RaoulAVR veto 111516SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) voted to override the governor’s veto of a measure that creates a process to automatically register eligible voters when they visit facilities run by the Secretary of State’s office and other state agencies.

Raoul released the following statement after the Senate successfully overrode the veto of Senate Bill 250:

“Historically, disenfranchised populations have fought for their right to vote. Today’s vote continues to promote voter accessibility and streamlines the voting process for everyone in our state.”

Raoul111716SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) presented legislation  establishing an elected Chicago school board in today’s Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 557 passed the House in March with overwhelming bipartisan support. Over the objection of the Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Raoul pushed yesterday for the legislation to be heard in committee today.

“The legislation at hand is far too important to not be heard,” Raoul said. “We can all agree that CPS needs reforms and the best way to reach a solution is to continue conversation.”

Read more: Raoul: I will continue to work toward an elected Chicago school board

State Senator Raoul discusses elected school boardParents interested in bringing an elected school board to Chicago had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns this week with State Senator Kwame Raoul, who is sponsoring such a proposal.

Currently, the Chicago board is appointed by the mayor and many residents feel left out of the decision-making process.

Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, is the sponsor of elected school board legislation, House Bill 557, currently pending in the Senate that previously won House approval. As the House passed it, the Chicago school board would consist of 21 members, one of which would be elected at-large.

The initial board would be elected during the general primary election in March 2018 and would serve a five-year term. Successors would serve four-year terms and be elected during the consolidated elections beginning in April 2023.

Town hall attendees voiced their issues with the legislation and received clarification on some of the details.

Raoul discussed plans to amend the legislation to alleviate some of the concerns he shares with the parents and other stakeholders. This would include reducing the board to 15 members to bring it more in line with other major school boards across the country and including a run-off provision that would put the two highest vote earners head-to-head.

Raoul anticipates a hearing on the legislation when the Senate returns for its fall session later this month.

SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) reminded Illinoisans that the start of the new year will bring sweeping, positive changes to the way law enforcement and the criminal justice system accomplish their vital work. On Jan. 1, 2016, several landmark justice measures, including long-awaited standards for the use of police body cameras, will take effect.

“For far too long, our criminal justice system has reinforced racial disparities and provided poor outcomes for taxpayers, ex-offenders, families and communities alike,” Raoul said. “We are finally seeing a bipartisan movement to examine and, when necessary, overhaul law enforcement, sentencing and corrections practices so they’re fair and they work.”

Raoul sponsored and secured passage of a major policing reform measure in May. Changes in the law that take effect in the new year include

  • Establishing minimum policies and standards for the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies that choose to deploy the uniform-mounted devices
  • Requiring an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and creating a mechanism for the appointment of a special prosecutor in sensitive cases, including alleged police misconduct
  • Prohibiting the use of chokeholds by police
  • Expanding mandatory law enforcement officer training to include cultural competency, implicit bias, the proper use of force and interacting with sexual assault victims and persons with disabilities
  • Requiring officers to issue a “stop receipt,” including the officer’s name and badge number, to a pedestrian stopped for any reason
  • Creating a database of officers who have been dismissed due to misconduct or resigned during a misconduct investigation, so rogue cops aren’t hired unknowingly by other departments

On Jan. 31, 2016, a task force assembled under the new law is scheduled to submit its recommendations on licensing police officers in Illinois for added accountability.

Raoul, who serves on the governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, also sponsored two important juvenile justice laws that will take effect Jan. 1.

One will eliminate all automatic transfers of children charged with crimes from the juvenile system to adult criminal courts and give judges greater discretion to decide the best setting for trying and sentencing minors based on the particulars of each case. Another will prevent juveniles from being committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses. It also ensures that no minor will be confined to a DJJ facility for longer than an adult would be incarcerated for the same offense.

“Whether it’s a young African-American man encountering a police officer on the street, a mother concerned about her children’s safety on the walk to school or an ex-offender trying to turn his life around and support his family, we are working hard to achieve the American dream of equal access to safety, security and justice,” Raoul said. “As the Commission continues its task and as both lawmakers and the public become more aware of the disparities and shortcomings in our criminal justice system, I’m confident we’ll see additional policies enacted to supplement the major reforms poised to take effect.”

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When I learned that a video of Laquan McDonald’s final moments was to be released to the public, I knew that many would fear its impact, remembering the self-destruction oppressed communities elsewhere have experienced following acts of police brutality and excessive force.

I believe we can do better in Chicago. But I am not calling for calm. There’s nothing to be calm about. Instead, I’m calling for sustained, focused, constructive outrage that demands full accountability but doesn’t destroy community.

Because of legislation I advanced earlier this year, we now have legal protocols in place that mandate independent investigations of police-involved deaths, expose the misdeeds of rogue cops so they don’t quietly move from one department to another, require improved officer training on bias and the use of force and establish funding and standards for the use of body cameras.

But I know it’s not enough.

Everyone responsible in this atrocity – not only Officer Van Dyke, but any individual who participated in a cover-up that delayed justice for Laquan McDonald and his family – must be held accountable. We should direct our outrage toward asking our local prosecutor whether it would have taken 13 months to resolve this case if the video had shown a civilian committing the same act. We should ask why Office Van Dyke was still on the beat after 17 public complaints were filed against him and the City paid half a million dollars to settle allegations that he had used excessive force. We should question the ability of Chicago’s independent police review authority, which has recently come under scrutiny from the Better Government Association, to do its job with integrity. And as we call on our neighbors to abandon the no-snitch code, in our outrage we demand the same of law enforcement.

Watch the video. Don’t be destructive. But don’t be calm.

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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."