HYDE PARK — The “tampon tax” is gone as of Jan. 1 as a raft of new legislation passed out of Springfield takes effect in the new year.
The General Assembly passed 192 bills this year, including changes that will affect how people drive on the roads, pay child support, carry their marijuana around and speargun catfish.
As of Jan. 1, the tampon tax will be gone in Illinois.
The law passed in August removes a 6.25 percent “luxury items” tax on tampons and sanitary napkins. It was passed shortly after the city took similar action in the City Council.
Similar laws have been passed in 12 other states, and Illinois followed similar moves by New York and Connecticut this year.
Bikes are motor vehicles and other road rules
The rules of the road are changing on Jan. 1, including new protections for cyclists after a rash of car-on-bike accidents in Chicago. Starting in January, bike owners will get the same rights of way right that cars owners have.
Before it was vague at times if bikers should be treated like cars or pedestrians, but the new law makes it explicit that drivers should treat bikes as if they are other cars and yield like they would to a car.
New laws also require drivers to change lanes, if possible, to avoid a car with its hazard lights on and stop completely at any location where there is a school bus loading or unloading children.
Selling known lead hazards
New state laws will make it more difficult for owners to sell off a property with problems with lead contamination and hope no one notices.
Owners will be required to check for lead, which can cause severe mental and physical problems for children exposed to it. If lead is found, the owner will have to get it removed or contained before the property can be sold.
Some new laws you don’t have to wait for. The state decriminalized carrying 10 grams or less of marijuana, which now carries a $200 fine instead of jail time.
The law passed in July was effective immediately and puts the state in line with the city, which decriminalized possession of up to 15 grams of pot in 2012.
Reworking child support
Child support also got a major overhaul by state government, but it won’t go into effect until July 1.
The state is ditching the flat percentage of income for child support that most other states have also abandoned and is creating new formulas for determining how much is owed. The new rules are being developed by the state's Department of Healthcare and Family Services, but in general require parents to pay less in child support as they spend more time with their kids.
Criminal justice reform for minors
Lawmakers also tweaked the criminal laws to ease sentencing of minors and give them more protections when they are arrested.
Minors younger than 15 will be required to have an attorney present when being interrogated on murder or sexual assault charges. Mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of criminal sexual assault also will be out in Illinois. Juvenile criminal records automatically will be expunged if the person was never charged, the charges were dismissed or they successfully completed a sentence of court supervision.
Giving workers a break
Starting Jan. 1, employers will be required to allow their employees to use up to half of their sick time to care for a sick family member.
New rules will ban companies from asking employees to sign a noncompete agreement if they’re paid less than $13.50 an hour.
Illinois barred yoga teacher training from being regulated by the state.
Laws you probably don’t need to know
There are a lot of new laws that are less likely to affect folks in Chicago than in rural parts of the state.
In 2017, it will be legal to catch catfish in Illinois using a pitchfork, speargun or bow and arrow. Youths will be allowed to apply for animal-trapping licenses.
And don’t you dare call it a “public hunting ground for pheasants” after Jan. 1, it’s a “public hunting ground for game birds.”
You never know, it may come up if the Department of Natural Resources follows through with on a law that allows two weekends of youth-only turkey hunting in the spring.
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