By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker surpassed 100 bills signed as he put his signature on more than 30 new laws last week. They included a measure to increase penalties on texting drivers who cause great bodily harm, and another to allow certain recipients of food stamps to use them at state-contracted restaurants.
House Bill 2386, which passed 82-24 in the House and 41-0 in the Senate, gives the secretary of state new authority to suspend or revoke a license for 12 months for any driver causing great bodily harm, disfigurement or death in an accident caused while texting and driving. The bill also imposes a $1,000 fine for the same offense, which is classified as “aggravated use of an electronic communication device.”
The harsher penalties for drastic accidents caused by texting drivers take effect immediately and build on another measure signed by Pritzker earlier this year which classified all texting-and-driving citations as moving violations. That bill also created fines of $75 for a first offense of a person caught texting and driving, $100 for the second, $125 for the third and $150 per each offense after that.
Any driver receiving three moving violations in a 12-month period is also subject to a license suspension.
SNAP at Restaurants
House Bill 3343, which passed 75-18 in the House and 48-1 in the Senate, creates the Restaurant Meals Program as part of the state’s administration of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
That measure allows homeless individuals and elderly or disabled persons to redeem SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps, at private establishments that contract with the Illinois Department of Human Services to offer meals at concessional prices subject to federal law.
IDHS is required to launch the program no later than Jan. 1, 2020.
Municipal Term Limit Limits
Any municipality wishing to create term limits on its elected leaders cannot apply them to time served before the new limits took effect, now that Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 1536.
Per the measure, term limits imposed in any municipality by “referendum, ordinance, or otherwise” must be applied prospectively, meaning time already served prior to the passage of limits does not count against an elected official when it comes to the new limits.
The law took effect immediately upon Pritzker’s signature, and applies to any election on or after Nov. 8, 2016. The bill passed 100-16 in the House and 31-19 in the Senate.
Higher Education Cost Transparency
House Bill 2512, a measure aimed at increasing transparency regarding the cost of higher education, gained unanimous approval in both chambers of the General Assembly prior to Pritzker’s signature.
The new law requires each public university in the state to submit a report to the Illinois Board of Higher Education on the amount of tuition undergraduates paid in the previous academic year, including the number of students paying more than 75 percent of full tuition costs; those paying between 50 and 75 percent; those paying between 25 and 50 percent; and those paying no more than 25 percent.
The information requirements will be added to an existing report submitted to the General Assembly each year which accounts for full tuition and fee waivers obtained by students.
Beginning Jan. 2020, the Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice may no longer charge committed persons a $5 copay for off-site medical or dental services. Prior to Pritzker’s signature on House Bill 2045, this copay was deducted from the committed person’s individual account.
The bill passed 106-0 in the House and 45-12 in the Senate.