By Sarah Delano Pavlik

Although we still don’t have a budget, you may be surprised to learn that the Illinois legislature and the governor have passed many new laws for 2016. Here are some highlights.

Child Custody.  The words “custody” and “visitation” are being removed from Illinois statutes.  Instead of awarding custody and visitation, a judge will now allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time.  The decisions that were formerly a part of custody (whether joint or sole custody) such as education, health care and religion, can now be assigned to one or both parents separately.  A potential downside of this new legislation is that parents may now choose to fight about each issue separately, making litigation even more time consuming and expensive.

Another significant change in the divorce arena is the elimination of “fault” divorces.  Most divorces are “no fault,” that is, they are based on irreconcilable differences.  However, until Jan. 1, 2016, a divorce could also be brought on certain grounds such as cruelty, abandonment and adultery.  These grounds are now eliminated, and all divorces will be based on irreconcilable differences.

Drugs and other substances.  There are a number of new laws regarding drugs and other substances.  Under a new pilot program, some pharmacies will be using prescription bottles with a combination lock for addictive painkillers like Vicodin and Norco.  The locks look like the numerical locks on some suitcases.  These locks will hopefully prevent anyone other than the person for whom the medication is prescribed from accessing the painkillers.

In 2016 it will be illegal to sell powdered caffeine to anyone younger than 18 years old.  Powdered alcohol will be illegal for people of all ages.  It will also be illegal to possess, distribute or manufacture synthetic marijuana and synthetic K2.

Medical issues. There are also a number of new laws regarding medical issues.  Terminally ill patients will have more options under the “Right to Try Act.”  This act allows patients with a life expectancy of two years or less to use certain experimental treatments that have passed preliminary safety tests but have not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Although a patient may now have the right to try these treatments, insurance companies are not required to pay for them if not otherwise covered by their policies.

The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act will allow families to install their own cameras and recording devices in nursing homes and certain other facilities.  All residents of the room must consent to the devices, the nursing home staff must be made aware of the devices and a notice stating “This room is electronically monitored” must be posted.

The Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act requires all Illinois schools to have a concussion oversight team.  Per the act, “Each concussion oversight team must establish a return-to-play protocol, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, for a player’s return to the sponsored youth sports activity following a force or impact believed to have caused a concussion.  Each concussion oversight team must include to the extent practicable at least one physician. If a youth sports league employs an athletic trainer, the athletic trainer must also be a member of the concussion oversight team.”

Education.  Schools will be required to repeal “zero-tolerance” policies, and suspensions and expulsions are strongly discouraged.  Revisions to the Illinois School Code provide that “School officials shall limit the number and duration of expulsions and suspensions to the greatest extent practicable.”  Out-of-school suspensions of three days or less may be used only “if the student’s continuing presence in school would pose a threat to school safety or a disruption to other students’ learning opportunities.”  For suspensions that are longer than three days, expulsions, and/or disciplinary removals to alternative schools, the bill states these routes may be used only if “other appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary interventions have been exhausted” and the student’s presence would “pose a threat to the safety of other students, staff, or members of the school community or substantially disrupt, impede, or interfere with the operation of the school.”

All schools must also install carbon monoxide detectors.

Motor Vehicles.  Over 5,000 people in Illinois have been convicted of drunk driving four times.  These people had previously been prohibited from ever getting a driver’s license again.  However, as of Jan. 1, 2016, those with four DUI convictions can receive a restricted driving permit if it can be shown that they have been alcohol and drug free for three years.  If a permit is granted, the driver will still be required to use a breath ignition-interlock device to operate his vehicle.

All boaters born after Jan. 1, 1998 operating a boat with a 10 horsepower engine or greater must obtain a boating safety certificate approved by the Department of Natural Resources.

The cost of all traffic tickets will go up by $5 to pay for police body cameras.

Bobcats. There will now be a season for bobcat hunting in Illinois. The season will be set sometime between Nov. 1, 2016, and Feb. 15, 2017. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources will issue 500 permits. There will be a limit of one bobcat per person per season.

Pie. Finally, in case you were wondering, pumpkin pie is now the official state pie of Illinois.   

Sarah Delano Pavlik is an attorney with Delano Law Offices, LLC. She can be reached at [email protected].

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