SB1722 signing rA comprehensive criminal justice reform measure sponsored by State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) was signed into law today by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The measure is aimed at reducing the unacceptable gun violence in Chicago and across the state.

“This law is a continuation of my record of criminal justice reform efforts focusing on individualized treatment of offenders,” Raoul said. “It is vital that we distinguish between repeat offenders who are more likely to be shooters and first time offenders who may be better candidates for diversion.”  

The measure is targeted toward repeat gun offenders, recommending that judges sentence them on the higher end of the existing sentencing range. It does allow judges to deviate from the higher sentencing recommendation if they find circumstances indicate departure is appropriate.  

Raoul collaborated with House sponsor Rep. Jim Durkin (D-Western Springs) to include a provision in the bill creating a diversion program in lieu of sentencing for first-time offenders under the age of 21.

The legislation also puts in place a series of criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing the prison population and providing low-risk offenders with better access to rehabilitation programming and opportunities after release. These reforms include:

 

    • Increases access to educational, vocational and re-entry programming for individuals incarcerated for truth-in-sentencing offenses, allowing eligible individuals to reduce their sentence up to 15 percent.

 

    • Reduces the protected area for drug crimes from 1,000 to 500 feet, removes public housing as a protected area and requires prosecutors to prove a connection between the crime and the protected area before a felony can be enhanced.

 

    • Expands the eligibility for the Offender Initiative Program, Second Chance Probation and all other drug probation programs.

 

      Allows the Prisoner Review Board to terminate a person’s mandatory supervised release if a risk assessment tool determines that the person is considered low-risk and need.

 

Among supporters of the measure was Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who testified twice in its support during the legislative session.

“Those numbers represent multiple generations of young black men who never have a chance to make something of their lives because of illegal guns and criminals willing to pull the trigger,” Johnson said during testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in May. “Quite frankly, as an African American leader, I’m disgusted, and as a cop, I’m angry.”

SB 1722 takes effect Jan. 1, 2018.

05312017CM1513 rState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) released the following statement on Governor Rauner signing the Bail Reform Act into law:

"It is unjust for someone’s wealth to determine whether they stay in jail while awaiting a trial, rather than the nature of their alleged crime.

The cash bond system disproportionately harms lower-income offenders, often leaving low-risk offenders in jail and contributing to the overcrowding of the prison system. The legislation that becomes law today will ensure that a person’s threat to public safety determines their potential release, not the amount of money in their bank account."

05312017CM0211 rState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) today secured passage in the Senate of a measure allowing for the election of the Chicago Board of Education starting in 2023.

Before this legislation, the Chicago Public School district was the only school district in the state without an elected school board.

“It’s important that Chicago stay on par with the state, not only with funding but also with democracy,” Raoul said.

Similar legislation passed the House in 2016 but did not advance in the Senate. The measure passed today sets the size of the elected board at 15 members and establishes a redistricting commission to draw districts for board members.

“We amended the legislation to make sure the legislature was not drawing districts but that redistricting was done by people within the city of Chicago,” Raoul said.

Currently, the Chicago Board of Education is composed of seven members appointed by the mayor of Chicago.

HB 1774 passed the Senate 53-2 and heads to the House for a concurrence vote.

haitian soldiers monument

As we remember those who gave their lives for our country this Memorial Day, I want to take a moment to honor the Haitian Americans who fought in the Siege of Savannah during the American Revolutionary War. In October of 1779, more than 500 Haitian men fought bravely alongside American and French soldiers in an attempt to drive the British out of Savannah, Georgia. The Siege of Savannah was one of the deadliest battles in the Revolution. These men were "free men" and joined the fight of their own accord, not as slaves. The role of Haitians in the American Revolution has long been ignored, although a monument was erected in Savannah in their honor in 2010.

As a Haitian American, it is a great point of pride for me that my ancestors played a role in America's fight for independence. I also hope their bravery can serve as a reminder that America was built with the help of men and women from many different countries and cultures.

05262017CM0304 rState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured passage of legislation today that streamlines the state’s workers’ compensation system while keeping valuable protections in place.

“We refuse to participate in a race to the bottom when it comes to workers’ compensation rights,” Raoul said. “We have addressed this issue before with great success. Although we can always look for ways to reform workers’ compensation, we must also maintain Illinois’ longstanding commitment to workers’ rights.”

Today’s measure makes several changes to the House’s workers’ compensation reform plan, including: capping the time awarded for repeated injuries to the same part of the spine at 500 weeks, allowing first responders to receive benefits the day after their accident, creating an evidence-based prescription drug formulary and establishing reasonable rates for procedures performed at Ambulatory Service Centers.

Raoul worked with the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association and other stakeholders on the Senate’s overhaul of the workers’ compensation program in 2011. Since then, Illinois employers have saved more than $315 million in workers compensation premiums. The measure includes a provision empowering the Department of Insurance to ensure savings from these and past reforms are passed on to employers.
Key components of the measure include:

  • clarification that an AMA impairment report is not required in order to award benefits or reach a settlement, although a report may be utilized when reaching a decision.
  • penalties for unreasonable delay in authorizing medical treatment.
  • classification of hip and shoulder injuries as leg and arm injuries, respectively.
  • requirements for employers and insurers to accept electronic claims by June 30, 2017.

These reforms are the result of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations over the past year. Several of the provisions in the legislation reflect recommendations from the governor, including controlling money spent on prescription drugs and clarifying the use of AMA guidelines.

HB 2525 passed the Senate 35-19-1 and now moves back to the House for consideration.

You can view Senator Raoul's remarks on workers' comp reform here.

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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."