New laws take effect
Gas, cigarette taxes up, as drivers are called on to put down phones and teens to drop butts
By Ted Cox
Gas and cigarette taxes are up today, while drivers need to put their phones down, and teen smokers need to drop the butts.
July 1 is the effective date for many new laws as the state formally begins a new fiscal year. Foremost among them are a doubling of the gas tax to 38 cents a gallon, while the tax on cigarettes rises $1 to $2.98 a pack. Both those tax hikes help pay for the Rebuild Illinois capital plan Gov. Pritzker signed on Friday with a flurry of events across the state, with another touting investment in infrastructure scheduled for midday Monday with Mayor Lori Lightfoot at the headquarters of the Chicago Transity Authority.
Fewer people will be buying cigarettes, however, as the state smoking age rises from 18 to 21 — including e-cigarettes. Pritzker signed that into law in April, touting it as a public-health initiative. Former Gov. Rauner previously vetoed an attempt to raise the smoking age.
So, while teens and 20-year-olds put down the smokes, drivers will face new restrictions calling for them to put down their phones. Texting while driving, or making phone calls while driving with a phone in hand, remains illegal, with fines starting at $75 for the first offense and rising incrementally to $150 for the fourth, but it will also now be considered a moving violation. Three moving violations in a 12-month period means a mandatory suspension of one’s driver’s license.
The state is also officially codifying a minimum of five hours of classroom instruction as a school day — a provision dropped inadvertently under the new funding formula for public education adopted two years ago. The new law reinstates that requirement, while making allowances for career-development and apprenticeship programs, as well as for “blended learning” and some dual-credit college classes.