changes the annual fee to a one-time $8 fee.

PA 98-1103 (SB 2802) Proof of online license plate renewal
Allows a printed receipt of online license plate renewal to serve as proof of renewal until the sticker is received in the mail.

PA 98-0726 (HB 4422) Secretary of State omnibus bill
The omnibus bill for the Secretary of State makes the following changes: under the Illinois Identification Card Act, expands the definition of “disability” to include “oncological impairments” within Class 1A and Class 2A disabilities. It also amended the Illinois Vehicle Code concerning the Secretary of State’s discretionary authority to suspend or revoke the driver’s license or permit of military personnel. It removes the “J48 restriction” from statute. This restriction limits a driver to operating only a school bus and no other type of commercial motor vehicle.

PA 98-0870 (SB 2583) “Sign and drive” in Illinois
This new law institutes “sign and drive” in Illinois by prohibiting the confiscation of a motorist’s driver’s license as bail when stopped and cited for a minor (no jail time) traffic offense.  Since 9/11, the need for appropriate, state-issued photo identification has become a necessity in order to travel, obtain health-care, renting vehicles, etc. The driver’s license is still the standard, accepted form of photo identification.

PA 98-0746 (HB 5895) Nighttime BiOptic driving permits
Allows persons using non-traditional visual aid instruments, such as BiOptics, to apply for a special, restricted driver’s training permit. Currently, no process exists for drivers who wear bioptic lenses to practice driving prior to taking the nighttime road test. The permit would allow the applicant to drive from sunset to 10:00 p.m. for six months as long as the applicant is accompanied by a person who has a valid driver’s license with no nighttime driving restrictions. BiOptic glasses are vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification.

PA 98-0747 (HB 5897) BiOptic driving license renewal 
Allows people who utilize BiOptics (vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification) for nighttime driving to take a behind-the-wheel road renewal test every 4 years instead of annually. Maintains provisions in current law that require all BiOptic lens wearers to submit a Vision Specialist Report each year. Specifies that the Secretary of State may cancel a special restricted license for nighttime driving if the licensee violates any provision of the Illinois Vehicle Code during nighttime hours or is involved in a motor vehicle accident during nighttime hours for which the license holder is at fault.

PA 98-0737 (HB 5468) Window tinting certificate renewal
Permits a person who has been issued medical certificates allowing tinted windows on their vehicle to renew their medical certificate every 4 years rather than annually.

PA 98-0734 (HB 4743) County procedures for release of impounded vehicles
Counties, in addition to municipalities, may adopt administrative procedures for the release of impounded vehicles. This legislation is intended to be a source of income for counties on impounded vehicles that were used in commission of specified offenses and for the imposition of a reasonable administrative fee related to the county’s administrative and processing costs associate with the removal, impoundment, storage, and release of the vehicle.

PA 98-0884 (HB 3685) Waivers for licenses for certain bus drivers
Drivers of buses for religious organizations, senior citizen transportation services and for-profit ridesharing arrangement services are required to hold a valid drivers’ license for three years prior to the date of their application. This law allows an applicant to remain eligible if their license lapsed for less than 30 days during that time, and to apply for a waiver from the Secretary of State if the lapse was longer.

PA 98-0971 (SB 3402) Vehicular Dealer Plates & Repair
Provides that dealer plates issued by another state shall exempt a vehicle from the registration requirements of the Illinois Vehicle Code only while it is being transported to a repair facility within this State as evidenced by a work order or contract with the repair facility, and is displayed to a law enforcement officer upon request.

PA 98-0847 (SB 3290) Noise exemptions at off-road riding facilities
In a Section concerning off-road riding facilities, exempts owners or operators from civil and criminal liability arising out of or as a consequence of noise or sound emissions resulting from the use (instead of "normal use") of the off-road riding facility.

PA 98-0728 (HB 4687) Fees for shipping radioactive material 
For truck shipments of less than 100 miles in Illinois that consist entirely of cobalt-60 or other medical isotopes or both, the $2,500 per truck fee shall be reduced to $1,500 for the first truck and $750 for each additional truck in the same shipment.
Many bills were approved in 2014 and affect units of state and local government. As of January 1, 2015, the following bills will be in effect:

PA 98-0894 (HB 4208) Ethics laws for county appointees
Current law states that a member of a governmental entity appointed by a county board president or chairperson shall abide by certain ethics laws. This new statute extends that requirement to include persons appointed by any member or members of the county board.

PA 98-1116 (SB 3294) Labeling recycling bins
Municipalities and counties may require household good recycling bins to be labeled with the contact information of the owning or operating entity and whether they are a not-for-profit or for-profit entity.

PA 98-1118 (SB 3314) Municipal clerk training institute membership makeup
Deputy clerks are now permitted to sit on the Municipal Clerk Training Institute Committee while eight of the committee’s nine ex-officio positions were eliminated.

PA 98-1108 (SB 2980) Copies of township financial statement
This law permits townships to distribute copies of the financial statement to the electors at the annual meeting, instead of reading it.

PA 98-0779 (SB 3552) Collar Counties code of conduct
This law allows for Lake, Kane, Will, McHenry, and DuPage Counties to establish a code of conduct by ordinance for appointees appointed by the county board chairman or county executive. It permits removal of appointees for the violation of a code of conduct with 2/3’s vote of the county board.

PA 98-0930 (HB 5623) Local government email
Local officials will be required to each maintain an email address accessible to members of the public. The law does allow for the use of uniform single email addresses (for multiple officials) or individual email addresses. The addresses don’t have to be searchable but available through a hyperlink on the website.

PA 98-0942 (SB 2620) Weight limit standards for emergency repair vehicles
During an emergency, such as flooding, sewer trucks may need to operate with heavier loads to facilitate completion of emergency work. The current maximum weight limit for sewer trucks is 40,000 pounds. This law allows these trucks to operate up to 66,000 pounds when they are operated or hired by a municipality and executing the emergency repair of sewers. These vehicles may not operate on interstate highways or bridges, and the law only applies to Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage, and Will Counties.

PA 98-1083 (HB 5812) Guidelines for county officials serving on not-for-profit board
Provides under certain circumstances, an elected county official may hold a position on a board of a not-for-profit conducting business in the same county.

PA 98-1085 (HB 5889) Judicial fee increase for Will County judicial facility
Allows the Will County Board to collect new judicial facilities fees, to a maximum of $30, charged in both civil and criminal cases at the time of a judgment. Includes felonies, misdemeanors, local or county ordinances, traffic violations, and conservation cases. The fees collected will help the County pay for a new judicial facility.

PA 98-1078 (HB 5592) Reversionary annuities
This law allows members of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund to make an irrevocable election of a reversionary annuity before retirement.

PA 98-0854 (SB 499) Expands America’s Central Port District
This initiative of the Tri-City Regional Port District expands its authority, adds portions of Jersey County to the district, increases the board’s size from 7 to 9 members, and changes the name to create the new America's Central Port District. Under the new law the District will be also be able to acquire and maintain aquariums, sports facilities, museums and also factories or residential buildings. It also expands the District's ability to borrow money from banks by lengthening the repayment period from 3 years to 20 years.

PA 98-1087 (SB 229) Boards and commissions membership demographic data
Requires the Governor's Office of Boards and Commissions to establish and maintain on the Internet a uniform application that includes a data field where an applicant shall disclose his or her ethnicity, gender, and disability status for reporting purposes. Beginning October 1, 2015 and every year after, the Governor shall file a report with the General Assembly outlining the demographics.

PA 98-1084 (HB 5853) Government agencies online phonebook
Requires the Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal web site to include a link to a website maintained by CMS that contains a list of contact information for each State agency, including a telephone number and a link to the Agency's website. Further clarifies that each State agency shall be responsible for providing and updating CMS with its contact information.

PA 98-1076 (HB 5491) Procurement efficiency 
This law requires the Procurement Policy Board to create efficiency reviews. This simply provides greater efficiency and transparency in the Procurement Code.

PA 98-1027 (SB 3056) RTA reform omnibus bill

This legislation is intended to enhance transparency of the operations and financial expenditures of RTA, CTA, PACE and METRA. It is intended to provide services for areas that currently lack service, but are geographically located in the RTA service area. Changes include a requirement that RTA shall cooperate with other governmental and private agencies in bikeway and trail programs, and a requirement that RTA must consult with IDOT’s division of Programming and Planning when developing RTA’s strategic plan.

In 2014, the General Assembly approved several bills to assist our veterans, the military, and their families. Those bills were signed into law and include:

PA 98-0879 (SB 3255) Eases requirements for disabled veteran parking placards
This law removes a requirement that a disabled parking placard or decal which has been issued to a veteran must be renewed every four years. The new law states that once a disabled parking placard or decal has been issued to a veteran who has been permanently disabled, that veteran does not have to keep coming back to the Secretary of State’s office for a renewal every four years.

PA 98-0960 (SB 3225) Veterans awareness training for law enforcement officers 
The law provides that the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board may conduct or approve a training program in veterans' awareness for law enforcement officers of local government agencies. It further provides that the purpose of the program shall be to identify issues relating to veterans and to provide guidelines for appropriate responses to such issues. Each local government agency is encouraged to designate an individual to respond to veterans' issues.

PA 98-0869 (HB 5475) Gold Star specialty license plates
Surviving sons and daughters of military Gold Star recipients are now included among those who may be issued Gold Star specialty license plates by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. Those already eligible for the plates are surviving widows/widowers, siblings and parents.

PA 98-0902 (HB 4491) Purple Heart license plate fee waiver 
To honor those who have served in the military and earned the Purple Heart, Illinois will now waive the payment of any registration or registration renewal fee for an individual issued a Purple Heart license plate. The law will also allow individuals who have been issued the Purple Heart license plate and qualify under the Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons Property Tax Relief Act to obtain a plate for an additional vehicle for a $24 registration fee.
More than 200 new laws will take effect in Illinois on January. Several of the new laws affect drivers. Others affect children, their rights and their safety. Several new laws pertain to the welfare of Illinois citizens. Click here to learn about a few of the more noteworthy new laws that take effect on January 1st, 2015.

Today is a sad day for Illinois. Please keep Judy Baar Topinka's family and loved ones in your prayers.

Legislators completed their Veto Session tasks last week, and we are now back in our home districts until we return to Springfield for the Inauguration of the 99th General Assembly in mid-January.  My office staff and I are available to assist you with issues you may be having regarding state agencies. Please feel free to contact my Palatine office any time at, or at (847)202-6584. The office is typically open from 8:30 to 4:30, but please call ahead of time if you wish to stop by. In observance of the holidays, however, the office will be closed Dec. 24, 25, and 26 and Dec. 31, Jan. 1, and Jan. 2, except by appointment.

I’m pleased to report that there are some key positives that came out of our final week of Veto Session.

No Lame Duck Session: With the banging of the final gavel on Wednesday, the House adjourned sine die, which means “without day.”  This makes it highly unlikely that a Lame Duck Session (when unpopular legislation is typically passed by lawmakers who are leaving office) will take place.  Only a call by Gov. Quinn for special session could bring the General Assembly (GA) back before the 99th GA is sworn in the second week of January.

Citizens will see tax relief in 2015: On January 1, the temporary income tax hike of 2011 will sunset as originally promised. If you recall, the 67% income tax hike was approved during a Lame Duck Session in 2011. Lawmakers who either lost their re-election bids or were retiring by choice were pressured into voting in favor of the tax increase, in many cases in exchange for lucrative post-statehouse jobs. I have been a fierce advocate for the on-time expiration of this irresponsible tax increase.

Senate Bill 16 is Dead: All pending legislation from the 98th General Assembly expires when the 99th GA is seated on January 14, 2015. Among the expiring bills is SB16, the controversial school funding formula rewrite, which sought to strip suburban Cook County school districts of millions in General State Aid. Collar County legislators fought hard to stop the bill, but a real impact was felt because of the massive opposition shown by residents whose school districts would have been unfairly punished through the provisions of the bill. More than 7,000 citizens filed opposition slips on line with the committees that met to gather testimony on SB16, and another 4,700 people signed an on-line petition against it. Additionally, legislators’ offices were flooded with phone calls and emails from citizens expressing their dislike of SB16. I expect the school funding conversation will extend into 2015 and that new legislation will be filed to change the formula. My hope is that the next bill will not pit the collar counties against the Chicago Public and downstate schools. The ultimate reforms need to be fair to all.

While we can celebrate these significant positives, the majority party in Springfield did take advantage of the waning days of the Quinn administration to push through some legislation that I feel is damaging to Illinois taxpayers, hurts businesses, and hinders job creation.

Sweeping Changes to Illinois Voting Made Permanent: Calling the measure “Chicago politics at its worst,” House Republicans opposed SB 172, which allows political workers to bundle absentee ballots, and authorizes election clerks to start processing mail-in votes before Election Day.  It imposes expensive new unfunded mandates upon election authorities, including burdens that will weigh especially heavily upon smaller, rural, and downstate election authorities.  It authorizes election judges to register new voters in person on Election Day. The bill also puts a permanent provision in place that prohibits election judges from requiring voters to show a photo I.D. before voting. While the bill did include a few good components, our caucus was opposed to the permanent approval of these voting changes before we could properly analyze the temporary changes that were put in place as a trial measure for the November 4 election. My colleague Representative Jeanne Ives’ comments during the debate outlined many of our concerns about the bill. You can watch her comments here.

General Assembly Approves Bill to Impose Automatic Savings Deductions upon Illinois Paychecks: The Secure Choice Savings Program Act (SB 2758) passes along yet another unfunded mandate to Illinois small businesses. The Act is based on an assumption that persons age 18 and up who are employed in Illinois should save money with money managers.  The new program will automatically deduct 3% from employees’ paychecks unless they explicitly drop out of the savings program.  The program will apply, as a mandate, to all places of employment that are at least two years old and are without existing savings plans that have employed 25 employees or more throughout the previous calendar year.  Approximately 2.5 million Illinois workers could be affected. I certainly encourage workers to save more for today and for retirement, but many of us who voted NO considered this bill to be a government overreach.  Furthermore, there are still many unanswered questions about how the program will be run and what the tax implications will be for participants.

Sweeping Changes to Jury Structure and Pay Approved: Current law provides that in most cases tried under the Code of Civil Procedure, a 12-member jury shall be empaneled.  SB 3075 reduces this headcount, in almost all cases, from twelve jury members to six jury members. The only remaining twelve-member juries would be those agreed to by both parties prior to the start of the trial.  SB 3075 also contains language that increases the daily rates paid by counties to their jury members.  The new jury pay schedule mandates that jury members be paid at least $25 and up for each day of service.  The actual pay rate will be determined by a sliding scale based on the population of the county where the jury member is empaneled. House Republicans were deeply concerned about the political way this proposal was abruptly unveiled in the House and passed, in violation of norms that call for changes in court procedure to be extensively discussed by diverse legal practitioners before adoption.  As a bloc we voted against the measure.

I wish each of you a very happy and blessed holiday season this year and hope you are able to enjoy time with friends, family and other loved ones.