People who are taken to court over unpaid debts in Illinois will have new protections beginning Jan. 1 under a measure Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Monday.
The new law will cap interest rates at 5%, down from 9 %, on consumer debt of less than $25,000 following a court judgment. It also will limit the window during which creditors can collect on a judgment to 17 years, down from 26 years under the current law.
State Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said it will help low-income consumers escape the cycles of debt that can trap them in poverty.
“Those who are seeking to repay their debt are working hard to do it,” Guzzardi said. “These aren’t people who are trying to shirk their obligations; these aren’t scofflaws. These are hardworking Illinoisans who want to pay back what they owe.”
* Press release…
Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation to strengthen penalties for life-threatening violations on roadways in an effort to protect law enforcement officers, first responders and road workers.
“Since 2002, Scott’s Law has said that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. This is not optional. This is how we keep our heroes and first responders as safe as possible in their line of work,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “This new and enhanced law protects those whose employment requires them to pull over on the highway. No policy will ever make restore the families of Trooper Gillen, Trooper Jones-Story and Trooper Lambert, nor will the loved ones of the construction workers or emergency responders killed on the job ever feel that their lives are made whole again. But with these laws, we are cementing our state’s commitment to safety: helping to protect the people who make our world better, our lives easier and our families safer.”
Several state troopers have lost their lives this year on the state’s roadways; two were killed when drivers violated Scott’s Law. The package of legislation honors the memory of Troopers Christopher Lambert, Brooke Jones-Story and Gerald Ellis, and the new law seeks to save more lives of the brave public servants who risk their lives to serve the people of Illinois.
Senate Bill 1862
Strengthening Scott’s Law
To prevent fatalities on Illinois roadways, SB 1862 expands Scott’s Law to cover more workers and enhances penalties upon violation.
The new law extends Scott’s Law protections to include a stationary authorized vehicle with oscillating lights, first responders, IDOT workers, law enforcement officers and any individual authorized to be on the highway within the scope of their employment or job duties.
It also increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation of Scott’s Law and to $750 for a second or subsequent violation as well as adds $250 assessment fee for any violation of Scott’s Law which will be deposited into a new dedicated fund to produce driver education materials, called the Scott’s Law Fund.
Criminal penalties will increase to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if violation results in damage to another vehicle or a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to one to three years in prison, if violation results in an injury or death of another person. Under the new law, an aggravating factor will be added to reckless homicide charges if Scott’s Law was violated.
The Secretary of State is also required to include written question on Scott’s Law in the driver’s license test.
The law takes effect immediately.
Senate Bill 2038
Creating the Move Over Task Force
To study the causes of violations and ways to protect law enforcement, emergency responders and residents of the state, SB 2038 creates the Move Over Task Force, made up of 20 members.
Members of this task force will include:
the Director of Illinois State Police (ISP) or his or her designee, who serves as Chair
the Governor of Illinois of his or her designee
the Secretary of State or his or her designee
the Secretary of Transportation (IDOT) or his or her designee
the Director of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority or his or her designee
the President of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association or his or her designee
the President of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association or his or her designee.
the President of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police or his or her designee;
the President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois or his or her designee;
one member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives;
one member appointed by the President of the Senate;
one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; and
the following to be appointed by the Governor:
two representatives of different statewide trucking associations;
one representative of a Chicago area motor club
one representative of a Chicago area transit safety alliance
one representative of a statewide broadcast association
one representative of a statewide towing organization
the chief of police of a municipality with a population under 25,000.
Members of the Task Force must serve without compensation and must meet no fewer than three times. Additionally, the Task Force must present its report and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2020.
The law takes effect immediately.
Senate Bill 1496
Increasing Construction Zone Fees
To keep workers safe as they rebuild our roadways, SB 1496 increases penalties for violations in construction zones.
The new law sets a penalty of between $100 and $1,000 for a driver who disobeys traffic-control devices within designated highway construction zone or maintenance zone and increases the penalty cap for a person who violates the rules on entering a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present from $10,000 to $25,000.
The law takes effect January 1, 2020.
“There is no reason why officers and first responders can’t be safe while addressing an incident on the side of the road,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago). “It needs to be second nature for drivers to slow down and move over whenever any vehicle is stalled on the side of the road.”
“The rapid increase just this year in those being hit or fatally killed is extremely concerning,” said Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “We must properly educate drivers to slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles, highway maintenance, tow trucks or other vehicles and personnel on the side of the road.”
“The men and women who are our first responders deserve to be protected while doing their jobs,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville). “The tragic deaths over the last year require us to do everything we can to educate the public that they must “move over” and, if they don’t, they will face increases penalties. Our first responders and their families have earned that from us.”
“Today with Gov Pritzker leading the way, we send a clear message to the first responders of Illinois and their families: we care about you and we want you to make it home safely,” said Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago). “With so many distractions in the vehicle nowadays, we need to stress roadway safety.”
“Our law enforcement officials put their lives on the line every single day,” said Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield). “We need to work hard to stop these needless tragedies from happening again.”
“These new laws represent the good that happens when members of the General Assembly work together in good-faith on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park).
“Our hope is that the changes included in this legislation will help stop the accidents that could and should be avoided,” said Sheriff David Clague, President of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association. “We believe that the changes signed into law will help better protect our emergency responders and all those on the roads of Illinois.”
* Press release…
Gov. Pritzker Signs Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act
Governor JB Pritzker today signed sweeping legislation to prevent coal ash from polluting communities across the state of Illinois.
“Coal ash is a public health issue and a pollution issue, and the state of Illinois is taking action to keep communities safe,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This new law will protect our precious groundwater and rivers from toxic chemicals that can harm our residents. With the Trump administration loosening standards on coal ash, Illinois is raising the bar to protect our environment and the health of people across our state.”
Senate Bill 9 prohibits coal ash discharge into the environment, requires IEPA approval for permitting and closures of coal combustion residual (CCR) surface impoundments such as landfills and piles, guarantees financial assurances from CCR owners or operators for future closure or maintenance costs, and directs the IEPA to propose new rules to the Pollution Control Board around the regulation of coal ash in the state, which it will then implement within 12 months.
The new coal ash regulations will be developed by IEPA within eight months and must satisfy the following requirements:
Must be at least as protective and comprehensive as the federal regulations or amendment promulgated by the U.S. EPA
Specify the minimum contents of permit applications.
Specify which types of permits include requirements for closure, post-closure, remediation, and other requirements.
Specify when permit applications must be submitted.
Specify standards for review and approval by IEPA for permit applications.
Specify meaningful public participation procedures and other methods and procedures.
Prescribe the type and amount of the performance bonds or other securities required.
Specify a procedure to identify areas of environmental justice concern.
Specify a method to prioritize CCR surface impoundments required to close if not specified by the U.S. EPA.
Define when complete removal is achieved.
Describe the process for identifying an alternative source of contamination when the owner/operator believes it is not from the impoundment.
The new law also directs new funds into the Environmental Protection Permit and Inspection Fund to help IEPA run the program. Power plant owners will pay an initial fee of $50,000 for closed impoundments and $75,000 for those that haven’t completed closure. Annual fees will begin on July 1, 2020: $25,000 for those that haven’t completed closure and $15,000 for each impoundment that’s closed but hasn’t completed post-closure care.
Senate Bill 9 takes effect immediately.
“With SB 9 becoming law, Illinois clearly demonstrates that we are not content to simply respond to environmental catastrophes after they occur, but instead that we will stand up and protect our homes and families from those risks,” said Sen. Scott Bennett (D- Champaign). “This is comprehensive, proactive legislation that provides the protections, regulations and financial assurances that we need to prevent more coal ash crises in our communities.”
“This legislation represents a significant step toward cleaner water and air for communities living near coal ash throughout the state of Illinois,” said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I want to thank Gov. Pritzker for protecting taxpayers and our public health because those who create the mess, should clean it up.”
“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Pritzker has taken a historic step in protecting communities and the environment from dangerous coal ash pollution across Illinois,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “Now, polluters will be held responsible for the cleanup of their toxic waste — not residents of Illinois.”
“This big step toward protecting our water supply and a clean energy future is the result of hard work by community leaders across the state and their legislative champions,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We applaud Governor Pritzker for his support and signing of this legislation, and for his bold vision of a 100% clean energy future for all Illinois communities. Cleaning up these toxic coal ash sites is an essential step toward a just transition for these communities, and a future in which their water is protected and new jobs are created in the technologies of the future.”
“This coal ash legislation is an important environmental protection success to protect safe, clean and drinkable water in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “ELPC is pleased that Gov. Pritzker signed SB 9 because it will protect our water quality, air quality and public health.”
“We are so pleased that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 9 into law,” said Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco-Justice Collaborative. “Community calls to clean up pollution from coal ash dumped on dozens of power plant sites across the state have been ignored for far too long. This bill ensures that those living near coal ash will have a say in how these dumps are cleaned up, so that public health and local economies are protected.”
“Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act,” said Andrew Rehn, a water resources engineer with Prairie Rivers Network. “We would not be here today with the incredible leadership from Senator Bennett and Representative Ammons and heroic efforts from community groups across the state. We are now taking the first steps in cleaning up the toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across Illinois.”
“The communities of faith represented by Faith In Place Action Fund applaud the Governor signing SB 9 into law,” said Celeste Flores from Faith in Place Action Fund. “Illinois joins other states that are putting its residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash on the rulemaking process.”
“With this law, Illinois is joining other states that are working to protect their citizens from toxic pollution from coal ash dumps,” said Jennifer Cassel, an Earthjustice coal program attorney based in Chicago. “For too long, utilities have been allowed to dump this pollution into unlined pits with no regard for the consequences. That will no longer be the case in Illinois.”
“This is a great win for Coal Ash Communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters,” said Dulce Ortiz from Clean Power Lake County. “The governor is putting the State of Illinois in a good trajectory in signing SB 9 into law, by sending a message that environmental justice communities across the state are being put before profitable industrial polluters like NRG Energy. Waukegan residents commend Governor Pritzker and our state legislators for making SB 9 into law. Our land is our children’s future and we look forward to the state of Illinois to continue strengthening protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities.”