Tuesday, December 18, 2012
January 1st marks the beginning of the New Year and according to State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), it’s also the day more than 150 new laws become effective in Illinois. A number of the measures were sponsored by Dillard, including legislation to protect children from criminal offenders, target fraud, help Illinois service men and women, and promote government transparency.
With the holiday season in full swing, many parents will be relieved to know that after Jan. 1, 2013, convicted child sex offenders will be prohibited from participating in certain holiday events—such as dressing up as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or handing out candy at Halloween. Offenders who break this law (SB 3579/PA 97-0699) could be subject to fines or revocation of their parole or probation, and could face additional jail time.
“I do not believe child sex offenders should be given the opportunity to dress up and participate in a holiday event that caters directly to young children,” Dillard said, explaining he sponsored the law in response to real incidents that occurred in Illinois where child sex offenders used holiday events as a way to inappropriately interact with children.
And when kids go back to school following their winter break, parents can rest a little easier knowing school-safety legislation sponsored by Sen. Dillard takes effect Jan. 1. Introduced by Dillard at the recommendation of DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin, House Bill 5265/PA 97-0998 allows for the felony prosecution of people who attempt to lure older children into their motor vehicle while the child is traveling to or from school.
“Obviously, there are 16- and 17-year-olds who are juniors and seniors in high school. They are still children, and they should not be excluded from this type of protection,” said Dillard.
The Senator explained the new law was introduced in response to a case in DuPage County, where a 17-year-old was on her way to school, and was approached by a sex offender who tried to lure her into his van. Though the van was stopped by police, law enforcement officials could only charge the individual with disorderly conduct because the state’s current child luring law only applies to minors who are younger than 16 years of age.
“After Jan. 1, any individual caught preying on children walking to school will be punished appropriately,” Dillard said.
Though laws targeting criminal activity often receive attention, Sen. Dillard also sponsored legislation targeting a different kind of crime—fraud on Illinois’ suburban and Chicago transit systems. House Bill 4440/PA 97-781 seeks to curtail fraud associated with Illinois’ “Seniors Ride Free” program that the Senator said could save the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) as much as $350,000 per year in lost revenue.
“The RTA found that there could be as many as 1,000 Seniors Ride Free cards being abused each year. These individuals are getting a free ride—literally—from the State of Illinois to the tune of almost a half-billion dollars,” said Dillard. “Requiring RTA and the state’s Department of Public Health officials to frequently check current Seniors Ride Free cardholders against those who have passed away is a common-sense practice that in time will save the state millions of dollars.”
Dillard said that in 2010, the RTA performed an audit of the Seniors Ride Free program to determine whether cards belonging to deceased seniors were being fraudulently used after their death. The Transit Authority found that 164 of the 3,124 Seniors Ride Free cards sampled were used after the cardholders’ death. Based on mortality rate statistics provided by the National Vital Statistics Reports, if cards belonging to the 20,150 Seniors Ride Free cardholders projected to pass away each year were used fraudulently at the same rate as the sample taken during the 2010 RTA audit, more than 1,000 cards would be compromised—which adds up to $350,000 a year.
Sen. Dillard wants to spread accountability all areas of government, which is why he teamed up with Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn) to sponsor legislation (House Bill 4687/PA 97-827) to increase the clarity of and public access to public notices and agendas required under the Open Meetings Act. Once it takes effect, the new law will require every agenda posted prior to a public meeting to include the general subject matter of the resolution or ordinance that will be voted on at the meeting.
“Rep. Pihos and I found that sometimes the agendas for public meetings can be vague, which makes it difficult for the public to understand the purpose of the meeting,” Dillard explained. “House Bill 4687 underscores that there is an expectation that notices are sufficiently descriptive, to the extent you could reasonably expect that a layperson would understand what is going to happen at the meeting.”
One of Sen. Dillard’s top legislative priorities is helping Illinois’ service men and women. This year, Sen. Dillard sponsored SB 3287/PA 97-913, which will extend additional benefits to active duty service members and members of the National Guard who have been called to duty by the Governor for more than 30 days. Dillard explained that members of the Armed Forces can be called to duty with little advance notice, which can make it difficult for them to attend to many of the day-to-day obligations that most people take for granted—including paying bills and attending legal hearings and other proceedings.
“These hardworking men and women are making great sacrifices for their country. It is reasonable that they should be given the option to terminate a lease at a residence where they won’t be living, or allowed more time to make payments on contracts—seemingly simple tasks that would obviously become much more difficult if you have been called to active duty,” Dillard explained.
Upon taking effect Jan. 1, the new law will extend additional benefits to Illinois service members called to duty by the Governor, including the right to terminate a residential property lease; allow for a stay of an administrative proceeding and default judgment protection; ensure protection from property repossession on installment contracts; and allow for a court authorized adjustment to a loan obligation in foreclosure proceedings. Currently all these protections are available for members called to duty by the President; the new law extends the same protections to those called into action by the Governor.
These are just some of the laws that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013. A full list of the Jan. 1 new laws can be found at Sen. Dillard’s Web site www.dillard.senategop.org.