Governor Pat Quinn finished 2013 by signing a dozen bills into law before the New Year began, including a “clean-up” of the state’s new medical marijuana law, an extension of deadlines affecting those who treat sex offenders, and controversial measures authorizing an increase in court fees and allowing the state Comptroller to intervene in some labor disputes.
Concealed Carry Applications Begin
In the meantime, the Illinois State Police (ISP) are promising they are ready to begin accepting applications under the state’s new Concealed Carry law starting January 5. Applicants can apply through the ISP Concealed Carry Web site.
Although applications start this month, the new law gives the state police 90 days to actually issue a license. The State Police and other concealed carry advocates are urging applicants to make sure they have all the necessary documentation in hand in order to speed up the application process.
While much of the national media has focused on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, Illinois’ new medical marijuana law also went into effect. It is much more restrictive, limiting access only to those with specific medical conditions.
Shortly before the New Year began, Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill 1955, which served as a “trailer” or follow up measure to the state’s medical marijuana law. It makes several technical changes including:
• Removes “complex regional pain syndrome type 1” and “complex regional pain syndrome type II” from the list of debilitating medical conditions.
• Moves the statutory language regarding driving under the influence of medical cannabis to a new section, and adds in notification language to patients regarding the penalties for driving under the influence.
Sex Offender Treatment
Another important bill signed into law seeks to assure that the state’s mental health treatment system for sex offenders continues to function. Senate Bill 1600 extends the effective date for implementing new licensing and disciplinary processes for sex offender evaluators and treatment. Existing qualifications for licensure are extended until January 1, 2015.
If this date had not been extended Illinois could have been without approved sex offender evaluators and sex offender treatment providers. It also makes changes to the standards that a treatment provider and evaluator must meet. This change will allow those with experience, including experience as a supervisor, to be grandfathered in. It also clarifies the dissemination/remittance process of the existing sex offender registration fee.
Court Fees Controversial
A controversial measure signed by the Governor would increase two fees that circuit court clerks may charge. House Bill 2327 increases from $15 to $25, the maximum charge for a court automation fee and a court document fee.
However, it wasn’t the fees themselves that generated the controversy, so much as the Cook County Democrat whose office stands to gain from the fees. The fee change was sought by Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who has been the subject of several investigations by the Better Government Association (BGA). One investigation charged that the Cook County Circuit Clerk’s Office is riddled with patronage workers among its 1,800 employees. A November investigation by the BGA found she had failed to report that a campaign contributor had given her husband a building and an October investigation showed that the appeals process for hundreds of Illinois prisoners needlessly dragged on because Brown’s office lost or misplaced critical records.
Funeral Home Labor Disputes
Another controversial bill signed by the Governor could put the state Comptroller in the middle of labor disputes involving funeral homes. Senate Bill 1787 gives the state Comptroller the ability to deny, revoke or suspend a funeral home license if the license holder is engaged in a labor lockout and the Comptroller believes that the lockout will negatively affect consumers.
The measure was controversial because it effectively gives the Comptroller the ability to interfere in labor disagreements and could put a funeral home out of business. Opponents also raised concerns that the measure could violate federal labor laws.
Other New Laws
Several other bills were signed into law in the final days of 2013, including:
Home Foreclosure (SB 1045): Extends the state’s Making Home Affordable program for two years (from January 1, 2014, to January 1, 2016). This program was designed to aid eligible homeowners facing foreclosure by lowering their monthly mortgage payments to a more manageable level. The reduction in payments may be accomplished either through refinancing or modification of the existing mortgage.
Developmental Disabilities (HB 2535): Creates a Developmental Disabilities Regulatory Advisory Board to advise the Department of Human Services (DHS) on proposed rules affecting developmental disabilities, in particular, the board is to provide advice regarding rules and regulations that impact community integrated living arrangements.
Rural Ambulance Services (HB 2778): Allows a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to perform medical services that they are licensed for regardless of the level of the ambulance to which they are assigned. This only applies to ambulance service providers that serve a rural population under 7,500. This is intended to assure that rural residents have access to the highest available level of emergency medical services, even if a local ambulance provider might not ordinarily qualify to provide those services.
Teacher Licensing (SB 578): Establishes renewal procedures for the Professional Educator License for teachers. In 2011, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1799, which established a new system for educator licensure within Illinois. Senate Bill 578 is follow-up legislation and addresses professional development activities required for licensure renewal.
Meat and Poultry Inspection (SB 1470): Updates state law to match new federal standards for meat and poultry inspection.
Property Tax Errors (HB 1604): Allows the Chief County Assessment Officer (outside of Cook County) to declare property that has been granted a homestead exemption that it was not entitled to as omitted property for that taxable year only. Omitted property is property that should have been assessed, but was not for a variety of reasons, including error and fraud. Property assessed incorrectly by fault of the taxpayer is subject to 10% interest for each year (or portion of a year) from two years after the first correct tax bill ought to have been received. Errors by the assessor or by survey, in which the bill sent was paid, are not subject to interest penalties.