August 2020Volume 108Number 8Page 10

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Legislative Roundup

COVID-19 dealt a blow to legislative efforts this spring and summer. But ISBA’s director of legislative affairs says a few new laws are worth your attention.

Few bills were enacted into law during Illinois’ 2020 legislative session because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, new laws directly pertained to the pandemic or were considered essential to the operation of state government.

The following is a summary of the new laws that may be of interest to ISBA members.

Remote notary and witnessing. Public Act 101-0640 (Elgie Sims, D-Chicago; Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) is statutory approval of the notary and witness guidelines in Illinois Executive Order 2020-14. It is applicable to actions taken under the Order from March 26 until 30 days after expiration of Gov. Pritzker’s COVID-19 emergency declaration.

The legislation takes the language from the Order and converts it into a prophylactic statute for actions taken that comply with the Order.

It provides that a notarial act or an act of witnessing―including when a person must “appear before,” act “in the presence of,” or any variation thereof―may be performed by two-way audio-video communication technology that allows for simultaneous interaction by sight and sound between the individual signing the document, the witness, and the notary public.

A notarial act satisfies the “appearing before” requirement under section 6-102 of the Illinois Notary Public Act if the notary public performs a remote notarization via two-way audio-video communication technology if the notary public commissioned in Illinois is physically within the state while performing the notarial act and the transaction follows any guidance or rule provided by the Illinois secretary of state in existence on the date of notarization.

The prohibition on electronic signatures on certain documents, such as wills and trusts, remains in full effect. Effective June 12, 2020.

Property Tax Code. Public Act 101-0635 (Dave Koehler, D-Peoria; Michael Zalewski, D-Chicago) allows for the permissive waiver of interest and penalties for tax year 2019 (payable 2020) only in counties with fewer than three million residents for a period of 120 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act or until the first day of the first month during which there is no longer a statewide COVID-19 public health emergency declared by the governor. For all counties, it also provides the annual tax sale that would ordinarily be held in calendar year 2020 shall be held no earlier than 120 days after the effective date of the Act or until the first day of the first month during which there is no longer a statewide COVID-19 public health emergency. Additionally, it provides that a tax year that has not yet been subject to an annual tax sale may not be included in a scavenger tax sale before the annual sale is held.

It also provides that the following exemptions may be granted without application for the 2020 taxable year if the property qualified for the exemption in the 2019 taxable year: the homestead exemption for persons with disabilities; the homestead exemption for veterans with disabilities; and the senior citizens assessment freeze homestead exemption subject to certain limitations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It prohibits a tax year from being offered at a scavenger sale prior to the annual tax sale for that tax year. Effective June 5, 2020.

Open Meetings Act.Public Act 101-0640 (Elgie Sims, D-Chicago; Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) allows meetings to be conducted by audio or video conference without the physical presence of a quorum of the members if a declaration of disaster has been issued and the public body complies with certain requirements. Effective June 12, 2020.

Municipal budgets. Public Act 101-0640 (Elgie Sims, D-Chicago; Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) extends the time limit to pass the annual appropriation ordinance or annual budget for the duration of the disaster or emergency and for 60 days thereafter if a disaster, state of emergency, or national emergency is declared within the 60 days preceding the end of the first quarter of a municipality’s fiscal year (in municipalities of 500,000 or less) or within 60 days preceding the end of a municipality’s fiscal year. The disaster must impact the municipality. It also provides that during the extended period the municipality may expend sums of money up to amounts budgeted or appropriated for those objects and purposes in the previous fiscal year to defray all necessary expenses and liabilities of the municipality. Effective June 12, 2020.

Workers’ Compensation. Public Act 101-0633 (Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville; Linda Holmes, D-Aurora) amends the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act for COVID-19 claims. For “first responders” or “front-line worker,” it provides that there is a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s contraction of COVID-19 arises out of and in the course of their employment and that the injury or occupational disease shall be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employment. Effective June 5, 2020.

Jim Covington is the ISBA director of legislative affairs.

Rhys Saunders, ISBA senior manager of marketing and communications, also contributed to this article.

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