Beginning New Year's Day, parents in Illinois could be charged with a crime for allowing their underaged children - or anyone else under the age of 21, for that matter - to drink alcohol on any piece of property they own or rent.
Illinois residents should also be aware that the state has also made it more difficult to use a cell phone while driving; that all daycare facilities need to be tested for radon; that all car owners will need to pay more for their license plates to help pay for state parks; that non-violent offenders can avoid prison time; that intentionally not paying sales tax could result in jail time; and that local governments can now hide from the public how much in sales taxes they are rebating to businesses that open new shops, hotels, restaurants or dealerships in town.
These changes to state law mark just a few of the more than 150 new laws taking effect Jan. 1.
Some of the laws have already made headlines, such as Public Act 97-1049. That law specifically makes it a crime to allow underage drinking at a parent's or guardian's home, as well as at barns, cabins, boathouses, and on any other property a parent or guardian might own.
Still others in Illinois may be familiar with the changes brought by Public Act 97-830, which now makes it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in any construction or road maintenance zone, not just those with reduced speed limits.
The state has also moved in Public Act 97-829 to prohibit all hand-held mobile device use while driving commercial vehicles. And in Public Act 97-795, the state has also redefined commercial vehicles to include vans, capable of transporting nine to 15 people, if the driver is being paid to transport the occupants of the vehicle.
However, just as in years past, 2012 proved to be a busy year for the Illinois General Assembly, which approved a number of other new laws, set to take effect in 2013, including:
• Public Act 97-976, which would now require counties, cities and villages to file standard reports to the Illinois Department of Revenue on all sales tax rebate agreements the local governments enact with businesses. The forms would include the names and locations of the businesses with which the local government is entering into the agreements, which are typically used to spur new economic development, by helping new stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses offset some of the costs of building their new facilities. The reports would also include the amount that would be rebated and how it would be rebated. But the new law also specifically allows the local government and the state to withhold certain specifics of the deal, including the amount of sales tax that is expected to be collected and rebated, from the public, making that information exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
• Public Act 97-981, which requires licensed daycare centers and daycare homes to be tested for radon at least once every three years. Those results would then need to be posted at the center or home.
• Public Act 97-1074, which creates the crime of sales tax evasion. Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan said the law is the result of an ongoing investigation of gas stations to recover sales taxes from many station operators who the state believes underreported revenues to avoid paying taxes. Those convicted of sales tax evasion could now face sentences of up to 15 years in prison, depending on the amount of taxes not paid.
• Public Act 97-1136, which enacts a host of fees, including entrance fees and use fees, to raise an estimated $32 million for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to maintain public lands in the state. Those fees also include a $2 surcharge tacked onto the cost of every license plate renewal sticker sold.
• Public Act 97-1118, which creates a 12-month diversion program to allow those charged with non-violent felonies, including burglary, theft, and possession of a stolen vehicle or of certain amounts of illegal drugs, to avoid jail time.
• Public Act 97-733, which makes it illegal to possess, sell or distribute shark fins in Illinois.
• Public Act 97-1035, which requires those entering "adult entertainment facilities" to pay a $3 fee, to fund sexual assault prevention efforts in Illinois.
• Public Act 97-1063, which eliminates "unnecessary delays" in adoptions of children, in which the child is already living with the prospective adoptive parents, and all parties have consented to the adoption.
• Public Act 97-850, which allows the IDNR to require people to clean boats and other watercraft before putting their craft in bodies of water in Illinois.
• Public Act 97-743, which imposes a fine of $1,000 on anyone who pops a wheelie on a motorcycle while speeding.
• Public Act 97-723, which requires those attempting to sell scrap metal to provide greater proof that they actually owned the metal, and which provides for tougher penalties for those illegally selling or buying stolen scrap metal.