For those resolving to make important life changes, New Year’s Day has always been the symbolic starting point. But some changes one might make could be preempted by the decree, as the state has a number of new laws that will go into effect on Jan. 1.
    A listing of the new public acts was provided by Illinois Sen. Susan Rezin’s office. Some of the more significant additions to the Illinois codex include a bail-bond reform act, a revamp of drug laws and the allowance of breastfeeding on the grounds of public schools.
    Per the list, the Bail Reform Act “grants a right to counsel at bail hearings, provides for mandatory bail re-hearings on nonviolent offenses, and provides that any bail set should be non-monetary and that the court should address the risk in the least restrictive way possible.”
    Earlier in October, Livingston County Public Defender Randy Morgan told the Daily Leader there would be some growing pains in implementing the act.
    “The big question that arises is for weekend court and for Saturday court in Bloomington,” he said at the time. “I’m not sure how they plan on doing that. If someone’s arrested here, they have to be brought before a judge within 48 hours. They didn’t used to in years past, where they used to, say, be arrested on Friday night and wouldn’t see a judge until Monday morning.
    “They can’t do that anymore as it was found to be unlawful, so now there’s Saturday morning bond court. That’s held in Bloomington, it’s not held in every county. There’s going to have to be arrangements made, whether by video or in-person — hopefully by video — for representation at those hearings. It hasn’t been decided yet how that’s going to be handled, but under the new law, someone’s going to have to be there.”
    But Morgan also indicated that the public defender’s office, apprised of the incoming change well ahead of time, was already working toward being able to immediately integrate once the law went into effect.
    Another law taking effect, known as the Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act, amends several previously existing criminal laws. Per its status description, it loosens a more punitive grip on drug crimes by eliminating the enhanced penalties for illegal drug deliveries in public housing facilities, as well as reduces the distance enhanced penalties can be applied for delivering illegal drugs in protected places from 1,000 feet to 500 feet.
    The Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act also creates a multi-jurisdictional Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force within the Illinois State Police, whose duties include “combating gun violence, gun-trafficking, and other violent crime with the primary mission of preservation of life and reducing the occurrence and the fear of crime.”
    One new law that could have a transformative effect on education in Illinois will allow for students to breastfeed on school grounds. The act amends the state School Code to require public schools, including charter schools, to “provide reasonable accommodations to a lactating pupil on a school campus to express breast milk, breastfeed an infant child, or address other needs related to breastfeeding” and defines those reasonable accommodations.
    Teen pregnancy has historically had a detrimental effect of graduation rates. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention update from May, only around 50 percent of teen mothers in America receive a high school diploma by the age of 22. By making public schools more inclusive and cognizant of the needs of pregnant teens, the presumable goal is to help curb dropout rates.
    "We just want to make sure we have healthy babies and a supportive environment for young mothers," Rep. Sonya Harder, D-Chicago, told the Tribune in September. "They have so much to worry about already."