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A look at some of the state laws taking effect Jan. 1

A new law aimed women veterans focuses issues such as future employment level compensatiaccess rehabilitatihealth care other issues facing women

A new law aimed at women veterans focuses on issues such as future employment, level of compensation, access to rehabilitation, health care, and other issues facing women leaving the armed services. | AP file

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Updated: February 11, 2014 3:22AM



New laws taking effect in Illinois on Jan. 1 touch on a variety of issues ranging from cigarette litterbugs to breast cancer detection and from younger voters to elder abuse.

Regulations for residents to digest along with their holiday feasts include:

Cigarette littering fines

Those who toss cigarette butts out of car windows could pay a steep price under a new law taking effect in January.

Residents caught flicking cigarette butts from car windows or onto the ground may be fined as much as $1,500 under the new law, which adds cigarette butts to the long list of items categorized as “litter,” such as garbage, grass clippings, construction materials, and others, according to Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

An environmental study by Keep America Beautiful in 2009 showed cigarette butts were the single “most littered item” in populated areas. According to the study, about 57 percent of smokers throw butts on the ground outdoors, while just 43 percent dispose of them properly.

Younger voters

When voters go to the polls this March to cast their ballots in the 2014 primary elections, 17-year-olds who will be eligible to vote by the November general election will be allowed to cast their votes as well.

The law allows a 17-year-old who will be 18 years old by the general election to vote in the preceding primary election. It gives young voters an opportunity to get more engaged in the political process by giving them the chance to help choose the candidates in the primary that they choose from in the general election, Radogno said.

Illinois will join 18 other states that allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries.

Elder abuse

Last spring, Illinois lawmakers decided to target elder abuse by prohibiting individuals with a history of violence against those least able to protect themselves from acting as the guardian of an elderly person or their estate.

Currently, an individual who has been convicted of a felony that involved harming or threatening to harm an elderly person cannot be appointed an elder guardian. The new law extends those protections, and as of Jan. 1 will prohibit any individual convicted of felony harm or threat to a minor from assuming the role of an elderly guardian. This prohibition also includes those convicted of a felony sexual offense against a minor.

Women’s Health

State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, led an effort to pass a new law to protect women who may have hard-to-detect breast cancer.

Wheeler said the diagnosis and death of her sister-in-law directly led to her leadership on the legislation, which was recently signed to law.

Women with dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer, yet mammograms have a hard time detecting cancer in this type of tissue. In response, Wheeler passed Senate Bill 2314, which will require doctors to explain in layman’s terms the meaning and consequences of “dense breast tissue.”

“This is a growing concern for women. Early detection is the most effective way to survive breast cancer, yet doctors do not have clear standards to explain what ‘dense breast tissue’ is,” said Wheeler. “We need to be giving women every tool to save their lives from this awful disease.”

She said there are many reasons why doctors are not currently explaining this common, yet risk-filled problem. The most effective way to detect breast cancer in dense tissue is through an MRI or ultrasound, which can add significant cost to cancer screening. These tests are typically reserved for a woman with a high risk of breast cancer, which can cause a sense of fear among those who are recommended to have additional testing. Regardless, Wheeler believes lifesaving information trumps the potential fear and cost.

“My bill simply requires doctors to explain to women the risks and consequences of dense tissue, leaving the option of further tests up to the patient,” said Wheeler. “The more information women have about their potential risks, the better chances they have at lifesaving treatment.”

Women veterans

Wheeler also sponsored legislation aimed at improving services provided for Illinois women exiting the military. It was signed to law by Gov. Pat Quinn before a large crowd at this year’s Illinois State Fair.

“Every day, women veterans are leaving the armed forces to re-enter civilian life, and up until this point many of our veteran services are targeted toward men,” Wheeler said. “This law will now identify what our veteran women need in terms of support and create a legislative agenda to address these deficiencies.”

The law focuses on issues such as future employment, level of compensation, access to rehabilitation, health care, and other issues facing women leaving the armed services. Recommendations are to be put forward in the task force’s annual report for 2014.

Dog fighting education

Another law taking effect on Jan. 1 is a continuation of efforts to combat animal fighting in Illinois, specifically dog fighting.

The law establishes a training program focused on animal fighting awareness for law enforcement officers. The aim of the new law is to help police identify animal fighting operations and instruct them on how to respond to situations involving abuse and neglect. This would include being better equipped to manage aggressive canine behavior and non-lethal ways to subdue the animal.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board is currently working with animal welfare groups to create the training program. The new law builds upon a law enacted in 2012 to make it easier to prosecute leaders of dog-fighting networks under the Illinois anti-racketeering laws originally aimed at fighting organized crime.

Human trafficking

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has applauded a new law to assist victims of human trafficking who have been “branded.”

Criminal offenders who engage in human trafficking subject their victims to horrific abuse, according to law enforcement authorities. There has been an increase of incidents in which these offenders forcibly tattoo, or brand, their victims, so the tattoo can serve as a sign of ownership.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. William Delgado and crafted in conjunction with Madigan’s office, will allow victims of human trafficking who have been branded by their trafficker to be reimbursed out of the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Fund for the cost of removing the tattoo.

“Human trafficking victims are subjected to horrific physical and psychological abuse,” Madigan said. “Providing assistance that allows them to eliminate the physical reminders of their enslavement is vital to helping these individuals recover and rebuild their lives.”

The bill will add branding to the list of expenses for which a crime victim may be compensated under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act. It requires the victim seek removal of the tattoo with an authorized or licensed tattoo remover.

Traffic

Two new laws initiated this year by Secretary of State Jesse White will strengthen the state’s Graduated Driver Licensing program and further restrict violations that qualify for the issuance of court supervision.

Legislation that prohibits the issuance of a driver’s license to a driver under 18 who has an unresolved traffic citation will become law Jan.1. The new law also allows White’s office to cancel a graduated driver’s license if it is determined that the minor had an unresolved violation at the time of issuance.

Under current law, a new license applicant is not required to report any pending traffic citations.

“One of my top priorities as Secretary of State has been to continually strengthen our state’s heralded Graduated Driver Licensing program,” White said. “Since we implemented one of the nation’s most comprehensive GDL laws in the nation in 2008, teen driving fatalities have dropped by 60 percent. But even the best programs can be made better, and this legislation will help strengthen our state’s GDL program, and hopefully save even more lives.”

The measure is named Kelsey’s Law in honor of Kelsey Little who in 2011 was seriously injured in an automobile crash by a young driver operating on a learner’s permit. The driver was issued a traffic citation for the incident, of which the Secretary of State’s office was unaware due to the lack of a reporting requirement. Three days later the teen driver applied for and was issued a driver’s license.

A second new traffic law will ensure that drivers involved in fatal crashes are ineligible for court supervision unless they have maintained a clean driving history. The legislation, named Patricia’s Law in honor of Patricia McNamara, who was killed in an automobile crash in which the driver received court supervision, originated from White’s Advisory Committee on Traffic Safety, which unanimously supported the measure at a meeting in September 2012.

“Since I took office in 1999, I have continually worked to improve traffic safety laws, particularly those laws involving court supervision,” White said. “This is an important next step, and one that makes sense.”

Over the last decade, White’s office has initiated legislation to limit the issuance of court supervision and to establish a central database to help judges and court personnel better track the dispositions of court supervision from county to county across the state.



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