Chicago Sun-Times

Wage hike, LGBTQ history ad­dressed in new state laws

- Society · LGBT · Springfield · J.B. Pritzker

SPRING­FIELD — New Illi­nois state laws dic­tat­ing min­i­mum wage, cer­tain driv­ing of­fenses and LGBTQ history ed­u­ca­tion in pub­lic schools will take ef­fect to­day.

Low-wage work­ers statewide will see a salary in­crease for the sec­ond time this year as re­quired by a law signed last year by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The min­i­mum wage will in­crease to $10 from $9.25. There was a $1 hike in Jan­uary, from $8.25 per hour, the first statewide in­crease in more than a decade. In Chicago, the min­i­mum wage will in­crease $1, to $14 per hour.

LGBTQ history must be taught in Illi­nois pub­lic schools start­ing in the 2020-2021 school year. The bill also re­quires schools to pur­chase text­books that are “non-dis­crim­i­na­tory” and “in­clude the roles and con­tri­bu­tions of all peo­ple pro­tected under the Illi­nois Hu­man Rights Act.”

The leg­is­la­tion also re­quires the state’s pub­lic schools to teach at least one se­mes­ter of civics any time be­tween sixth and eighth grades. The lessons must fo­cus on gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions, dis­cus­sion of cur­rent and so­ci­etal is­sues and sim­u­la­tions of the demo­cratic process.

Under the new laws, the sec­re­tary of state will be al­lowed to sus­pend or re­voke driv­ing priv­i­leges when a per­son is us­ing an elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vice while driv­ing and re­sults in “great bod­ily harm, permanent dis­abil­ity or dis­fig­ure­ment.” The of­fense is also sub­ject to a min­i­mum $1,000 fine. Illi­nois banned tex­ting while driv­ing 10 years ago.

In an­other change, the sec­re­tary of state can’t sus­pend a per­son’s driver’s li­cense or ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion for fail­ing to pay a fine or penalty on time. Law­mak­ers ex­pressed the be­lief a per­son still has the right to drive to work de­spite not be­ing able to af­ford a driv­ing ticket.

Illi­nois’ gas tax was dou­bled last year to 38 cents per gal­lon to fund road im­prove­ment. A 0.7 cent-per-gal­lon in­crease is man­dated under a new for­mula ty­ing the tax to in­fla­tion.

The size of an em­ployer will no longer de­ter­mine whether work­ers will be pro­tected from dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of race, sex, age, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, re­li­gion and a range of other pro­tected cat­e­gories.

The def­i­ni­tion of em­ployer in the Illi­nois Hu­man Rights Act was changed to mean any­one em­ploy­ing one or more per­son in the state for 20 or more weeks within the cal­en­dar year. Pre­vi­ously, em­ployer was de­fined under the act as hav­ing 15 or more peo­ple under em­ploy­ment.

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