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8 Noteworthy New Laws & Taxes To Watch For In 2017

By Stephen Gossett in News on Dec 28, 2016 10:23PM

Getty Images / Photo: Sean Gallup

2016 is just about out the door (thankfully, many would argue), and when the new year arrives so too will a host of new laws and taxes. We combed through the good, the bad and the costly of some of those upcoming measures, both statewide and local, to find some of the most noteworthy ch-ch-changes afoot. There are other notable legal changes right around the corner—including tweaks to sick time rules and new lead disclosure requirements for landlords. But below you can sample a few standouts that caught our eye.

Hairdressers to receive domestic violence training

Hairdressers and their clients often have a bond that goes far beyond transactional and into the personal or even therapeutic. One of the more forward-thinking changes to the state books makes use of that relationship by requiring that stylists and cosmetologists receive one hour of training every two years to familiarize themselves with domestic-abuse red flags and equip them with necessary resources to pass along to clients in need. The New York Times had a good dive/profile on the law earlier this month.

The end of the Tampon Tax

So-called tampon taxes are so loathed that they inspired a social media movement to have them repealed (i.e. #HappyToBleed and #FreeTheTampons). The Illinois legislature, for one, heard the call; and the 6.25 percent tax on all feminine hygiene products is getting chucked at new year’s arrival.

A little bit of sweet leaf ain't no big thing

Illinois made several progressive strides in terms of marijuana policy this year, including extending the list of qualifying conditions for medical pot to PTSD and terminal illness. (Sales grew to record, um, highs.) But the biggest push in doobie legal sanity came in July, when the governor signed a law that will decriminalize possession of 10 grams of green or less. Such arrests will carry a fine (up to $200) rather than criminal charges.

Cyclists have the same rights under the law as motorists

In one of the worst ironies of 2016, the city of Chicago was named the most bike-friendly city in America the same year it saw a brutal wave of cyclist fatalities. With luck, House Bill 5912, which explicitly clarifies that a bicycle is “absolutely a vehicle” and has the same rights as cars, will help protect cyclists from harm here and throughout the state. Check out our original coverage here.

The Kinzie Street protected bike lane: the one that started them all. (Photo Credit: Josh Koonce)

Taxes are in the bag

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget proposal for next year sailed through the City Council in November, it cleared the way for the as-expected tax on both paper and plastic bags. If you don’t BYO tote to your chosen retailer, be prepared to cough up 7 centers per bag. Again, that’s per; so plan accordingly or watch the bill climb.

New taxes are in the water, too.

The long costly arm of closing the pension gap will get just a little bit longer and costlier starting next year. Homeowners—and, depending on lease agreements, some renters—will be on the hook for an extra $53 in 2017 thanks to the water/sewer tax that passed in September, which seeks to add nearly $240 million per year to the Municipal Employees' Annuity and Benefit Fund. In case this all sounds like déjà vu, this new increase follows Emanuel’s doubling of the tax way back in his first term.

Playing beat-the-Metra at railroad crossings is an even worse gambit.

In general, it's probably never a good idea when driving to try to hurry up across railroad tracks to beat an oncoming train. It'll be extra stupid starting in 2017 when a new Metra-sponsored amendment to the Illinois Vehicle Code ups the fine for darting through an activated grade crossing system. First time offenses double from $250 to $500 and subsequent rush jobs incur $1,000 instead of $500. So maybe just wait for the train to pass.

Lawyers must be present for minors in homicide investigations

This common-sense law prevents law enforcement officials from interrogating children under the age of 15 in homicide investigations—and some sex offenses—without a lawyer present. Even if you didn't watch Making a Murderer and the subsequent Brendan Dassey debacle, this should be good news to the ears of anyone who prizes fair due process.