Illinois revamped by new laws, hot-button issues
Gov. Pat Quinn has been pushing for law reform and implementation throughout the state. Illinois has enacted new laws, such as legalizing medical marijuana and allowing a new system for online voter registration. Illinois has also reformed previous laws, such as increasing the maximum speed limit on rural highways and completely banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Other issues such as the state’s pension crisis remain unsolved. Nonetheless, Illinois is continuing on its path toward progressiveness and bipartisanship.
Hand-held cell phones
Earlier this month, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a statewide ban that prohibits drivers from using all hand-held cell phones on the road. Drivers that do not adhere to the ban, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, will be fined $75. For every subsequent offense, the fee will increase by $25 and have a maximum fine of $150.
Though drivers cannot use hand-held cell phones, they are still able to use their cell phones with hands-free technology such as Bluetooth.
While it should not have taken this long for Quinn to sign this ban into effect, it is the right move. Cell phones are a huge distraction for drivers and misuse can end in the same result as many drunk driving accidents. This will pave the way to safer roads for pedestrians and fellow drivers.
After changing Illinois lawmakers’ original concealed carry bill — a risky move — Gov. Pat Quinn was in a standstill.
The General Assembly overrode Quinn’s veto fairly easily this past summer, which made Illinois the last state in the nation to adopt a concealed carry law. Now, citizens are waiting to apply for permits, which they may do so, at latest, shortly after the start of the new year.
Soon, you can carry concealed weapons in the campus district — just not on campus — once permits are issued. But the University Police Department says there’s no need for any big changes in response to the legislation. We agree; we don’t think this will change how police training is conducted, and we will continue to take the same safety precautions as prior to the bill’s enactment.
Online voter registration
Voting in Illinois will get a little easier starting next summer. On July 27, Gov. Pat Quinn signed off on a law that made Illinois the 18th state to allow online voter registration.
In signing the law, Quinn and other Illinois officials cited such benefits as cost cutting and accessibility. Detractors, however, have pointed at the potential for digital voter fraud. Given the online safeguards the state has put into place, and considering the law does not grant the ability to cast a vote online, these concerns, while warranted, are not overly convincing.
From a campus perspective, this law syncs well with students’ increasingly digital lives. Furthermore, creating a registration method more in tune with younger voters has the potential to increase the turnout for a group notoriously absent from electoral discourse.
However, as the law does not go into effect until July 1, 2014, we encourage any Illinois residents interested in voting in the 2014 primaries to register by mail or at a variety of physical locations on campus including the Illini Union, Undergraduate Library, or other places listed on the Champaign County Clerk’s website.
Those younger than 18 years old can no longer use a tanning bed beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation this month in an effort to protect youth from very “preventable health problems.” According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exposure to ultraviolet rays from tanning beds and being outside without sunscreen is the greatest cause of melanoma.
Advocates for the bill have been loud, and we hope that they continue to be heard. By preventing youth from forming a tanning habit, it is possible that the culture around it will fade away.
Speed limit increase
Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed legislation allowing the speed limit to increase to 70 mph on rural interstates throughout the state. Illinois’ current limits are 55 mph in metropolitan areas and 65 mph on rural highways. Despite opposition from lawmakers and residents concerned with safety, some of Illinois’ most populous counties — Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will — will still have the discretion to keep the speed limit under 70 mph.
The increased speed limit shouldn’t impact Illinois drivers too much: The maximum speed limit is only being raised by 5 mph, and most drivers exceed the lower speed limits that only 13 other states enforce.
The new speed limit is not too low and not too high: Illinois’ highways will not only match the state maximum speed limits of the majority of the country, but do so without increasing the speed limit excessively.
Earlier this month, Illinois passed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which legalizes medical marijuana through a four-year pilot program effective Jan. 1, 2014.
Despite controversy circumscribing medical marijuana as an effective drug and its illegality on the federal level, Illinois lawmakers designed an infrastructure that will hopefully confine medical marijuana to those who need it.
The legislation calls for medical marijuana to be distributed among 60 dispensing centers and supplied by 22 licensed growers. Out-of-state medical marijuana licenses will not be valid in Illinois, and they will only be distributed to potential patients who have a pre-existing relationship with a doctor and who are diagnosed with at least one of nearly 40 serious illnesses.
Touted as some of the strictest medical marijuana laws in the country, the goal is for Illinois’ system to manifest into the functional and well-regulated system it was designed to be.
While lawmakers have accomplished a lot these past few months, they’ve failed to solve Illinois’ biggest issue: the state’s pension problem. Because of the Illinois General Assembly’s inaction, lawmakers are missing their paychecks.
Gov. Pat Quinn took action by cutting lawmakers’ pays this past summer after the General Assembly ended its spring legislative session without a deal and closed to nothing in the special session. This upcoming year sets up a Quinn versus lawmakers showdown in Springfield, with ramifications for the 2014 elections.
The General Assembly is on the hot seat now; Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has already said she can’t pay lawmakers. So how long will lawmakers go before they start to feel the effects? Quinn risked a long court battle with the suspension of lawmakers’ pays, but we hope his latest gamble will pay off. Our University’s future depends on it — so do the lawmakers’.