191 new laws take effect January 1, 2017. Here is a preview of 26 new laws that may be of interest to Illinoisans:

Social media right to privacy
Public Act 99-610, House Bill 4999
Amends the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act to make it illegal for an employer or prospective employer to request or require an employee or applicant to access a personal online account (such as Facebook) in the presence of the employer. It is also illegal to request or require that an employee or applicant invite the employer to join a group affiliated with any personal online account of the employee, or applicant, or join an online account established by the employer.

Employee Sick Leave Act
Public Act 99-841, House Bill 6162
Under the new law, employees may now use personal sick leave benefits for purposes dealing with a child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or step parent. The employee can use such time as may be necessary on the same terms that employee would use the time for their own illness or injury.

Traffic stop education
Public Act 99-720, House Bill 6131
Students taking drivers education courses will now be educated on safe procedures to follow during a traffic stop by law enforcement. The lesson will include such tips as remaining calm and keeping one’s hands in view at all times and will also educate drivers on their rights when in the presence of law enforcement.
Attendance at the Springfield, Illinois 2016 State Fair dropped by more than 13% on a year-to-year basis. While severe weather events – heading by a flood-level cloudburst on the night of a key scheduled musical concert – were blamed for part of the attendance shortfall the overall numbers indicated growing problems with bringing in fair-going customers and exhibitors this year. Springfield fair attendance fell from 411,547 in 2015 to 357,409 in 2016.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, which operates the Illinois State Fair, has begun an 80,000-recipient survey exercise. A wide variety of selected Fair attendees are being sent online questionnaires intended to gather data about their State Fair visit. Questions include requests for data on potentially controversial subjects, such as the recent hike in State Fair admission ticket prices. People who get the survey will be asked to rate various facets of the State Fair experience, including exhibits, entertainment, and food. Respondents will also be asked to help the State Fair understand how many miles people travelled to attend the Fair, how many tickets were bought by a household, and whether a ticketholder also visited the Fair on a different day.
In the wake of an investigative-report series published by the Chicago Tribune that uncovered serious problems in some Illinois group homes for the developmentally disabled (DD) population, the General Assembly convened a joint committee to hold a hearing on the issue. More than 1,300 cases of abuse and neglect were uncovered by the series of news stories. Meeting on Tuesday, December 13, the committee heard from agency Director James Dimas, who described work being done by him and his top aides to understand the size of the scandal and improve enforcement of living conditions in Illinois DD group homes.

IDHS is required, under law, to supervise 3,000 licensed private-sector DD group homes throughout Illinois. These homes shelter approximately 12,000 persons with intellectual and developmental challenges, often in an extended-family setting. The treatment provided to persons in this category ranges from thoughtful, high-quality care to abuse and neglect. In some cases, DD group home caregivers are overwhelmed by the challenges of taking care of persons with two or more separately diagnosed disabilities.
The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) will be hosting two household chemical waste disposal events at their Gurnee facility located at 1311 N. Estes Street Gurnee, IL 60031 in January. Appointments are required for these two FREE events on Saturday, January 14 and Monday, January 23, 2017.

Click here to schedule an appointment

Collections are for residential waste only. No business waste will be accepted. All SWALCO collection events are FREE for Illinois residents ONLY.
The ratings from Washington, D.C.-based Leapfrog were published on Tuesday, December 6. Chicago-based Illinois teaching hospitals included the University of Chicago Medical Center; top suburban hospitals included Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst and the Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora; and “Top Rural Hospitals” included Richland Memorial Hospital in downstate Olney, Illinois.

The Leapfrog Hospital Survey compared hospitals’ performance on national standards of patient safety, quality, efficiency, and management structures that reduce improper treatments and doctor-patient errors. The Survey ranked Illinois first in the U.S. Midwest in terms of the number of top hospitals within the state. California, the top-ranked state, had 25 top-ranked hospitals, and Florida had 11. All other states were ranked in single digits.
The Champaign-Urbana geological think tank will study and develop technologies to enable the continued burning of fossil fuels in Illinois and around the world. Concerns have been raised about the emission of carbon dioxide when oil, gas, coal, and other fuels are burned, but geologists have long known that it is possible to gather carbon dioxide generated by fixed sources of energy (such as power plants) and inject them deep into the earth. The technology, called carbon “sequestration,” could be used to make it more attractive to burn coal and other fossil fuels for future energy.
With the “stopgap” six-month budget for the first half of FY17 scheduled to expire on December 31, pressure is being placed on key Illinois officials to develop a budget agreement. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Governor Bruce Rauner, and other leaders were meeting almost daily in Chicago. Key issues include cash flow for State spending areas covered in the “stopgap” budget. Renewed appropriations are required if these areas are to get funding in January 2017 and following months. However, no agreement has yet been reached.

Pressure for a budget deal is being driven by the deteriorating financial condition of the State. The Comptroller’s office indicated that Illinois had, as of Tuesday, December 6, piled up a backlog of unpaid bills totaling more than $10.6 billion. These include both bills that are actually in the Comptroller’s office awaiting payment and bills that are in the various State agencies and have not yet been forwarded to the Comptroller.
State Representative Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) joined Warren Township Assessor Charlie Mullin, staff and residents for the Township's annual Christmas party.

SB 2814, which parallels a recent law passed in New York State, contains a cross-subsidization program for electric markets across Illinois to support the continued operations of two nuclear power plants in Clinton and Cordova, Illinois (“Quad Cities”). Due to ongoing operating losses, Exelon had previously announced plans to close the Clinton plant in 2017 and the Quad Cities plant in 2018. One underlying theme of the legislation is the preservation of important carbon-free generating capacity for Illinois to meet power demands in the future.

As a result of passage of the Future Energy Jobs Bill, 1,500 direct jobs were saved at the Clinton and Quad Cities plants, with a total of more than 4,000 jobs impacted. In addition to the jobs saved, keeping Illinois’ nuclear plants in operation will prevent large increases in energy prices. Closure of the plants would have had a detrimental effect on electric rates, on the reliability and capacity of the grid, and on jobs and economic activity. The Illinois Commerce Commission had studied the effects of nuclear plant closures and in almost every scenario, rates would increase across the state. A report released in November by leading Illinois business organizations, including the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, indicated that preserving the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants will save Illinois businesses and consumers over $3 billion in electricity costs over the next ten years.