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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n516/a05.html
Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sat, 30 Jul 2016
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2016 Chicago Tribune Company
Website: http://www.chicagotribune.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/82
Author: Monique Garcia


Governor Signs Legislation to Issue Citations Instead of Time in Jail

SPRINGFIELD – Getting caught with small amounts of marijuana will result in citations akin to a traffic ticket instead of the possibility of jail time under legislation Republican Gov.  Bruce Rauner signed into law Friday.

Rauner’s approval of the decriminalization measure comes after he used his amendatory veto powers last year to rewrite similar legislation he argued would have allowed people to carry too much pot and fine violators too little.

Supporters incorporated his proposed changes, and under the new law those caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana will face fines of $100 to $200.  Individual municipalities could add to the fines and implement other penalties, such as requiring offenders to attend drug treatment.  Citations would be automatically expunged twice a year, on Jan.  1 and July 1.

Under previous Illinois law, possession of up to 10 grams of pot was a class B misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,500.

The law also would loosen the state’s zero-tolerance policy for driving under the influence.  Before, a driver could be charged if any trace of marijuana was detected, even if it was ingested weeks before and the driver showed no signs of impairment.

Under the new law, drivers won’t be charged with DUI unless they have 5 nanograms or more of THC in their blood, or 10 nanograms or more of THC in their saliva.

The state law follows a measure enacted by Chicago in 2012 that allows police to issue tickets of $250 to $500 for someone caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana.  The state law wouldn’t override laws in cities such as Chicago that already have fines in place, but would create uniformity across the state for towns that don’t have such measures on the books.

The effort marks a rare point of agreement between Rauner and Democrats.  Both sides seek to cut the burden on the court system and overhaul the state’s approach to criminal justice.

“We applaud Gov.  Rauner and the legislature for replacing Illinois’ needlessly draconian marijuana possession law with a much more sensible policy,” Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.  “This commonsense legislation will prevent countless citizens from having their lives turned upside down by a marijuana possession arrest.”

The legislation was one of dozens of bills Rauner acted on Friday afternoon, including a package of legislation to increase oversight of community colleges following a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed questionable spending and lax oversight at the College of DuPage.

The measures would require schools to undergo special audits every five years to examine contracts, transparency and compensation to school leadership; provide for additional training for community college board members on ethics, financial oversight and fiduciary responsibilities; and limit what income can be factored into pension benefits for university and college presidents.

Previously, those officials have been able to get credit toward their pension for the cash value of perks such as bonuses or car allowances.  Under the proposed change, pensionable income would be limited to salaries and not other benefits.

A law already has been enacted to limit severance packages for community college presidents statewide after College of DuPage trustees fired President Robert Breuder after the Tribune found Breuder and senior managers spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer and donor money on food and alcohol.  The Tribune also chronicled how noncompetitive contracts were awarded to board members of the college’s fundraising foundation and how inflated enrollment figures led to the college paying money back to the state.

Rauner also approved a controversial measure that would require Roman Catholic hospitals to tell patients they can go elsewhere for health care choices that violate church teachings.  The proposal would amend the state’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act, which generally allows workers and institutions to deny services for religious and ethical reasons.  While the changes apply to all hospitals in Illinois, it’s particularly relevant for Catholic hospitals, which handle more than 1 in 4 admissions statewide.

“The new law carefully balances the needs of patients to get complete information about their medical condition with the ability of health care providers to refuse health care services to which they have a religious or conscience objection,” said Lorie Chaiten, director of the Reproductive Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Other legislation approved by the governor would expand contraceptive options for women by eliminating a complicated waiver process they must go through to get birth control medications not offered by their insurance companies; replace the word “alien” with “undocumented immigrant” in state immigration paperwork; and require employers provide at least two weeks of unpaid leave to workers who have lost a child.

Rauner vetoed a proposal aimed at preventing his administration from cutting home care services for seniors and people with disabilities.

To determine whether someone is eligible for services, and to what level, an assessment is used to arrive at what is known as the determination of need score.  The higher the score, the greater the need for help with day-to-day activities.

The measure Rauner rejected would have kept the minimum score at 29.  Rauner previously proposed raising it to 37 but backed off amid staunch opposition from advocates who said thousands would not get the help they need.

Rauner said the bill would have limited the state’s ability to move clients from institutionalized care to community-based programs.  Advocates for the disabled say the move is just another in a series of cuts Rauner has proposed that target the vulnerable. 

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom