concealed carrySPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) filed legislation yesterday that will become a negotiated concealed carry proposal. Senate President John Cullerton designated Raoul to bring together all voices in the gun debate to develop a legislative response to Judge Richard Posner’s December ruling, which set a 180-day deadline for action. Language drafted in the course of negotiations will be added to Senate Bill 1337.

“The negotiations I lead will respect firearm owners’ constitutional protections as interpreted by the Supreme Court and lower courts, and it will acknowledge the fact that there are many law-abiding Illinois gun owners who legitimately wish to use guns for sport and self-protection,” Raoul said. “At the same time, we will also acknowledge the alarming prevalence of gun violence and the need to keep guns out of the hands of those most likely to use them for harm.”

Illinois is the last remaining state in the nation not to provide for some form of concealed carry. On Dec. 11, Judge Posner, writing for the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, declared unconstitutional the state’s restrictions on carrying a firearm in public. It gave the Illinois General Assembly until June 9, 2013, to change the law.

“While I respect and appreciate the attorney general’s request for review by a full panel of the appeals court, the legislature can’t ignore its responsibility,” Raoul said. “The 49 states that allow concealed carry do not have identical policies, and we need to find an approach that’s right for Illinois. But let me be clear – we must comply with the court’s mandate, and we will.”

Raoul will work concurrently on legislation designed to curtail illegal gun trafficking and straw purchases. He filed Senate Bill 1334 today as a vehicle for this measure.

“We need to put in place mechanisms to trace the chain of custody so we know who is delivering guns to gang members and others who use them to injure and kill,” Raoul said. “I will also conduct this discussion within the context of deference for the Constitution and its interpretation by the courts.”

0001raoul-resizedState Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee for the 98th General Assembly (2013-14). Senate President John Cullerton recently announced committee appointments and chairmanships.

“I’m excited to take on the leadership of this important committee, which evaluates proposals affecting the legal system and the legal rights of people and businesses throughout Illinois,” said Sen. Raoul, an attorney who practices labor and employment law.

The Judiciary Committee hears proposed legislation related to civil law. Measures the committee considered last session covered a broad range of issues, including foreclosure, corporations, family law and expanded rights for military service members. Sen. Raoul has served on committees dealing with civil law, criminal law or both in each session since his 2004 appointment to the Senate.

Sen. Raoul will continue to serve as vice chairperson of the Senate Criminal Law Committee and will also sit on the Labor and Commerce, Insurance and Public Health committees.

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) announced that the law he sponsored to expand the availability of health care purchasing groups will take effect January 1, giving more businesses a new opportunity to offer health insurance to their employees. Health care purchasing groups allow multiple businesses to join together to negotiate lower premiums. Previously, Illinois law had restricted their membership to businesses with 500 or fewer employees; now employers with up to 2,500 workers are eligible.

“When more businesses can form health care purchasing groups, the insurer’s risk will decrease and so will the premiums,” Sen. Raoul said. “Purchasing groups have a history of providing superior care at competitive prices, and expanding this option makes Illinois a better place for workers and business owners alike.”

Federal health care reform legislation has also authorized $6 billion in federal loans to assist in the creation of health insurance cooperatives, which allow businesses to band together and contract directly with health care providers. These two options – health care co-ops and purchasing groups – will help more businesses insure their workers, leading to better health outcomes and fewer working people forced to purchase costly individual insurance, apply for government assistance or go without coverage.

“Purchasing groups and co-ops are critical to reaching the goal of health care access for all Illinoisans,” Sen. Raoul said. “They also help level the playing field so small and medium-sized businesses can attract a talented workforce, compete and grow.”

After January 1, judges will be able to enroll non-violent, first-time criminal offenders in an innovative diversion program expected to relieve prison overcrowding and combat recidivism. State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) sponsored legislation creating the Offender Initiative Program, which is similar to probation in that it requires offenders to satisfy certain requirements and stay out of trouble with the law during a two-year period.

“We have a problem in Illinois with overcrowded prisons, and we have a problem with first-time offenders going to prison, not being rehabilitated and given the tools to succeed on the outside and then cycling through the criminal justice system again and again,” Sen. Raoul said. “Programs like Offender Initiative will help break that cycle by encouraging offenders to make restitution, put their lives in order and stay out of prison.”

The state’s attorney and a judge must consent to allow the offender to enter the program. The Offender Initiative Program requires minimum conditions for the two-year period, including holding a job or performing community service, passing drug tests, making full restitution to the victim and not owning a firearm. A judge may also require the offender to complete a drug treatment program. Both minors and adults are eligible, and judges may require minors to live with their legal guardians and attend school during the diversion program.

Once the court determines the offender has successfully completed the program, his or her arrest record will be expunged immediately. If, however, the individual is convicted of any offense within five years after the dismissal, the previous encounter with the law will be admissible as evidence in the new trial.

Senator Kwame RaoulSPRINGFIELD – Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) heralded the passage of Senate Bill 957 and issued the following statement:

As a child of immigrants, I understand the many and diverse contributions immigrants – regardless of documentation – make to our economy and our communities. The reality is that undocumented immigrants are already driving on our roads as they go to work, take their children to school and purchase goods and services. The federal government, on a bipartisan basis, has fallen short on immigration reform. While implementing comprehensive immigration reform is not in our domain as state legislators, we can recognize that we have hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Illinois who inevitably utilize our roads. It’s in the interest of public safety that we acknowledge this reality and give undocumented drivers a pathway to drive legally.

SB 957 passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 41-14 and will next be considered by the House.

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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."