Ignorantia juris non excusat is the Latin phrase loosely translated as ignorance of the law is no excuse. It is a legal principle that just because someone is not aware of what the law is they cannot escape liability for violating said law merely because they were unaware of its content. Illinois has more than 200 new laws taking effect as of January 1st, so by pleading, “Δεν ήξερα, ότι η ελληνική μου,” or “I did not know, it’s Greek to me,” will not save you from punishment.
State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) put out a 35 page press release listing all of the new laws. I picked out some of my favorites and have written comments about them.
Seat Belts (HB 219/PA 97-0016): Requires adult passengers in the back seat of a vehicle to wear a seat belt, and also requires those 18 and younger riding in a taxi cab for school-related purposes to wear a seat belt. Luckily I have a two-seater car and I always ride shot gun as passenger, so this law does not affect me while I am driving. While I do ride in the back seats of taxi cabs, taxis were exempted from the law of requiring the wearing of a seat belt in the back for adults! I do not understand the second part about those 18 and younger being required to wear a seat belt in a cab if they are involved in a school activity. Why should it matter what activity they are doing? If a seat belt is required, it should be required whatever one is doing. The reason that Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, who was a sponsor of the bill, gave for exempting cabs, “A lot of times in taxi cabs, the seat belts are not maintained properly and it's hard to find them. I know I have trouble myself digging down to try to find them sometimes." So shouldn’t the law require that cabs maintain the seat belts instead of excusing them for being sloppy?
Closed Meetings (HB 1277/PA 97-0318): Creates an exemption in the Open Meetings Act to allow public bodies to hold closed meetings with auditors or financial committees, if the meeting was called to discuss suspected or potential fraud, or internal control weaknesses. It seems to me that one of the important reasons for the Open Meetings Act was so that shenanigans could not occur behind closed doors. Fraud and internal control weaknesses are two issues that definitely should be public! I do not understand the reasoning for this law.
Disability Definition (HB 3010/PA 97-0410): Includes mental, psychological, or developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, in the portion of the Human Rights Act that prohibits discrimination in public accommodations." If I am a person who has a mental or psychological disorder that causes me to fear elevators and enclosed stairwells, does that mean that a high-rise building would have to install a 50 story escalator to accommodate me? I understand autism and developmental disabilities, but the mental part? I guess I am too crazy to understand it.
Hunting Fees for Terminally Ill Individuals (HB 2861/PA 97-0215): Waives hunting and fishing fees for terminally ill individuals and allows terminally ill youth to hunt outside of an established season if approved by the Director of Department of Natural Resources. If the state wants to do something nice for terminally ill Individuals why stop at free hunting and fishing licenses? Why not throw in free mass- transit also? I also don’t understand why someone who id terminally ill is necessarily too poor to pay for a license. Poverty and illness are not related issues.
Jury Duty (HB 1317/PA 97-0436): Exempts people who have a total and permanent disability from serving on jury duty. And Jury Selection (HB 2066/PA 97-0034): Includes claimants for unemployment insurance in the lists used to create jury selection pools. I don’t understand why if someone has a permanent disability they cannot sit on a jury? Why is someone who is wheelchair bound not mentally capable of serving? Unemployed people of course should have to serve jury duty; they have nothing else to do. I wonder why the list of claimants was exempted to start with?
Universal Fare Pass (HB 2874/PA 97-0271): Requires the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to develop and make available to riders 65 and older a universal fare pass that can be used on all public transportation funded by the RTA. Why can’t people of any age buy a universal transit pass? I believe because I am less than 65 years of age I am being discriminated against. Where is the law to protect me? I guess I will have to wait until 2013 to try to get that one passed!