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Illinois 16th state to abolish death penalty as new laws go into effect July 1

July 1, 2011

By Benjamin Yount
Illinois Statehouse News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois’ newest laws cover the spectrum from death to taxes to antifreeze.

Illinois will be the 16th state to abolish the death penalty, beginning July 1.

Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, a grassroots organization that pushed for the abolition of the state’s death penalty since 1976, said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who signed the bill into law in March, ordered life sentences for anyone on death row, including defendants in a handful of death penalty cases statewide.

“It’s certainly kind of a sad waste of taxpayer money, knowing that those people aren’t going to be placed on death row,” added Schroeder.

However, the law’s effective date likely will go unnoticed, said Schroeder.

“Most Illinoisans didn’t think we had the death penalty,” said Schroeder.

Illinois has not executed a prisoner in more than 10 years.

Online shoppers will pay the state’s sales tax when they buy from online stores that do not have a physical store in Illinois. Rates start at 6.25 percent, but vary depending on local communities.

Illinois’ so-called Amazon Tax, which takes effect July 1, drove online retailer Fat Wallet out of the state. The web-based coupon and deals site moved its 56 employees from outside of Rockford to Beloit, Wis.

“We said all along (the tax) was going to affect a pretty good chunk of our bottom line, and we’d have to relocate if it was passed,” said Fat Wallet spokesman Brent Shelton. “So we did.”

Shelton said he wants the state-by-state spat over online sales taxes to end and be replaced with a national online tax to level the playing field.

But it’s not all weighty issues that prompted new laws. July 1 also brings a new requirement for bitter-tasting antifreeze. The law is a result of pet owners, and the deadly consequences of “sweet” antifreeze.

“Antifreeze, people tell me, I’ve never really tasted it, has a very sweet flavor about it. Some dogs and cats like the taste of it,” said Dr. Byron McCall a Springfield-area veterinarian. “If the car leaks a little antifreeze in the garage, the dogs and cats lick it up.”

McCall said antifreeze is toxic and causes fatal kidney failure in pets. Illinois joins a dozen other states in requiring that a bitter-tasting ingredient be added to antifreeze.

Other new laws target drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test after causing a wreck while driving under the influence of alcohol; criminals who harm children and pension eligibility for Chicago teachers.

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