SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) has introduced legislation cracking down on violent “flash mobs” and requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to cooperate with law enforcement to help track down instigators. In recent incidents in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and in the Loop, large groups of young people shoplifted from retailers and assaulted and robbed passersby. Social networking websites such as Twitter allowed them to coordinate their efforts.

“The ability to coordinate a mob action online gives criminals two key advantages: surprise and large numbers,” Raoul said. “State law can support police efforts by helping them use one of the criminals’ tools — social media — against them.”

Senate Bill 1005 would require ISPs to provide identifying information, including the location from which a tweet or other message was sent, to law enforcement once they show probable cause to believe a mob action has been or is being facilitated via the Internet. ISPs could be fined for failure to comply.

Raoul’s measure also would allow a judge to impose an extended sentence for offenses related to criminal mob activity if the perpetrator used electronic communications to organize the mob.

“Criminal flash mobs discourage tourism and create an environment of fear and uncertainty for businesses,” said Marc Gordon, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. “Our hotel members and their guests will sleep easier knowing these criminal acts can be detected and deterred in the planning stage.”

032013 js 0072rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) issued the following statement on the pension reform votes taken in the Senate this afternoon. Sen. Raoul voted in favor of Senate Bill 1 (Cullerton) and against Senate Bill 35 (Biss).

"I want to commend Senator Biss and Representative Nekritz for their diligent work toward a meaningful solution to our pension crisis. My position on Senate Bill 35 had less to do with the merits of their proposed structural changes and much more to do with the legislation’s viability when challenged on constitutional grounds.

To vote for legislation I strongly believe would be overturned in court would have been a disservice to the citizens of Illinois. It would not have respected the protection our constitution affords public employees. And it would have put us back here, in an even worse fiscal situation, debating the same difficult issues one or more years down the road.

I voted in favor of Senate Bill 1, which reforms the Teachers’ Retirement System using contractual modification principles I believe pass constitutional muster. I concede that this measure, along with companion legislation that will apply the same framework to three other state retirement systems, will not result in the same level of savings as Senate Bill 35. They do, however, start us down the road to fully funding our pensions and reducing the unfunded liability’s impact on our ability to provide needed services."

0301213br0033rLegislation would extend early voting, grace period voting to the day before an election

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) proposed letting Illinoisans exercise their early voting and grace period voting options up until the day before an election. He presented the measure, Senate Bill 2212, to the Senate Subcommittee on Election Law, which voted last week to send it to the full Executive Committee for consideration.

“Voting is the keystone of our form of government, and we should find ways to make it easier and more convenient whenever we have the capacity to do so,” said Raoul, a champion of voters’ rights who sponsored the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011. “I’ve witnessed voter suppression and eight-hour waits at polling places in other states, and here in Illinois I know we can be more progressive about moving toward maximum voter access.”

Since 2005, Illinois has offered in-person early voting in addition to absentee voting. Currently, registered voters may go to a county clerk’s office or other designated location any time between fifteen days and three days before the election in order to submit a ballot early.

Grace period voting is an option for people who did not register to vote before the close of the registration period for that election or who moved but failed to change their address with the county election authority. During the grace period, a would-be voter may fill out a registration or change of address form and then vote by mail or in person. Grace period votes are counted once the election authority confirms the voters’ eligibility and residency. The grace period currently extends only to the third day before the election.

“With the technology available today, there’s no reason we can’t allow voters to exercise their right throughout the period leading up to an election,” Raoul said. “Our democracy thrives when everyone who’s eligible to vote has optimal access to the ballot box – why make it needlessly complicated?”

State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) issued the following statement on the budget plan Gov. Quinn presented to lawmakers today:

This budget cries out for pension reform. We’ve reached the point where the year’s pension payment outweighs the investment we’re making in educating our children. It’s time for a serious conversation, followed by meaningful action, about stopping the runaway pension train.

While realizing that past governmental irresponsibility, not hard-working state employees, caused this fiscal nightmare, we nevertheless must stop the bleeding now. Government’s failure to enact fair but sweeping pension reform is hampering our ability to invest in our future and deliver needed services to the people of this great state.

Committee will continue studying ways to address disparities, diversify investments

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) will continue promoting state investment in minority and female-owned businesses as chairperson of the newly organized Special Committee on Public Pensions and State Investments. Raoul, who served as chairperson of the Senate Pensions and Investments Committee from 2007 to 2012, has convened annual hearings on the inclusion of minority and female business owners and financial services professionals in the state retirement funds’ investment plans.

“I’m excited about continuing this important work of leveling the playing field through a committee focused specifically on how and where the state invests its resources,” Raoul said. “Although the idea for the committee arose out of the diversity hearings, the other committee members and I anticipate considering a variety of issues related to pensions and state investments, as the committee’s name suggests.”

Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) will serve as the committee’s co-chairperson. The other members are Sen. James F. Clayborne, Jr. (D-Belleville), Sen. Iris Martinez (D-20th), Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), Sen. Dan Duffy (R-Barrington) and Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-South Elgin).