New Illinois laws going into effect in 2017
2017 will usher in more transparency and opportunity in areas from criminal justice to government employee expenses to pensions.
Although 2016 saw numerous legislative battles, persistent gridlock over the state budget, and a contentious election season, in 2016 lawmakers also passed important legislation with bipartisan support. Many of the laws passed were vital criminal justice reforms that expand opportunities for rehabilitated Illinoisans with criminal records. Others include reforms centered on government accountability, which mandate the reporting of local government employees’ dining, lodging and travel expenses. And other measures will bring about some important pension reform.
Here are some of the positive changes coming to the Prairie State in January 2017:
Criminal justice and public safety reform
- House Bill 5017: This new law amends the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 to expand opportunities for juveniles to have court records for nonviolent offenses expunged. Previously, only limited cases were eligible for expungement. The law also accelerates the timeline in which juveniles can apply for expungement. Records can now be expunged as soon as proceedings have concluded, instead of waiting until the individual turns 21.
- Senate Bill 5973: This law expands access to occupational licensing in three occupations for citizens with criminal records by narrowing the scope of offenses that can be considered in a license application to those directly related to the occupation. This expands opportunity and allows former offenders to return to work with fewer barriers.
- House Bill 3164: This law came out of the recommendations from the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. For offenses where probation is available, the law encourages reduction of unnecessary prison sentences by requiring sentencing review to determine whether prison is necessary based on aggravating factors.
- House Bill 4515: This new law promotes responsible re-entry of former offenders back into the health care field. It changes how health care waivers for ex-offenders are displayed on the registry website so that when someone is given a waiver that person is simply listed as “eligible” instead of being red-flagged. It also removes low-level cannabis possession from the list of disqualifying offenses.
- House Bill 6328: This law expands eligibility for expungement of arrests or charges that were vacated or reversed or never resulted in prison time, and eliminates fees for certain sealing and expungement petitions.
Government transparency and expense reform
- House Bill 4379: This new law, the Local Government Travel Expense Control Act, requires school districts, community college districts and non-home rule units of local government to regulate the reimbursement of all travel, meal and lodging expenses of officers and employees. These entities now must control the types of official business for which travel, meal and lodging expenses are allowed, and set a cap for reimbursement. Also, they must create a standardized form for submitting travel, meal and lodging expenses. The law prohibits reimbursing entertainment expenses – such as shows, amusements, theaters, circuses and sporting events – for all units of local government and school districts.
- House Bill 4259: This new law restricts the definition of those who qualify for the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, or IMRF, pension system. People who aren’t full government employees, such as employees of associations and nonprofits like the Illinois Municipal League, Association of Park Districts, and county governmental leagues, are no longer eligible to participate in the IMRF.