On January 1, dozens of new laws passed during the year take effect, including measures designed to make the state’s budget process more open, reduce workplace violence and even allow us to legally drive 70 m.p.h. on most Illinois interstate highways and tollways.
However, some legislation is still being signed into law. As was widely expected, Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 10 into law November 20, legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.
New legislation is still being introduced as well. This week, I filed Senate Bill 2629 to repeal 30-year-old special-interest legislation that prevents us from being able to buy cars on Sundays. Since 1983, car dealerships have been forbidden to be open on Sundays under penalty of a $1,500 fine. It is my belief that dealers should be free to choose whether they wish to be open or closed on Sundays without government interference. In my opinion, this is a clear abuse of government power, with that power being used to protect those dealers who wish to close on Sundays from competition with those who wish to open. A majority of states allow automobile sales on Sundays. We should also. Dealers argue that they have to be closed to give employees a day off. But most employees already have a day off. They just cover for each other on days off as dealerships do in the 32 states where Sunday sales are allowed. I hope my legislative colleagues will work with me to pass this good-government, common-sense repeal.
Same Sex Marriage Legislation Signed
The new same-sex marriage law will not take effect until July, although some supporters have proposed a follow up measure that could be considered in January that would move the effective date of the measure up. Illinois became the 16th state to allow couples of the same sex to marry. Although the measure protects churches from having to perform such marriages if it conflicts with their tenets, questions remain as to what impact it will have on vendors who serve the wedding industry, but object to gay marriage as a matter of conscience. Also uncertain is the extent to which churches and organizations affiliated with religious groups can refuse to host wedding receptions and similar events if it violates their beliefs.
While the same-sex marriage law won’t go into effect with the New Year, dozens of other new laws will. Descriptions of some of those measures follow.
New Laws Promote Budget Transparency, Accountability
Illinois’ well-documented fiscal woes have citizens—and state lawmakers—asking for more details about the state budget process. In response, this spring several measures were approved by lawmakers to improve budget transparency and accountability.
Beginning next year, a bill sponsored by Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry requires the state budget to be published online within 60 days of being signed into law. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget must also make public any related fund sweeps or charge-backs contained in the budget—a caveat introduced in response to the numerous sweeps of dedicated public funds that have been used in recent years to subsidize general state spending. These sweeps have left many state funds depleted, which can leave the state agencies and organizations that rely on these funds at a loss.
Another law sponsored by Senator Althoff and Senator Sam McCann of Carlinville will create a Governmental Transparency Task Force charged with creating a plan to make the state budget process more transparent and publicly accessible. A 16-member board appointed by the Governor and the four legislative leaders will study proposals seeking to increase the public’s ease of access to budget materials, and the task force must submit its findings by January 1, 2015.
While there is still much more to do to increase accessibility of state budget information, House Bill 2947 takes a good step toward increasing accountability within the fiscal process. The new law requires the state’s annual budget submission to include detailed tables and narratives about any projected budget surplus or any projected deficit for the fiscal year. The submitted budget must also include an estimate of individual and corporate income tax overpayments that won’t be paid back by the end of the fiscal year.
Lawmakers Take Aim at Workplace Violence
Senators Darin LaHood of Peoria, Michael Connelly of Naperville and Matt Murphy of Palatine sponsored a measure this spring to help prevent tragic acts of violence in Illinois workplaces.
Passed unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly, House Bill 2590 will enable employers to seek an order of protection when they can show that there is there has been violence, or there is a credible threat of violence, occurring in the workplace that has or will very likely cause great or irreparable harm. The law not only targets violence between coworkers, but aggressive acts from outsiders—including harassment or violence from customers and clients, and domestic violence incidents that carry over into the workplace. House Bill 2590 applies to workplaces of five or more employees and is applicable to acts of violence, harassment and stalking.
‘70 m.p.h.’ Speed-Limit Legislation Signed
On January 1, Illinois’ speed limit will be in line with most of the rest of the country, under a new law I sponsored. Senate Bill 2356 increases the maximum speed limit to 70 m.p.h. on all interstates and toll highways.
This new law shows what can be accomplished when lawmakers work together for the good of our state. Senate Bill 2356 was sponsored by lawmakers from both political parties who represent all regions of our state. It also updates our law to reflect the reality of current driving speeds in Illinois and other states. Nonetheless, IDOT and the Illinois Tollway Authority are resisting implementing higher speeds in the Chicago area. Discussions are continuing.
IDOT says replacing an estimated 900 speed-limit signs throughout Illinois is scheduled to start on January 1 and is expected to be completed January 17, weather permitting.