Opening the year by perusing the new laws instituted in Illinois for 2019 can be at once entertaining and enlightening.
We can be entertained as we find laws we can't imagine had to be written and ones we couldn't imagine could ever be written. The list is also an opportunity to measure how we've changed, or even consider what laws might be considered antiquated 50 or 100 years from now, or even next year.
One of the fascinating new laws is one requiring the secretary of state to update Illinois' "Rules of the Road" driver's handbook. The update is the addition of information on the "Dutch Reach" method of opening car doors. While sitting in the driver's seat at the curb, the Dutch Reach involves reaching across the body with the right hand to open the door, thereby encouraging a glance over the shoulder at oncoming traffic. The method is taught in the Netherlands. Illinois is the second state (after Massachusetts) to enact the Dutch Reach.
That's a common-sense thing we should have been doing before now.
There are overdue refinements of existing laws. The Department of Corrections will be required to collect and report violence in prisons and publish public-safety reports. They'll include numbers of assaults, sexual assaults, contraband, weapons, suicide and segregation. We don't expect these numbers to please every person who's reading the reports, but those are things we should know and need to know about our prisons.
Carnival operators must conduct criminal background checks on every ride operator they employ. A background check was previously required, but state officials had no capacity to revoke a violator's permit. Again, a refinement that is common sense.
Adjusting for the times, stalking laws are expanded to include unwanted messages sent through social media apps. A decade ago, that problem was less widespread and less understood by the general public. In another stalking law change that reflects the times, businesses, churches and other places of worship, and schools are allowed to seek restraining orders against stalkers.
A couple of health laws directly address an issue we will continue to hear about in the new year and beyond. First, those with licenses to prescribe opioids must complete three hours of continuing education on safe opioid-use practices before renewing their prescription licenses. Three hours – that seems like less than the least we can do. But at least it will remind those who handle the prescriptions of the ongoing seriousness of the issue, and how serious we as a society view it.
Another law bars insurance and managed-care companies from requiring prior notification for specified in- or outpatient substance-abuse treatment in order to get those with drug-use disorders the help they need quickly. Sometimes, the word “opioid” is so much a buzzword that decisions are sometimes made immediately on incorrect yet stereotypical thoughts.
In a law we couldn't have even managed considering a generation ago, every school in Illinois now must conduct at least one active-shooter safety drill administered by local police annually.
That's a sad sign of our times.