Senator Kwame Raoul, SB2609 Criminal Law Committee, Feb. 26, 2014

CONSOLIDATING GOVERNMENT

The people of Illinois deserve a more efficient government. That is why I have worked with the State Comptroller and State Treasurer in sponsoring a Senate Joint Resolution Constituional Amendment 13 to consolidate the two offices -- because the offices have a lot of crossover.This would lead to cost savings for Illinois taxpayers of approximately $12 million annually and would be a step toward good fiscal government. I spoke about my commitment to this issue during a press conference.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Illinois families are hoping that our business community will grow stronger and that job opportunities will increase. In my tenure in the state Senate I have focused on ways to strengthen the Illinois economy. I sponsored Senate Bill 3089 to expand the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit which was a key factor getting Navistar, an international truck and engine corporation, to locate in Illinois. This resulted in more than 3000 jobs.

I also sponsored reforms that will bring business to Navy Pier and McCormick Place. Trade shows and conventions had been canceling events at these locations because fees where comparatively high and booking was complicated by too much red tape, but these reforms will bring business back to Illinois. The Chicago Tribune and CBS Chicago reported that McCormick Place has been able to secure six recommitments from customers for future shows and conventions, in addition to securing new business from three other organizations. The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau is projecting that this business will produce more than $1 billion in new spending in Illinois. I made some remarks on the success of these reforms.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Criminal Justice is one of my core passions in public service so this year I was elated and humbled when the governor signed the abolition of the death penalty in Illinois into law. With the abolition our state has parted company with Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, and joined the rest of the civilized world. I sponsored this legislation, but I could not have done it alone. There were many people instrumental to this effort including exonerees, relatives of murder victims, religious leaders, journalists, former federal prosecutors, advocates and legislators in helping enact this law on March 9, 2011. I am thankful for all of their efforts.

As a vice-chairman of the Senate Criminal Law Committee, a former member of the Governor's prison review board and as a lawyer I will continue to fight for criminal justice. It is my goal that we make Illinois safer while also fixing inconsistencies in our criminal justice system.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM

The election process in Illinois has been in need of reform for a long time. As a freshman in the state Senate I made it my priority to sponsor legislation to reform campaign finance in judicial races. I passed legislation  to create a task force  to study public financing of judicial campaigns. The public expects judges to be impartial, therefore the judiciary should be the last place where special interest money has any influence.

I also voted in favor of legislation to cap campaign contributions. This legislation is a significant step toward limiting the influence of big donors and special interests.

REDISTRICTING AND VOTING RIGHTS

As chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, I have the honor and responsibility to bring opennes to the 2011 Redistricting Process. This level of public access to this process has been unprecedented. For more information visit our Senate Redistricting Committee Website.

I sponsored landmark legistlation to establishes the first changes to the Illinois redistricting process since the 1970 Constitutional Convention and first voting rights act in Illinois history. Despite the challenges state government faces today, this shining achievement continues on a proud and progressive path toward inclusion for all Illinoisans in the political process. 

In the spirit of the civil rights leaders who have come before, this new law offers the fundamental right of opportunity to those who have been ignored. When activist Fannie Lou Hamer said “nobody’s free until everyone is free” she spoke of an inclusive spirit which ultimately states that democracy doesn’t work until everyone is able to participate and is represented. The new law intends to remove the suppression of communities of interest across the state as we work to create a more inclusive environment in Springfield.

PENSION REFORM

Just like states across the nation Illinois is facing challenges with its pension system. As chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee I have worked closely with others in the Illinois General Assembly to make our pension systems sustainable. I voted for a pension reform package that mandates that the state make its pension payment out of existing revenues instead of borrowing. This is a key fiscal reform that addresses our long-term financial issues head on, instead of kicking the can down the road.