New laws in 2015: Bears, boats and a new tollway speed limit
If you see a bear ambling along the tollway in 2015 like the one that was spotted earlier this year near Marengo, you'll be allowed, legally, to drive faster to get away.
And if you still get pulled over for speeding, you'll probably be allowed to keep your driver's license.
Just don't hurt the bear. It's a protected species now.
A new year means a new batch of Illinois laws on the books. Many new laws -- 220 of them -- that were approved by lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn take effect Jan. 1, so your New Year's resolution to stay out of jail will need to be revised accordingly.
Sign and go
Legislation from state Sen. Mike Noland, an Elgin Democrat, means police officers who pull you over for a minor traffic violation like speeding probably won't take your driver's license away. Instead, you can sign a paper promising that you'll pay the ticket or show up in court.
It's a move some police departments have already made, and Noland's law extends it.
Noland says losing a driver's license because of a small violation causes a big amount of pain in a world where you need your ID all the time.
"This is going to let them get on with their lives," he said when Quinn signed the law.
The law raising the tollway speed limit to 70 mph takes effect Jan. 1. State Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican, led the charge to raise speed limits downstate starting Jan. 1, 2014, and he thought the plan applied in the Chicago area, too. It didn't, but the new law changes that.
A black bear was spotted near the Jane Addams Tollway in June. Starting Jan. 1, that bear, cougars and gray wolves become protected species under a law from state Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat.
The animals are still rare in Illinois, but the designation lets conservation officials protect their numbers should they become more common here or just happen to be passing through from time to time.
Cougar sightings are reported occasionally, and the 2014 black bear was seen in a few spots in northern Illinois.
"It was pretty close to our right-of-way," Illinois tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said in June. "He ran across the field, more scared of the workers, probably, than they were of him."
The 2012 death of Libertyville 10-year-old Tony Borcia continues to fuel changes in state law. Tony died after he fell off a tube being towed in the Chain O' Lakes and was hit by another boater.
His aunt, state Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, won approval for a new law that requires a boat that's towing someone to display an orange flag.
Another allows police to seize the craft of an intoxicated boater in some cases.
Morrison's push created controversy among local boaters and sparked at least one heated community meeting. Morrison has said she has no immediate plans for more boat safety legislation.
Not there, either
Parents in 2015 could be charged with a crime if their kids are caught drinking in cars, motor homes and private planes. The idea stems from a 2006 Deerfield drinking party that led to a similar law about parents allowing drinking at home.
Jan. 1 brings an extension of the idea, with the new law saying that parents can be held responsible for underage drinkers on their property outside the home.
You can't hide
Finally, a new law ensures that Illinoisans can get served with legal papers, even inside their gated communities. Starting Jan. 1, employees of gated communities or closed condo buildings can't prohibit a process server from entering to deliver court documents.
But wait ...
Typically, election years are the slow ones in Springfield -- years when lawmakers do less lawmaking because there's campaigning to be done. The new class of lawmakers and Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner take the oath of office in a couple of weeks, starting the process of filling this list for 2016. It could be a big one.