Not only did 2018 mark the state of Illinois' bicentennial, but it also denoted some big political shifts.
In November, Democrats regained supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, improving the chances of Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker signing off on some of the flagship proposals of his campaign, such as legalizing recreational marijuana and putting a progressive income tax plan on the ballot for voters to consider.
Lawmakers also managed to pass 253 new pieces of legislation that went into effect Tuesday, with changes ranging from what kind of car seats children sit in to how long an individual must wait before he or she can buy a firearm.
Tom Dorsch, director of On Target Range and Tactical Training Center in Crystal Lake, said his customers have come to terms with Senate Bill 3256, which creates a 72-hour waiting period on all firearms.
The bill also eliminates exemptions for the waiting period requirements during the sale of a firearm to an out-of-state resident while at a recognized gun show.
But with another law limiting gun sales in effect, Dorsch said he is concerned what restrictions future legislation might have on gun owners.
"Now that there's another limit to our freedom to possess firearms, what's next?" Dorsch said.
Lawmakers also passed House Bill 2354, which allows family members or law enforcement to petition the court with an allegation that an individual is a threat to his or herself or others if in possession of a firearm. The court then can issue search warrants for law enforcement to seize any weapons.
Dorsch said in cases of domestic dispute, common sense would dictate there should be more than one source claiming someone poses a risk before the court can issue such an order.
Those with a license to prescribe opioids must complete three hours of continuing education on safe opioid-use practices before renewing their prescribing license.
Another law bars insurance and managed-care companies from requiring prior notification for specified inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment to get those with drug-use disorders the help they need quickly.
The state's Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, part of the Department of Human Services, has been renamed the Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery, and the law governing it has been rewritten to better reflect the priority given to the opioid-abuse epidemic.
The aim is to provide clearer guidelines for medical and community-based organizations that provide intervention and treatment, and for insurance companies to adopt a standardized approach to such care.
In the aftermath of fatal school shootings in Maryland, Kentucky, Texas, Florida and other parts of the country in 2018, Illinois lawmakers passed several bills to help students and staff better prepare in the event of such a tragedy.
House Bill 4658 requires licensed school personnel and administrators who work with K-12 students to be trained once every two years on how to identify and address the warning signs of mental illness and suicidal behavior in youth.
Senate Bill 2350 requires active shooter or threat safety drills within 90 days of the start of the school year. Drills must be conducted at times where students are present. All school personnel and students must participate, and local law enforcement officials must observe the drill.
In a response to a number of lucrative severance packages doled out to government employees that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, lawmakers passed the Government Severance Pay Act.
This new law, Senate Bill 3604, eliminates “golden parachutes’ for any government employees fired for misconduct and would otherwise set severance pay at an amount not to exceed 20 weeks' worth of compensation.
Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, who sponsored the bill, was a vocal critic of the $600,000 severance agreement Northern Illinois University paid to its former president, Doug Baker, who resigned in 2017 after the release of a report from the Office of the Executive Inspector General that concluded he had mismanaged the university.
Under House Bill 4377, children younger than 2 must ride in rear-facing child-restraint seats in automobiles. Children taller than 40 inches or weighing more than 40 pounds are exempt.
The first offense carries a $75 fine at the discretion of local authorities.
In addition to local law enforcement agencies, Senate Bill 2514 gives the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois State Police the ability to enforce smoking violations under the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
• The Associated Press contributed to this story.