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.

05102017CM1520 rState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) released the following statement on the Senate passing a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 18:

Today, Senate Democrats did what Governor Rauner and Republicans would not do – we voted to pass a balanced budget that will restore stability to our state.

During months of bipartisan negotiations, the governor praised the Senate’s efforts while working behind the scenes to derail them. Although Leader Radogno came to the table ready to negotiate in good faith, the governor repeatedly pulled Republican votes off of the grand bargain.

Governor Rauner touts a pro-business agenda, but his disastrous policies have nearly broken our state, hurting existing businesses and making Illinois unattractive to new ones. The business community has made their voice heard, and what they want is the stability that comes from passing a balanced budget, the state paying its bills on time and securing revenue for necessary services.

As legislators, we have a responsibility to fix the governor’s failure. The budget passed today incorporates funding for vital human services, higher education and public schools, and it will stop our $14 billion backlog from growing further.

With the passing of a balanced budget, we can begin to repair the damage the governor has wrought and look towards long-term growth for our state.

051816 js 0346 front pageState 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.”

Raoul took time to hold hearings and work with parents and stakeholders to discuss some potential issues with the legislation. An amendment to the legislation reduced the proposed number of board members from 21 to 15 and a run-off provision was added.

“An elected school board would be a step in the right direction for a school district in need of much reform that has shut parents out of the decision-making process for far too long,” Raoul said.

Members of the Education Committee voiced concerns about the legislation as written but gave clear indications they were willing to support the initiative once those concerns are addressed. Senator Raoul vowed to continue working to adjust the proposal and revisit the issue in the future.

“I appreciate my colleagues’ concerns and I look forward to bringing back a proposal that addresses them,” Raoul said.“This is a movement for equity and democracy that will not stop.”

030916CM0120 front pageState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) joined a number of elected officials at A Safe Haven, a transitional housing facility, for the signing of legislation that ensures a person being released from Department of Corrections or Department of Juvenile Justice receives a state identification card. Raoul released the following statement on Senate Bill 3368:

“We are taking a step forward into guiding ex-offenders upon release to successful reintegration by working in a bipartisan fashion to provide them a tool we all commonly use, an identification card. Driving down recidivism and reducing our prison population will continue to be pressing issues in our state. This is one of many recommendations brought forth by the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform, which I serve on, that provides aid to those re-entering our society.”

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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."