Pensions stock photoSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement in response to Comptroller Leslie Munger’s announcement today that the State of Illinois will skip its required November pension payment of $560 million:

 

Illinois’ sorry history of skipping payments to its pension systems has made its unfunded pension liability the highest in the country. The state has used its pension funds like credit cards to fund essential services because of a persistent unwillingness to face the fact that revenue isn’t keeping pace with the needs of its people.

I had hoped that by now, we all could at least agree that continuing to skip pension payments is not an option. Instead, we learned today that Comptroller Munger does not intend to make the state’s November pension payment on time.

On Aug. 18 and again on Aug. 28, the comptroller told a judge it would be “impossible” for her office to make court-ordered payments to providers of disability services. Yet, threatened with contempt of court, she found a way. Earlier in the fiscal year, Comptroller Munger and the Rauner administration claimed they could not pay for early intervention programs, but those services are now being funded. Today, the comptroller stated that “for all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.” Which is it? This has the feel of a manufactured crisis that is nonetheless all too real to its victims: single parents unable to work because they can no longer afford child care, low-income women waiting for cancer screenings that could save their lives, homeless youth, at-risk teens with no place to go but the streets and many more.

We have a revenue problem – not a Democratic revenue problem, not a Republican revenue problem, but everybody’s problem. It’s time to end the sideshow and stop trying the same tricks that have held our state back for decades. We were able to come together and get creative about funding our priorities for Fiscal Year 2015. I challenge my colleagues on the right to answer this question: Have those priorities changed? Are Illinois’ needs less urgent? If not, then we must focus on funding them while also meeting our pension obligations.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, August 12

 

99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th), State Representative Elgie Sims (D-Chicago 34th) and Rep. John Anthony (R-Morris) were pleased to announce that a landmark law enforcement reform package they negotiated has become law. The groundbreaking, bipartisan measure includes standards for the use of officer-worn body cameras and makes Illinois one of the first states to codify recommendations issued this year by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

“In a political climate not known for its abundance of bipartisan cooperation, we nevertheless built strong support on both sides of the aisle and from the governor for a package of reforms that demonstrate a serious commitment to restoring trust between law enforcement and communities,” said Raoul, who has worked since last year on body camera standards and other reforms. “This pioneering law is a response to recent officer-involved deaths but also a public acknowledgement that communities are only truly safe for all their residents when police and the people they serve can trust one another. We know there is much progress to be made on that front, and that was the impetus for the changes enacted today.”

“Police encounters gone tragically wrong in Ferguson, New York City, Baltimore and elsewhere forced the nation to confront uncomfortable realities about race and policing in America, and here in Illinois, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt compelled to take action to address the disparities and restore trust,” Sims said. “Independent investigations, better training and better record-keeping will foster an atmosphere of seriousness about tackling racial disparities in law enforcement and zero tolerance of police misconduct.”

“It was a privilege to work with law enforcement as well as community groups to negotiate this trailblazing piece of legislation,” Anthony said. “Most law enforcement officers have a genuine desire to serve and protect all residents of their communities fairly, and they welcome tools, such as body cameras and the officer misconduct database, that can help them do their jobs more effectively.”Policing reform presser cropped

Senate Bill 1304 implements numerous recommendations of the federal task force by

  • Requiring independent investigations of all officer-involved deaths
  • Improving mandatory officer training in areas such as the proper use of force, cultural competency, recognizing implicit bias, interacting with persons with disabilities and assisting victims of sexual assault
  • Creating a statewide database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during misconduct investigations
  • Improving data collection and reporting of officer-involved and arrest-related deaths and other serious incidents
  • Establishing a Commission on Police Professionalism to make further recommendations on the training and licensing of law enforcement officers

The legislation also prohibits the use of choke holds by police and expands the Traffic Stop Statistical Study, which provides insights into racial disparities in vehicular stops and searches, to include pedestrians whom officers “stop and frisk” or temporarily detain for questioning. Finally, it codifies rules concerning the appointment of special prosecutors.

The new law does not require law enforcement agencies to deploy officer-worn body cameras, but if they choose to do so, they must adhere to the following standards:

  • The cameras must be turned on at all times when an officer is responding to a call for service or engaged in law enforcement activities.
  • The cameras can be turned off at the request of a crime victim or witness, or when an officer is talking with a confidential informant.
  • Recordings are exempt from FOIA with some exceptions:
    • Recordings can be “flagged” if they have evidentiary value in relation to a use of force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.
    • “Flagged” recordings may be disclosed in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act; however, in certain sensitive situations, such as a recording of a sexual assault, victim consent is required prior to disclosure.
    • Recordings must be retained for 90 days or, if “flagged,” for two years or until final disposition of the case in which the recording is being used as evidence.

SB 1304 also creates a competitive grant program for departments to obtain money toward purchasing the cameras. The grants, as well as the legislation’s additional training requirements, will be funded by a $5 increase in fines for traffic violations.

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99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured Senate passage today of legislation that builds on past workers’ compensation reforms, streamlining and modernizing the operations of the Workers’ Compensation Commission and making state law more easily understandable by codifying the interpretations and standards of the Illinois Supreme Court.

“The major reforms I sponsored in 2011 are working, with Illinois posting a 20 percent drop in recommended rates and the nation’s largest decrease in the average medical payment per claim,” Raoul said. “While we continue to monitor the situation to ensure these results are passed on to businesses in the form of lower premiums, we are also making reforms that help the system work more efficiently and with greater clarity for employers and employees alike.”

Senate Bill 162, which now goes to the House for its consideration, authorizes the Commission to replace an obsolete computer system and requires employers and insurers to accept electronic claims by the start of 2017. It creates an ombudsman position to help injured workers file their own claims and provide information and assistance to employers and health care providers. It also codifies case law interpreting the standards used to determine whether an injury is compensable through the workers’ compensation system.

“The governor’s office has supported many of these changes, and I believe this legislation represents firm common ground on workers’ compensation,” Raoul said. “I would urge the governor and my colleagues to take these steps to make the system more accessible to both workers and employers and then to allow the 2011 reforms to continue improving Illinois’ business climate while still protecting workers.”

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99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) applauded the signing today of two pieces of legislation he sponsored to reform the juvenile justice system, limiting the number of young people committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities and adult prisons and the average amount of time they spend there.

Floor 2 3 15 web“For most juvenile offenders, especially those who have committed non-violent crimes, we see better outcomes and lower rates of recidivism when they are able to live in the community and attend school, rather than being detained in a facility far from home,” Raoul said. “I’m grateful to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and her chief of staff, Kim Foxx, for working with me to eliminate the automatic transfer of minors to the adult court system, and to DJJ Director Candace Jones for helping me pass sweeping reforms within the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

House Bill 3718 will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts. It will also limit the number of cases in which “presumptive transfers” will be made, giving judges more discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Finally, the new law enumerates mitigating factors a judge may take into consideration when sentencing a person under 18; these include maturity level, presence of a developmental disability, home environment, history of childhood trauma, prior criminal record and potential for rehabilitation.

When Senate Bill 1560 takes effect, juveniles will no longer be committed to DJJ facilities for misdemeanor offenses. The law also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense and that no minor will be detained in a county jail for committing an act that wouldn’t be illegal if an adult engaged in it. The measure also sets maximum terms of aftercare (the juvenile equivalent of parole) for different types of offenses; currently there is no legal limit on the amount of time DJJ can be made responsible for supervising a young person following release. And it establishes parity by requiring that courts provide DJJ with the same information they provide to the Department of Corrections for adult offenders, to help them more effectively rehabilitate minors in their care.

The two laws will take effect in January of 2016.

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99thGALogo webSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge) hailed the governor’s decision to sign tough new youth concussion legislation today as a major step forward for student health, on and off the field.

“As a parent of two children who have suffered concussions recently, I understand that brains take time to heal,” said Raoul, the measure’s sponsor. “With this law in place, parents can feel more confident that their young student athletes will be given the time and accommodations needed to fully recover from a concussion.”

“Concussions can have a serious impact on a student’s performance on the field and in the classroom,” said Kotowski, the legislation’s co-sponsor. “These new guidelines protect students from the potential long-term effects a concussion can have if it is not treated properly. I commend Sen. Raoul for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with him as we learn more about the side effects of concussions.”

When the General Assembly first considered Senate Bill 7, Tregg Duerson testified about his father, Dave Duerson, whose professional football career spanned eleven seasons and included a Super Bowl win with the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears. After retiring from the NFL, the elder Duerson began experiencing headaches, dizzy spells, memory loss, depression and flashes of anger and irritability. He believed he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease brought on by repeated blows to the head, and before taking his life in 2011, he asked his family to donate his brain to Boston University researchers who could test for CTE. The autopsy confirmed his self-diagnosis, and at least 20 other deceased professional football players have been found to have suffered from the disease.

“It gives me great satisfaction that Illinois has taken this major step toward preventing brain injuries like the one that destroyed my father’s life,” the younger Duerson said. “My father’s story and the stories of many professional athletes who played at time when concussions were poorly managed have increased awareness of brain health in sports and are ushering in a new era where athletes at every level receive better care.”

“It is extremely important for a young person who has suffered a concussion not only to make a gradual transition back into physical activity but also to gradually transition back to full participation school and cognitive activities such as reading, doing homework, taking tests or using electronic devices,” said Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute of Sports Medicine at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and an expert in pediatric concussions. “Illinois students are better protected now that state law recognizes the need for both athletic and academic accommodations.”

The new law expands current requirements so that all children participating in school-sponsored athletic activities are protected – at the elementary, middle and high school levels and at public, private and charter schools. These requirements include having emergency plans in place to deal with severe injuries that arise during sporting events, designating a “concussion oversight team” of health care professionals to develop and implement concussion policies and following Illinois High School Association protocols for taking student athletes out of a practice or game and allowing them to return after a concussion. The IHSA supports the new approach.

For the first time, the measure also requires schools to have “return-to-learn” policies in place so students who have suffered concussions – at a school-sponsored athletic event or anywhere else — can ease back into classroom attendance and academic work.

The new law takes effect immediately, in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

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