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Laws beginning Jan. 1 target improper cell phone use, tanning salons and more

Drivers often get distracted when driving by using cell phones text message.  |  Sun-Times Medifile

Drivers often get distracted when driving by using cell phones to text message. | Sun-Times Media file

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The new year is just around the bend, and when it arrives, a host of new laws will hit the books in Illinois.

New laws, covering everything from cell phone use to medicinal marijuana use, will go into effect on Jan. 1.

State Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville) noted that “218 new laws go into effect Jan. 1, and some, like the new cell phone ban for drivers, will impact a lot of folks’ daily lives, so they need to be aware.”

The list of laws is long, but there are a few that will be more handy to familiarize yourself with than others.

For starters, hands-free is the way to be in 2014 when it comes to cell phone use behind the wheel. Drivers caught talking on cell phones without hands-free devices come Jan. 1 will be ticketed throughout Illinois. First-time offenders will be fined a maximum of $75. The fine rises with each offense.

“Even though I do talk on the phone and drive, I agree with this new law,” said Oswego resident Kimberly Urso-Petry. “I will be getting a (hands-free device). It is a distraction.”

According to the Illinois State Police, Bluetooth headsets, earpieces and voice activated commands are all permitted.

Some residents, however, think the new law is pointless.

“I think the hands-free is a dumb law,” said Montgomery resident Danielle Loveland. “People are distracted while on the phone ... that’s a fact. The fact of whether they are holding something in their hand is irrelevant.”

But the new laws don’t stop there.

Thinking about letting your underage child hit the tanning bed before prom in 2014? Think again. A new law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from tanning at commercial businesses, even if they have parent or guardian permission.

Gina Higgins, who manages Wego Tanning in Oswego, said she expects this will impact business at the local salon.

“We do have a lot of younger clients,” Higgins said. “And, quite a few parents have said something about the new law.”

Parents hoping their kids will have a base tan before they hit the beach will now have to find alternatives to their usual remedy.

“People are pretty upset about it,” Higgins said, although underage tanning is still legal at private residences. Higgins said spray-tanning is an alternative.

Hatcher also noted that a new law going into effect Jan. 1 is designed to help minimize local road construction’s impact on surrounding businesses. Public Act 98-412 requires the Illinois Department of Transportation to work with businesses and local residents on routing detours and signage before starting a disruptive project.

The legislation was suggested by a business owner in Hatcher’s district.

Everything from the way we vote to the way Illinois children learn about sex in school will undergo some sort of change in the upcoming weeks.

Here is a list of some of the new laws that will be in place on Jan. 1:

HB 3243: If you smoke cigarettes, you should find a place to throw your butts that isn’t out the window. This bill changes the definition of “litter” to include cigarette butts, and anyone caught tossing them could be fined.

HB 0064: This bill provides students with a little Facebook freedom. It makes it illegal for post-secondary schools to ask for or demand a student’s social networking password, unless the school has reason to believe the student’s account contains evidence that a school disciplinary rule or policy has been broken.

HB 3038: This bill ensures that parents/guardians cannot be sued for eavesdropping on electronic communications of minors in their care.

HB 0226: Beginning in January, 17-year-olds will be allowed to vote in a primary election if they will be 18 by the following general election.

HB 2675: The teaching of the birds and the bees will be broader in the new year. This bill states that any public school sex-ed course offered to sixth- through 12th-graders must cover both abstinence and contraception.

HB 0001: Medical marijuana can be used in the treatment of debilitating medical conditions in Illinois if certain conditions are met.

HB 1814: This new bill separates speeding in a work zone into two offenses, with one offense being when workers are present, and the other offense defined as when workers are not present.

HB 1199: Trying to track someone’s vehicle without their consent is now illegal. This bill prohibits the use of electronic tracking devices on vehicles without the consent of the owner, or a legitimate law enforcement purpose.

SB 1214: Are you a frequent toll violator? Watch out. This new bill allows the Toll Highway Authority to publish the names of toll violators if they owe more than $1,000 and after other avenues to collect the tolls have been taken.

SB 2356: This bill changes the speed limit to 70 mph on certain highways throughout the state. However, it allows some counties in the Chicago area, including Kane County, to establish lower speed limits.

HB 1309: Thinking about posting that fight on YouTube? Think again. This bill increases the penalty for assault if the offender audio or video records the assault with the intent of disseminating the recording.

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