By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
There will be almost 200 new laws enacted in the state of Illinois alone in 2017. Add to that new fees and ordinances for City of Chicago residents and you almost have to be a paralegal to keep track. With the assistance of State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (16th), the Crusader is highlighting some of the main laws Crusader readers need to know about.
Those recently released from prison will now walk to freedom with a state I.D. card in their possession. Sen. Collins said that for years, those attempting to reintegrate into society faced a major obstacle in having identification to prove who they were. Without it, they could not open bank accounts, apply for some jobs and faced a host of other obstacles. Former inmates were forced to purchase a temporary I.D. from the Department of Corrections and later exchange it for a new I.D., for an additional fee, from the Secretary of State’s Office. Thanks to SB368, which requires the Department of Corrections to issue former inmates a 90-day ID at no cost, former inmates are rid of one hurdle. “This will provide inmates with significantly more stability and a larger window to get their affairs in order as they reintegrate back into our society,” Collins said.
That is not the only help citizens who have had a run-in with the law are receiving. Those who were arrested, and charged, but never convicted of anything, will now be able to have the arrest expunged from their record in a timely fashion. According to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, over 10,000 people each year are arrested and brought to the jail only to have their charges dismissed. Collins said the arrest record can cause a person to be denied employment, which research shows helps reduce crime.
“Individuals who were found not guilty can now file for expungement. Nobody should be forced to have a mark on their record for a crime they did not commit,” Collins said.
Staying in contact with family members while incarcerated can also help those in prison rehabilitate themselves when they are released. Collins said prisoners who have a strong, social support system are less likely to return to prison. Thus she helped pass another law that puts a cap of seven cents a minute on collect phone calls that inmates make.
Previously the Department of Corrections in each state allowed private companies to bid on the telecommunications contract. But with HB 6200, the DOC will now have to accept the lowest bidder, thus reducing the cost for prisoners to speak with their loved ones, and thereby encouraging frequent family contact.
If you live in Chicago get ready for higher water and sewer fees. This one increase alone is the reason why many homeowners said they are choosing to leave Chicago. The unpopular water tax hike by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will add an average of $53 to homeowners’ monthly bills. Emanuel said the revenue from the increase will be used towards the pension fund deficit.
Responsible sexual freedom for women will also get a boost in 2017. House Bill 5576 streamlines the process for women to access birth control without additional costs. The law now requires Illinois insurance companies to provide coverage for almost all FDA-approved contraceptive options. Gov. Rauner signed the law in July.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires all health insurance plans nationwide to cover birth-control pills and other contraceptives for women with no out-of-pocket costs. “It’s always a good thing when women can be empowered to take control of their sexual life,” said noted sexologist Dr. Rachael Ross. “Giving women more access to safer sex options and birth control empowers them to make better decisions.”
Women also got another victory with the not so funny “tampon tax.” Previously the sales tax on tampons was 6.25%, like other items. But female legislators backed by womens’ groups repealed the tax on the necessary feminine product. They say the product is directly related to women’s health and is a product which should never have been taxed.
“My wife celebrated and so did my daughters,” said Darrell Anderson from Chicago’s South Side. “I thought they were joking when they first told me about it because I had never thought about it. But after I did, it really is a sexist law, seeing that it only affects one gender.”
As states across the country continue to pass laws decriminalizing marijuana possession in small amounts, Illinois will now punish those in possession with a $200 fine instead of jail time. Possession in the amount of 10 grams or less will no longer be deemed a criminal offense. Many in the African American community say this law will help limit the number of Black men in jail.
The above mentioned new laws are set to take effect on New Year’s Day, 2017.