With the legislature adjourned until the fall veto session in October and November, I have been spending my time visiting the district. I have been providing end-of-session updates to organizations and discussing legislation that was approved this year and how it will affect us locally.
On July 1, there are numerous laws going into effect that may affect our everyday lives. It is the first day of the new fiscal year, so the biggest law to go into effect is the 2020 budget as well as several of the new expenses that accompany it. In addition to the budget, a moving violation for texting, tobacco 21, and the ability of mayors to perform marriages will also take effect. I wanted to take a moment to make you aware of these new laws, and help you understand how the policy changes in the State of Illinois are going to be affecting you this summer and beyond.
Four New Laws Taking Effect on July 1
July 1 marks the first day of the state’s new fiscal year, and in addition to the balanced budget that will govern spending from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, the following legislation signed by Governor JB Pritzker takes effect today:
- HB 345: Known as the “Tobacco 21” bill, this new law prohibits anyone from selling or providing cigarettes or vaping materials to individuals under the age of 21.
- SB 28: This new law ensures that Illinois school children are receiving at least five hours of instruction per day in public schools. While the five-hour school day has been in place for several years, this new law takes into account instances when students take college classes for dual high school and college credit, those participating in career development programs away from school, and schools offering blended learning programs for students.
- SB 1814: As part of this year’s budget implementation bill, individuals working for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) who provide services to children at risk will receive a 5% increase in their reimbursement rates. It is the first increase these employees have received in several years.
- SB 1939: A key element of the $45 billion capital projects bill is an increase to the gas tax that takes effect at the gas pump on July 1. This increase will fund road and bridge projects across the state.
Tougher Penalties for Texting While Driving Take Effect on July 1
A recent survey of Illinois high school students shows that nearly half of Illinois teens admit to texting while driving. Starting today, Illinois drivers caught using or even just holding an electronic device while behind the wheel of a car will now be issued a moving violation ticket.
Unlike previous distracted driving laws, tickets issued under this new state law will go on a driver’s permanent record. Fines start at $75 for a first offense and escalate by $25 to a maximum of $150, and three or more repeat offenses of texting while driving could lead to the suspension of a driver’s license. These new rules are not limited to cellphones.
They apply to any electronic communication device, including hand-held personal digital assistant, tablet or laptop computers. While adopted last year during the 100th General Assembly, the law that includes these new penalties had an effective date of July 1, 2019.
Motor Fuel Tax Revenue Protected in “Lockbox”
There has been many questions on the motor fuel tax and where the money from the 19-cent gas increase will go. The “Safe Roads/Transportation Lockbox Amendment” was a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution that was approved by voters in the November 2016 general election.
The Amendment was introduced in response to decades-long misuse of transportation related revenues, namely the Road Fund State Construction Account Fund, and the Motor Fuel Tax Fund. The Transportation for Illinois Coalition (TFIC), a group that spear-headed the Constitutional Amendment, argued that close to $6.8 billion of transportation related funds were raided between FY02 and FY15 and used for other costs.
This Amendment changed the Illinois Constitution to prohibit the use of money collected through transportation fees from being used for anything other than transportation related expenditures. Under the amendment, transportation funds may be used by the State or local governments only for the following purposes:
- Costs related to administering transportation and vehicle laws, including public safety purposes and the payment of obligations such as bonds
- The State or local share necessary to secure federal funds or for local government transportation purposes as authorized by law
- The construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, and operation of highways, mass transit, and railroad crossings
- Expenses related to workers’ compensation claims for death or injury of transportation agency employees
- To purchase land for building highways or buildings to be used for highway purposes
This year’s SB 1939 creates the Transportation Renewal Fund and provides that the 19-cent increase taking affect today in motor fuel taxes be placed in the newly created fund. The increase is distributed as follows:
- 80% for roads and bridges; of which:
- 60% to the State Construction Account Fund
- Funds in State Construction Account Fund can only be used for the construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of the State maintained highway system
- 40% to Local Governments (identical to existing distribution to local governments)
- 60% to the State Construction Account Fund
- 20% for transit (90% RTA, 10% downstate)
Beginning on July 1, 2020, the Auditor General will be required to conduct an annual audit to provide for additional protections against any transportation diversions from the MFT increase.
Mayors will now be able to perform marriages:
Mayors will now be able officiate marriage ceremonies. A marriage may also be ‘solemnized’ by a mayor or president of a city, village, or incorporated town who is the current office holder. The mayor or president of a city, village, or incorporated town will not be not allowed to receive any compensation in return for performing the marriage ceremony. If you have plans to get married and know of a good mayor – they can now officiate your wedding!