A new law signed during the week will help the families of crime victims by extending the statute of limitations on violent crimes and strengthening Illinois’ Freedom of Information Act laws.
Other legislation also signed into law during the week includes measures expanding insurance coverage in Illinois to include cutting-edge breast cancer screenings, targeting the retail sales of synthetic drugs and reinforcing the state’s commitment to early childhood education.
Governor signs Molly’s Law
The legislative package known as Molly’s Law will strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and extend the period of time in which a victim’s family can file a wrongful death lawsuit when the act is intentional and violent in nature.
House Bill 6083 allows a lawsuit in a wrongful death case to be brought within five years after the date of a death, or within one year after the criminal case against the perpetrator concludes.
Additionally, House Bill 4715 provides for fines—up to $1,000 per day—in cases where a public body fails to comply with a court order resulting from a FOIA action. It also incentivizes public bodies to act in a timely manner in response to binding opinions from the Attorney General in FOIA cases.
The new laws were sought by the family of Molly Young, a 21-year-old victim of a gunshot wound who died under questionable circumstances in 2012. The Young family faced an uphill battle in the pursuit of justice for Molly, hindered by the state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death cases and burdensome FOIA compliance issues.
As a result, in May 2015 a judge dismissed a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Larry Young, ruling Young failed to file the lawsuit within two years of Molly’s death.
House Bill 6083 and House Bill 4715 will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
Illinois continues to lead in early childhood education
A new law signed July 21 reinforces Illinois’ leading role in early childhood education.
As the first state in the country to make sure an allocation of early childhood education funding was directed to programs for infants and toddlers up to age three, Senate Bill 238 clarifies the original intent of the law to ensure that 25 percent of the early childhood block grant will be spent on programs that focus on children younger than three.
It has been demonstrated that early childhood is critical to intellectual, physical and behavioral development—particularly in the very early years after birth.
Senate Bill 238 prioritizes state support to ensure children in Illinois begin their lives with a strong academic foundation and age-appropriate support and resources.
Expanded coverage to include 3D breast cancer screenings
Insurance plans in Illinois, including Medicaid, will now cover breast tomosynthesis, or 3D mammography, following the Governor’s recent approval of Senate Bill 466.
The legislation was unanimously supported by Illinois lawmakers, and praised as a critical tool to help with early detection of breast cancer.
Breast tomosynthesis is a form of breast cancer screening that is newer and more effective than low-dose mammography. It works by creating an image of the breast through a series of X-rays from different angles. This enables doctors to have a clear, three-dimensional image, making it easier to see through dense tissue and detect breast cancers.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Illinois women, accounting for 29.7 percent of 796,602 invasive cancer diagnoses in women during 1986-2013. In 2013 alone, 9,859 women were diagnosed with, and 1,761 women died from, breast cancer.
The Illinois Department of Public Health projects that 10,290 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, and that the number will increase to 10,440 women in 2017.
Senate Bill 466 took effect immediately.
Banning sale of addictive bath salts
The Governor also signed Senate Bill 210, giving law enforcement another tool to curb the growing number of retailers selling synthetic drugs popularly known as “bath salts.”
The new law targets the sale of these synthetic drugs by prohibiting retailers from selling, or offering for sale, any material that contains the “cathinone” chemical structure found in bath salts. Once the law takes effect on January 1, 2017, it will be a Class 3 felony if the Act is violated, which could result in a potential fine up to $150,000. In addition, units of local government may revoke a violator’s license.
Use of bath salts has been on the rise across the country for the last decade. It has been difficult for law enforcement to crack down on the bath salt epidemic, because in order to get around state and federal laws, manufacturers of synthetic drugs continue to modify their formulas.
Bath salts are chemically similar to amphetamines, cocaine, and MDMA, and they produce effects such as paranoia, hallucinations, increased sociability, panic attacks and excited delirium. So named because these substances are often sold disguised as common bath salts, they are frequently available in convenience stores, smoke shops and adult stores. Bath salts are known to be extremely addictive, and even deadly.