“I stand ready to continue the process of negotiating constitutional reforms that protect public employees as well as core services.”

Raoul responds to pension reform rulingSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th), co-chair of a conference committee that sent a compromise plan for pension reform to the courts last December, issued the following statement in response to Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz’s opinion that the measure does not pass constitutional muster:

Read more: Raoul responds to pension reform ruling

101714RaoulCHICAGO — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) and State Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) will co-chair a hearing tomorrow on body cameras —devices law enforcement officers can attach to their uniforms to record their encounters with the public — and how a new eavesdropping law Raoul and others are negotiating could affect their use. The joint meeting of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees will take place tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in Room C-600 of the Bilandic Building in Chicago.

“As we craft a commonsense, constitutional eavesdropping law, I believe it’s extremely important to have a public discussion about how body cameras and their footage can be used,” said Raoul, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It’s a matter of striking a balance between privacy concerns and the need to protect officers while also holding them accountable.”

Read more: Raoul to co-chair hearing on police body cameras Eavesdropping law rewrite could affect how body...

051713js1171brSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the National Council for Compensation Insurance’s request for a 4.5 percent reduction in workers’ compensation insurance premium rates for Illinois businesses:

"Two years ago, Rep. John Bradley and I brought lawmakers, labor and the business community together to negotiate a solution to an exceedingly complex and divisive problem: the high workers’ compensation premiums that were hampering the state’s economic growth and job creation.

Today, Illinois businesses have already saved $315 million in premiums. Now, with an additional 4.5 percent reduction on the horizon, they stand poised to save $110 million more, with an overall 13.3 percent drop in rates since the reforms were implemented. The outlook is promising for further savings and an even better Illinois business climate.

The continued success of workers’ comp reforms demonstrates that there’s no substitute for sitting down at the negotiating table, taking each other’s concerns seriously and doing the hard work of hammering out an effective compromise."

032013br0266rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act:

"Forty-six years after Loving v. Virginia, which affirmed the marriage rights of interracial couples, the U.S. Supreme Court again struck a blow against laws that discriminate against people based on whom they choose to marry. Today, a majority of justices held that the Defense of Marriage Act — which prohibited same-sex couples, even those who are married in the eyes of the states in which they reside, from accessing federal marriage benefits — is contrary to the Constitution’s equal protection clause. I wholeheartedly applaud this decision. But it does not absolve Illinois lawmakers of responsibility; our work has just begun. Because same-sex couples in this state may enter into civil unions but not marriages, the federal rights and responsibilities of marriage do not apply to them – even after today’s ruling. It is now more critical than ever that the House pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, as the Senate did in February, so the commitments same-sex couples make to each other are recognized as marriages under both state and federal law."

052113br0153rSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder to invalidate the formula that determines which jurisdictions were required under the federal Voting Rights Act to obtain preclearance of proposed changes to voting procedures:

"Yesterday’s decision, with which I am extremely disappointed, highlights the ongoing need for strong, state-level voting protections such as those found in Illinois law. I’m proud to live in a progressive state that values full participation by all citizens in the democratic process. Historically, African-Americans in many parts of the country faced discrimination and outright intimidation when they tried to make their voices heard at the polls; today, voting is made more difficult not only for racial minorities but also for senior citizens, students and low-income individuals when procedural hurdles such as ID requirements are put in their path.

Prior to the latest round of legislative and congressional redistricting, I introduced the Illinois Voting Rights Act to protect language and racial minorities from having their electoral influence diluted in the redistricting process. I also worked this year to make voting more accessible through online voter registration, early voting on college campuses, later in-person early voting hours on Sundays and protections for provisional voters.

Congress should take action to restore a strong federal Voting Rights Act that addresses the barriers to minority electoral participation still in existence today. Meanwhile, I believe Illinoisans can be proud of this state’s voting laws. I pledge to continue working to make them stronger and fairer."

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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."