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).

concealed carrySPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) filed legislation yesterday that will become a negotiated concealed carry proposal. Senate President John Cullerton designated Raoul to bring together all voices in the gun debate to develop a legislative response to Judge Richard Posner’s December ruling, which set a 180-day deadline for action. Language drafted in the course of negotiations will be added to Senate Bill 1337.

“The negotiations I lead will respect firearm owners’ constitutional protections as interpreted by the Supreme Court and lower courts, and it will acknowledge the fact that there are many law-abiding Illinois gun owners who legitimately wish to use guns for sport and self-protection,” Raoul said. “At the same time, we will also acknowledge the alarming prevalence of gun violence and the need to keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to use them for harm.”

Illinois is the last remaining state in the nation not to provide for some form of concealed carry. On Dec. 11, Judge Posner, writing for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, declared unconstitutional the state’s restrictions on carrying a firearm in public. It gave the Illinois General Assembly until June 9, 2013, to change the law.

“While I respect and appreciate the attorney general’s request for review by a full panel of the appeals court, the legislature can’t ignore its responsibility,” Raoul said. “The 49 states that allow concealed carry do not have identical policies, and we need to find an approach that’s right for Illinois. But let me be clear – we must comply with the court’s mandate, and we will.”

Raoul will work concurrently on legislation designed to curtail illegal gun trafficking and straw purchases. He filed Senate Bill 1334 today as a vehicle for this measure.

“We need to put in place mechanisms to trace the chain of custody so we know who is delivering guns to gang members and others who use them to injure and kill,” Raoul said. “I will also conduct this discussion within the context of deference for the Constitution and its interpretation by the courts.”

0001raoul-resizedState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee for the 98th General Assembly (2013-14). Senate President John Cullerton recently announced committee appointments and chairmanships.

“I’m excited to take on the leadership of this important committee, which evaluates proposals affecting the legal system and the legal rights of people and businesses throughout Illinois,” said Sen. Raoul, an attorney who practices labor and employment law.

The Judiciary Committee hears proposed legislation related to civil law. Measures the committee considered last session covered a broad range of issues, including foreclosure, corporations, family law and expanded rights for military service members. Sen. Raoul has served on committees dealing with civil law, criminal law or both in each session since his 2004 appointment to the Senate.

Sen. Raoul will continue to serve as vice chairperson of the Senate Criminal Law Committee and will also sit on the Labor and Commerce, Insurance and Public Health committees.

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) announced that the law he sponsored to expand the availability of health care purchasing groups will take effect January 1, giving more businesses a new opportunity to offer health insurance to their employees. Health care purchasing groups allow multiple businesses to join together to negotiate lower premiums. Previously, Illinois law had restricted their membership to businesses with 500 or fewer employees; now employers with up to 2,500 workers are eligible.

“When more businesses can form health care purchasing groups, the insurer’s risk will decrease and so will the premiums,” Sen. Raoul said. “Purchasing groups have a history of providing superior care at competitive prices, and expanding this option makes Illinois a better place for workers and business owners alike.”

Federal health care reform legislation has also authorized $6 billion in federal loans to assist in the creation of health insurance cooperatives, which allow businesses to band together and contract directly with health care providers. These two options – health care co-ops and purchasing groups – will help more businesses insure their workers, leading to better health outcomes and fewer working people forced to purchase costly individual insurance, apply for government assistance or go without coverage.

“Purchasing groups and co-ops are critical to reaching the goal of health care access for all Illinoisans,” Sen. Raoul said. “They also help level the playing field so small and medium-sized businesses can attract a talented workforce, compete and grow.”