As we prepare to bid 2023 a fond farewell and ring in the New Year, more than 300 new laws are set to take effect on January 1, 2024. I will be highlighting some of the more noteworthy bills over the next two weeks, but a full list of laws taking effect on January 1 can be viewed here.
Conflicting Priorities on Crime as the Year Ends
Among the issues that made headlines during the fall veto session is the Democrats’ refusal to extend
bipartisan legislation that passed in 2017, and is set to expire at the end of the year, that established higher minimum prison terms for people convicted for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon if they’d previously been convicted of certain crimes. The legislation also increased penalties for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. This was a “tough on crime” bill that kept Illinoisans safer. When this bill came to the Senate floor I was an enthusiastic “yes!”
Unfortunately, after this legislation passed in the Senate, Democrat lawmakers blocked this bill from being heard in the Illinois House of Representatives, which means it will expire at the end of the year. At the same time, Democrats prioritized passing legislation that created laws that allow non-citizens to work as police officers and felons to work at casinos. Both of these bills take effect January 1. These items are great examples of the misplaced priorities and political games that are played under the dome at the Capitol.
New “Assault Weapon” Ban Requirements
While sales and purchases of certain firearms had already been made illegal by Illinois’ controversial “assault weapon” ban (AWB), Illinois residents who already owned guns covered by the ban are allowed to keep them if they file required paperwork before January 1, 2024.
The ban was the central component of the “Protect Illinois Communities Act,” which Governor Pritzker signed into law on January 10, 2023.
The law requires owners of now-banned weapons and/or accessories to file an affidavit with the Illinois State Police (ISP) stating that they owned the firearms and/or accessories before the ban came into effect on January 10, 2023.
ISP submitted rules for the process, including what firearms and accessories are banned, to the Legislature’s bicameral and bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). I am a member of this committee and had an opportunity to question representatives from the ISP. After pushback from many of us on JCAR, ISP held a series of hearings this fall discussing the rules and soliciting questions and feedback. Much of the feedback involved confusion over exactly which firearms and accessories are included in the vaguely worded ban and rules.
Additional concerns about the ban involve firearms purchased during a window created by conflicting court rulings. Between April 28 and May 4, 2023, a federal injunction blocked the implementation of the ban, allowing Illinois residents to make purchases during that window of firearms that would have been illegal if the AWB were in effect. But according to the ISP rules, those firearms will become illegal on January 1, 2024.
For more information on what firearms and accessories are included in the ban, ISP created a document which can be found at: https://isp.illinois.gov/StaticFiles/docs/Home/AssaultWeapons/PICA%20Emergency%20Rule%20Register.pdf. For further information, including setting up an online account to file an affidavit, please visit: https://isp.illinois.gov/Home/AssaultWeapons
Meanwhile, several court cases challenging the constitutionality of the ban are ongoing, including two cases docketed with the United States Supreme Court.
Human Trafficking Victims Get Opportunity to Move Past Trauma
Victims of human trafficking will have more tools to overcome their trauma and pursue a better life. The new law creates a pathway for victims, who are often forced to participate in unlawful activity by their traffickers, to expunge their criminal records.
House Bill 2418/P.A. 103-0035 allows victims of human trafficking to petition for vacation, expungement, or immediate sealing of their sentence. It also allows the victim making the petition to attend hearings remotely to avoid undue hardship or create a risk of harm. The law also allows the petition to be filed under seal if a public filing may expose the victim to future harm. These steps help ensure a victim is able to avoid future victimization from their former abuser or abusers. I was happy to support this bill in the Senate.
The law was inspired by constituents of my Senate colleague Senator Rose, who were forced to take legal action to prevent their child from being required to testify against their abuser in court, rather than via closed-circuit TV. This new law will spare families from having to take similar action to protect their children.
New Laws Protect Children in Legal Proceedings
A new law set to take effect on January 1 will help ensure that young victims of violent crimes won’t be re-traumatized when they seek justice through the criminal justice system. House Bill 2607/P.A. 103-0164 allows victims under the age of 13 to testify remotely in most cases.
Additionally, another new law allows for the admissibility of certified hospital or public or private agency records in adjudicatory hearings on abused, neglected, or dependent minors. Often in these cases, medical records are needed in court proceedings to prove abuse and neglect. House Bill 1434/ P.A. 103-0124 reduces burdensome restrictions and ensures the records are available, while still protecting their privacy. I voted in favor of both of these bills.
New Tools in the Battle Against the Opioid Crisis
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported record-high opioid deaths in our state in 2022. To help combat this deadly crisis, Senate Republicans introduced and supported several new laws taking effect on January 1 to provide new tools to help save lives in the battle against this growing public health crisis.
Deaths resulting from drugs laced with fentanyl are becoming more commonplace, but a new law will expand the availability of test strips capable of detecting even trace amounts of fentanyl that substances may be laced with. House Bill 3203/P.A. 103-0336, will allow test strips to be sold over the counter and enable county health departments to provide them for free. I was a proud co-sponsor of this bill.
Schools will also be required to maintain a supply of an opioid antagonist, like Narcan under House Bill 3428/P.A. 103-0348, and public schools will be required to provide instruction to high schoolers on the dangers of fentanyl under House Bill 3924/P.A. 103-0365. I supported this legislation.
Greater Protections for Reporting Elder Abuse
More people will be able to report suspected abuse that may have contributed to a senior citizen’s death under a new law taking effect on January 1. House Bill 2858/P.A. 103-0329 states that any person may report information about the suspicious death of an eligible adult to an agency designated to receive such reports or to the Illinois Department on Aging. The new law will allow people who interact with the state’s senior citizens on a regular basis to come forward without fear of consequences from their employers.
New Laws Support, and Protect First Responders
Several new laws that aim to support and protect first responders take effect in 2024. Senate Bill 1543/P.A. 103-0382 creates the position of Statewide PTSD Mental Health Coordinator. The Coordinator is tasked with implementing mental health support and education programs for law enforcement.
Whenever any full-time firefighter or paramedic contracts COVID-19 in the line of duty, causing them to be unable to perform their duties during a disaster declaration by the Governor, the employee will continue to be paid by their local government, other than Chicago, under Senate Bill 214/P.A. 103-0063, which was unanimously supported by the Senate Republican Caucus.
To further support first responders, municipalities will be required to provide the same medical insurance options to police, firefighters, and corrections officers who experience a catastrophic injury on the job and can no longer work as provided to active workers under House Bill 3249/P.A. 103-0340.
Additionally, Senate Bill 1963/P.A. 103-0009 creates a $500 tax credit for volunteer emergency workers. I cast votes in favor of all four of these pro-first responder bills.