The workers’ compensation reform package approved by the General Assembly should be considered a beginning, not a time for unfurling a “mission accomplished” banner.The package is a good first step toward controlling costs. But it is only a first step.

The biggest move is a 30 percent reduction in the medical fee schedule for doctors. That still leaves Illinois with among the highest compensation rates in the country. If passage of this bill is used as an excuse to turn away from further reform, it will hurt more than help Illinois’ competitiveness in attracting more jobs.

The “reform” still doesn’t address the “causation” standard. The Illinois State Chamber of Commerce wanted the standard raised so that the workplace would have to be the major contributing cause of an accident or injury.

Read more: Workers' comp measure a step in right direction

Illinois Senate approves workers compensation reform SPRINGFIELD — Illinois businesses, still stung by a steep increase in the state income tax, got a gift of up to $700 million from the Illinois Senate on Saturday. In a 46-8 vote, with two members voting present, the Senate approved and sent to the House legislation that would impose cost reductions on the state’s expensive and scandal-tainted workers compensation system.

“This is major reform, and it’s nonsense to refer to it as anything but,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor.

Springfield’s ruling Democrats made the pro-business vote a top priority of the spring legislative session after orchestrating a 46 percent increase in the corporate income tax rate in January.

“This reform package is the single most important thing we can do to improve our business climate and ensure our economic recovery continues,” Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said in a prepared statement.

Read more: Illinois Senate approves workers compensation reform

raoul-reformSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D–Chicago) has passed legislation making substantial reforms to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system. These reforms make the state economic climate more attractive and save Illinois businesses more than $500 million. House Bill 1698 addresses abuses in the system, while still ensuring that legitimately injured workers can file and receive their claims.

Initially House Bill 1698 passed out of the Senate and failed in the Illinois House. After being reconsidered in the House, the measure passed on Tuesday and will now head to Governor Pat Quinn’s desk for approval.

Senator Raoul negotiated with members of the business community, medical community, trial lawyers and labor unions to reach an agreement on workers’ compensation. After months of talks, this legislation represents a consensus between most of the parties involved.

Read more: Reform saves Illinois Businesses more than $500 million

Bears pleased with passing of concussion legislationLAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears on Tuesday commended the Illinois General Assembly on its timely passage of House Bill 200, youth concussion legislation co-authored by House Minority Leader Tom Cross (Oswego) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (Chicago).

The bipartisan legislation unanimously passed both chambers and marks the first comprehensive state law seeking to address the growing concerns over concussion injuries and their prevention in youth sports.

“We congratulate Leader Cross and Senator Raoul for their efforts and tireless work in successfully bringing this important issue to the forefront,” said Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips. “The Bears commend the General Assembly for recognizing the steps that must be taken to further protect Illinois children and young student-athletes from preventable concussions and other brain injuries.”

Read more: Bears pleased with passing of concussion legislation

Lawmakers see productive 5 monthsSPRINGFIELD – When the last gavel came banging down last week, Illinois lawmakers wrapped up a five-month stretch that, for better or worse, ranks among the Legislature’s most productive in decades.

They tackled the state’s woeful budget. Rejecting Gov. Pat Quinn’s push to increase spending, legislators did something that seems simple but rarely happens in Springfield: They figured out how much money was available and then spent only that much. Hoping to bring in some new money, they also approved a huge expansion of gambling: five new casinos, growth at existing casinos, and slot machines at racetracks.

Just in case anyone was getting bored, legislators overhauled workers’ compensation, cut back on teachers’ job security and approved higher electric rates to pay for modernizing the state power grid. And the Democratic majority drew up new Democrat-friendly legislative and congressional districts.

That flurry of activity came after a January push that saw them raise income taxes, legalize civil unions and abolish the death penalty.

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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."