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.”

02162017AM9271 front pageState 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.”

02162017CM0905 front pageState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) released the following statement on Governor Rauner’s interference with the grand bargain budget deal:

After weeks of bipartisan effort to end this historic budget crisis that has put our state $11 billion in debt, the Senate has once again been undermined by Governor Rauner. As soon as the grand bargain began to gain momentum with successful votes on some measures in the package yesterday, the governor’s office took swift action to deter Republican members from voting favorably on some pieces of legislation.

As always, I commend Leader Radogno for her willingness to negotiate in good faith, and I am sorry that the governor has sabotaged her work. I also applaud my Democratic colleagues for taking on difficult votes in an effort to move the state forward.

It is unconscionable and immoral for the governor to interfere with bipartisan cooperation when the budget crisis has real consequences for citizens in need of human services, businesses dealing with the state, and medical providers having to turn away patients. Additionally, this action allows for the continuance of an apartheid in our education system.

The governor’s actions are not those of a true leader. The people of Illinois elected a governor, not a king.

04062017CM0593 front pageState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) secured passage today of legislation aimed at taking a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform and reducing the unacceptable gun violence in Chicago and across the state.

“The step we took today 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 and those who just picked up a gun for the first time.”  

Raoul has also introduced legislation, SB 592, that recognizes the impact of trauma in communities and creates diversion options for first time gun offenders.

The measure that passed the Senate today is targeted towards 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. 

It 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 after a risk assessment tool determines the person is considered low-risk and need.

SB 1722 passed 35-9-4 in the Senate and is headed to the House for consideration.

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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."