SPRINGFIELD —  Legislation sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) providing additional protections and rights for survivors of sexual assault or abuse was signed into law on Friday.  

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights fills in gaps in Illinois’ current laws and brings the state in line with federal guidelines.

“A victim of sexual assault should not have to go through any more trauma when attempting to get help,” Raoul said. “We need to protect their rights and assist them in reporting these crimes so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

In drafting the legislation, Raoul worked closely with Rise, a national civil rights nonprofit that worked with Congress to pass a federal Survivors’ Bill of Rights in 2016. The organization is working to create legislation in every state to protect the estimated 25 million survivors of sexual assault.

New protections for victims of sexual assault or abuse include:

•    allowing them to shower at the hospital post-examination;
•    allowing them to obtain a copy of the police report relating to the incident;
•    allowing them to have a sexual assault advocate and a support person of their choosing present for medical and physical examinations;
•    allowing them to retain their own counsel;
•    prohibiting law enforcement from prosecuting the victim for a crime related to use of alcohol, cannabis, or a controlled substance based on the sexual assault forensic evidence collected;
•    providing that consenting to the collection of evidence by means of a rape kit extends the statute of limitations for a criminal prosecution to maximum currently provided by law (10 years).

The law also extends the time period during which rape kits can be tested.

Currently, if a victim of sexual assault or rape does not immediately consent to having a rape kit tested, law enforcement will retain it for 5 years or, in the case of a minor, 5 years after they turn 18.

This law extends that retention period to 10 years. A victim can provide written consent for the kit to be tested anytime during that period.

Senate Bill 3404 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

05302018KS0540 rSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) criticized Gov. Bruce Rauner for vetoing legislation that would have ended Illinois’ participation in the controversial Crosscheck voter registration system.

“I can only suppose that the governor’s veto was politically motivated, as this piece of legislation is a sensible way to protect voter information,” Raoul said. “We have heard from numerous experts that the Crosscheck system is unsafe and that it can be used as a tool to discriminate and suppress voters. There is no reason to continue using this system when we have a better option readily available.”

The Illinois Board of Elections currently subscribes to two national voter database systems designed to help election authorities identify voters who may be registered in more than one state: the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program and the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). Raoul’s legislation, Senate Bill 2273, would have removed Illinois from the Crosscheck system but allowed the state to remain in ERIC, widely viewed as the better system.

Cyber security experts testified to a joint committee last year that the Crosscheck system has several security concerns that make private information easily accessible.

Additionally, many voting rights activists say that Crosscheck is a vehicle for discrimination at the voting booth. The system compares first and last names of state voter databases, ignoring middle names and designations like Jr. or Sr. This is viewed as problematic by experts because communities of color are more likely to share last names, making them easy targets for voter suppression.

“Illinois residents deserve a governor who will act in their best interest rather than blindly following a partisan agenda,” Raoul said. “Despite the governor’s actions today, I remain committed to my long record of fighting for voting rights in our state.”

05292018KS0368 rSPRINGFIELD —  State Senator Kwame Raoul (D- Chicago 13th)issued the following statement after the Senate passed a bipartisan budget package that fully funds education and restores funding for vital community programs:

“Instead of being consumed by partisan bickering, I am glad that we were able to work together this year to pass a balanced budget that provides certainty for our state. I hope that Governor Rauner lives up to his stated desire for criminal justice reform by signing this package that includes much-needed investment in disenfranchised communities

05162018CM0696 rSPRINGFIELD —  The Senate voted today to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of legislation sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) that gives the Attorney General greater ability to enforce employment laws.

Currently, the Attorney General can file suit under the state’s employment laws with a referral from the Department of Labor. This legislation removes that requirement and empowers the Attorney General to bring suits related to violations of laws like the Prevailing Wage Act, the Minimum Wage Act and the Day and Temporary Labor Services Act.

“We know there are workers who are getting their hard-earned wages taken from them by employers and having their rights violated in other ways,” Raoul said. “Valid claims should not get lost in bureaucratic red tape. It makes no sense to have laws on the book to protect workers if we don’t enforce them.

Raoul worked closely with Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville), who sponsored the measure in the House.

“Corporate interests that take advantage of their employees must be held accountable,” Hoffman said. “This measure will give the Attorney General’s office more tools to ensure Illinois workers have the right to a safe work environment and that they receive their rightfully owed wages.”

Senate Bill 193 also creates a task force to promote cooperation between the Attorney General and State’s Attorneys in enforcing criminal violations of employment laws. Having passed the Senate 39-15, it awaits an override motion in the Illinois House.

Raoul on floorSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) passed legislation today making it illegal to sell, manufacture, purchase or possess bump stocks and trigger cranks.

Bump stocks and trigger cranks are both attachments that modify firearms to fire at a faster rate, close to that of a machine gun. Twelve of the rifles recovered from a hotel room after a gunman killed 58 people and injured 546 in Las Vegas were equipped with bump stocks.

“There are a lot of passionate voices on this issue, but one thing I hope we are all passionate about as lawmakers is keeping the people of Illinois safe,” Raoul said. “This is a simple step, but one that has the potential to save lives.”  

The measure drew bipartisan support as calls continue to grow nationwide for tighter gun laws.

Senate Bill 2343 passed the Senate 38-10 and heads to the House for consideration.

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State Sen. Kwame Raoul new 'it guy' in Springfield

Chicago Tribune

For more than a year after he was appointed to fill then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's seat in the Illinois Senate, Kwame Raoul did all he could to avoid contact with his predecessor.
He would not call Obama for advice unless he absolutely had to. He skipped public appearances where the two might run into each other or, worse, be photographed together.
"I had a sense early on that people, probably including Barack, were concerned about whether I was trying to coattail on his success," Raoul said. "And I was really sensitive about that."
Nearly seven years later, Raoul finds himself the new "it guy" in Springfield. He has led high-profile Democratic pushes to ban the death penalty, reform pensions, overhaul the state's workers' compensation system and redraw legislative boundaries.
Even some Republicans want a piece of him. House Republican Leader Tom Cross appeared with Raoul last month to promote legislation that would require schools to adopt policies regarding concussions and head injuries for athletes.
"People think I am crazy," said Raoul of his workload, which he says sent him to the hospital twice in the last year with stress-related heart arrhythmia. "I don't want to just be down there saying, 'I'm a senator.'"
The 46-year-old son of Haitian immigrants first became interested in politics while an undergrad at DePaul University during the Council Wars in the 1980s. After Mayor Harold Washington's unexpected death, Raoul joined thousands of protesters outside City Hall as aldermen held a tumultuous meeting that eventually saw Eugene Sawyer chosen as mayor.
Raoul, who wanted then-Ald. Timothy Evans as mayor, wound up being hours late for his job as a bill collector so he could pass out "No Deals" signs at the rally.
"I subsequently got fired from a job I wasn't very good at and didn't like, but I remember going home and watching the council proceedings and thinking, 'Wow, we've got to do better than this.'"
Raoul twice ran and lost for alderman against Toni Preckwinkle, who's now the Cook County Board president. She eventually became an ally and backed him for Obama's state Senate seat in 2004 — against Obama's wishes at the time.
Raoul has a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law and a year ago went to work in the Chicago office of Michigan-based Miller Canfield. The firm, which also employs Paul Durbin, son of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is serving as an underwriters' counsel on a $3.5 billion bond sale the state issued in January 2010.
Raoul said he's never made any calls to help the firm secure state business and voted present Wednesday on a bill that would provide tax credits for Continental Tire, which he said the firm represents. The bill passed.
"I try to be careful and make sure the firm isn't doing anything that could get me in trouble," said Raoul, who added that he is learning about municipal financing so he can help towns and cities with bond deals.
Raoul's signature achievement was pushing through a death penalty ban that few expected to pass.
"I was very surprised when he told me he had enough votes," said Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. "And that's because it was a very individual, personal type of vote. Those type of bills come along once in a career."
For now, Raoul said he plans to run for his Senate seat next year.
"There's a lot of room out there to serve. I don't want to be one of those people that is trying to hold on to power beyond my time," said Raoul, who added he's not worried if he loses. "For me there's enough stress, there's enough time away from my kids and family."