Lawmakers see productive 5 monthsSPRINGFIELD – When the last gavel came banging down last week, Illinois lawmakers wrapped up a five-month stretch that, for better or worse, ranks among the Legislature’s most productive in decades.

They tackled the state’s woeful budget. Rejecting Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to increase spending, legislators did something that seems simple but rarely happens in Springfield: They figured out how much money was available and then spent only that much. Hoping to bring in some new money, they also approved a huge expansion of gambling: five new casinos, growth at existing casinos, and slot machines at racetracks.

Just in case anyone was getting bored, legislators overhauled workers’ compensation, cut back on teachers’ job security and approved higher electric rates to pay for modernizing the state power grid. And the Democratic majority drew up new Democrat-friendly legislative and congressional districts.

That flurry of activity came after a January push that saw them raise income taxes, legalize civil unions and abolish the death penalty.

In honor of Black History month, members of the Illinois Senate Black Caucus spoke about their thoughts on the famous historical figures that have influenced their lives. Click below to watch Senator Kwame Raoul reflect on the importance of Haitian Revolutionaries.

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CHICAGO — With Soldier Field in Chicago as the backdrop today, Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) team up with 1985 Super Bowl Champs Richard Dent, Kurt Becker as well as NFL executives, the Illinois High School Association, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital to push legislation through the Senate that tackles the vital issue of concussion education.

“The sports community has really stepped up to the plate to help us bring awareness to this vitally important issue of concussion education,” said Cross.  “With Sen. Raoul’s help and leadership in the Senate we will make concussion education a requirement for our student athletes and their parents.”

“I truly appreciate Leader Cross’s unwavering devotion to raising the profile of concussion education,” said Raoul. “From little league football to the NFL, and all levels and types of sports, we must do what we can in state government to make sure that girls and boys, men and women better protect themselves from potentially life-altering head injuries.”

Read more: Raoul, Cross teams up with Bears to pass concussion education legislation (VIDEO)

Raoul on Governor’s Approval of Death Penalty Abolition

SPRINGFIELD – The lawmakers who shepherded through the General Assembly legislation to abolish the death penalty today issued statements after Governor Pat Quinn approved Senate Bill 3539 – ending the punishment of death in Illinois.   

“While a moratorium was appropriate for years in order to allow us to evaluate and suggest reforms to improve our criminal justice system, today we recognize that no set of reforms will eliminate the fact that human beings are flawed.   I am thankful that the exonerated, victims, former prosecutors, religious leaders and legislators on a bipartisan basis came together to make this historic day possible.  Today we join the rest of the civilized world. God Bless Illinois!”  - State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago)

Click below to listen to the Senator's Opening and Closing Remarks

Read more: Raoul on Governor’s Approval of Death Penalty Abolition (VIDEO)