The year 2020 began with over 250 new state laws - the biggest being the legalization of recreational marijuana, which has paid off big time.
"We've had more than a billion dollars in retail sales since it became legal," said David Greising, president of the Better Government Association.
But the spring legislative session was abruptly cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result lawmakers only passed a handful new laws to take effect in the coming year.
With the lack of so many new laws in 2020, there is likely to be pent up demand for new legislation in 2021, especially when it comes to issues surrounding ethics and equity.
Also in 2021, look for Gov. Pritzker to find ways to fill a huge budget hole - which is likely to include layoffs, cuts in services and a tax increase.
The Senate Democrats recently published their list of new and interesting laws that take effect next year, from new road safety measures, a more civic-minded and inclusive public school curriculum, and another minimum wage increase.
Minimum Wage Increase (Public Act 101-0001)
Illinois one of the states set to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. In 2021, that means minimum wage will increase to $11 an hour for standard workers, $6.60 an hour for tipped workers, and $8.50 an hour for workers under the age of 18 who work less than 650 hours per calendar year.
As of Jan. 1, 2020, employers are required to pay workers under the age of 18 the full minimum wage if they work more than 650 hours in a calendar year.
It's a law retailers say they can't afford during a difficult time where merchants have struggled to stay open.
"It's going it make a lot harder for retailers to find their footing back, to get their employees back who they've had to lay off, it just makes it a lot more difficult," said Rob Karr, president, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Insulin Cost Cap (SB 0667)
This law makes Illinois the second state in the nation to cap copayments at $100 for a 30-day supply of insulin, regardless of the type or amount of insulin needed. The law does not apply to insulin that is administered to patients intravenously.
"There's been a big spike in insulin prices, and this is to protect people especially during COVID," Greising said.
The law also requires the Illinois Attorney General to investigate the pricing of prescription insulin to ensure consumer protections.
Address Confidentiality for Sexual Assault and Stalking Survivors (HB 2818)
An addition to the state's Address Confidentiality for Victims of Domestic Violence Act, HB 2818 allows victims of sexual assault and stalking, among other crimes, to apply for the address confidentiality program so that their abusers cannot find their address.
The bill also renames the act to the Address Confidentiality for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking Act.
DNA Samples for Finding Missing Persons (HB 2708)
An amendment passed and approved in 2019, and taking effect on Jan. 1, 2021, HB2708 allows law enforcement to gather DNA samples from a missing person and from family members at the time a missing person report and adds the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System as a partner lab to process the DNA in an effort to find them.
The law also requires law enforcement to dispose of DNA samples from the person or family members after they have been located.
The hope is DNA will help find missing people quicker.
Small Business Grants for Pandemic Relief (HB 357)
Small businesses took an unprecedented hit in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic first induced a strict stay-at-home order and then drastically altered how brick and mortar commerce could operate, with capacity limits and extra safety precautions required.
As the federal government squabbled over national pandemic relief, Illinois established emergency small business grants and loan assistance. The state's Business Interruption Grant program, which is the largest state-run economic support program created in response to the pandemic, has distributed millions of dollars to help stabilize struggling small businesses this year.
Illinois Senate Democrats also highlighted some laws that took effect in 2020 you may have missed:
- Non-moving violations no longer result in the loss of a driver's license (SB 1786)
- Drivers involved in an accident that results in injury while using a phone are subject to a minimum $1,000 fine and could have their licenses revoked (HB 2386)
- Public school students will learn about the roles and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community, and middle schoolers now receive a semester of civics education (HB 246/HB 2265)