Senator Kwame RaoulSPRINGFIELD – Thanks to legislation sponsored by Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th), Illinois law now allows first-time, non-violent offenders to participate in a two-year diversion program similar to probation. Once they successfully complete the program, their records will immediately be expunged, increasing their odds of getting a job and staying out of prison.

“It’s not enough just to be tough on crime; we have to be smart on crime,” Sen. Raoul said. “With our prisons filled beyond their intended capacity and our state budget stretched thin, we simply can’t afford to lock away non-violent offenders with a high likelihood of making restitution, addressing any behavioral or substance abuse problems, and turning their lives around. Enrolling these individuals in alternative programs will be cheaper and more effective than traditional incarceration.”

Senate Bill 3349, signed today by Governor Quinn, allows offenders convicted or indicted on certain felony charges (including burglary, theft, forgery, possession of a stolen vehicle, and drug possession) to participate in the “offender initiative” program only with the consent of the state’s attorney and a judge. During their two years in the program, offenders must meet minimum conditions set by a judge, such as making restitution to victims, performing community service, holding a job, completing a treatment program, and/or passing drug tests. Participants may not own a firearm during the probation period, and if they reoffend within five years, the expunged records can still be used against them in a trial.

“It has been an honor to work with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and her office on this legislation,” said Sen. Raoul, who this spring also sponsored a new “early release” law with comprehensive safeguards. “We have seen this year that there is bipartisan momentum toward addressing the aspects of our correctional system that aren’t working and adopting tools to help us utilize our resources wisely.”

CHICAGO — More than 18 months have passed since Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake and rebuilding Haiti is still a work in progress. State Senator Kwame Raoul of Chicago continues to collaborate with International Child Care (ICC), Children’s Memorial Hospital (CMH) and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine’s Global Health Initiative to help resurrect the Grace Children’s Hospital (GCH) in Haiti. On Wednesday ICC is hosting a dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Union Club in Chicago to address progress and challenges with the GCH reconstruction.

“I am proud to work with a Chicago-based coalition to continue to aid Haiti, focusing on rebuilding GCH as a resource for pediatric healthcare needs,” said Senator Raoul. “Thousands of children and families will benefit from a fully operational GCH and this Chicago-Haiti partnership will continue working to make sure this hospital and other resources are provided.

ICC has been serving the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic for 43 years and they assist more than 200,000 people in those nations annually. John Yates, International Director for ICC and representatives from CMH will share specific insights on Wednesday regarding the reconstruction and additional goals to revitalize Haiti.

For Senator Raoul helping improve life for Haitians is a deeply personal commitment. Raoul was born in Chicago to Haitian-born immigrants and he still has family who live in Haiti. His father practiced medicine, made house calls to the underserved and underprivileged across Chicago, and was a board member of International Child Care and now Senator Raoul is an ICC board member.

Business professionals, public officials, architects, doctors, philanthropists and other supporters will participate in Wednesday’s meeting.

CHICAGO – State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) will preside over a public hearing on Tuesday, December 6th to address historic disparities within the state’s pension investment firms and identify prospects for progress. Senator Raoul has been a long-time advocate for increased opportunities for Minority and Women-owned Businesses (M/WBE) in Illinois.

“A healthy Illinois business community should mean fair opportunities for all,” Raoul said. “This hearing is an opportunity to inform minority and women financial service professionals, get vital public input, and review the progress public pension funds have made in their M/WBE inclusion policy.”

As Chairman of the Senate Pensions and Investments Committee, Raoul has held annual hearings focusing on the engagement of M/WBE with the state’s pension firms, the General Assembly’s efforts to encourage pension funds to diversify the financial service firms they utilize and other key issues.

WHO: State Senator Kwame Raoul, Senate Pensions and Investments Committee members, M/WBE community and other business professionals

WHAT: Public Hearing on M/WBE inclusion in Pension Investments

WHEN: 9 a.m. on Tuesday, December 6, 2011

WHERE: Michael A. Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St., 6th Floor Committee Room.  Chicago, IL 60601

SPRINGFIELD - State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) sponsored and passed legislation to strengthen an existing law which mandates that those who are convicted of corruption must forfeit their profits.  House Bill 909 expands the Public Corruption Profit Forfeiture Act so that those who fraudulently obtain money reserved for minority or women owned businesses must return all profits, property and property interest to the state.

“We are already falling short with supporting women and minority businesses in Illinois, and I have been an advocate to address this issue,” Senator Raoul said. “We cannot allow this problem to be exacerbated by those who seek to fraudulently put themselves forth as a minority or women owned business.”

The specific charges that the expanded Public Corruption Profit Forfeiture Act will address include bribery, kickbacks and intimidation of a public official. Raoul worked with the Attorney General Lisa Madigan on this legislation.

“Businesses that defraud the taxpayers cannot be allowed to profit from their illegal conduct,” said Attorney General Madigan. “This bill will make it easier to go after those profits and make sure that defrauding programs designed to benefit legitimate businesses does not pay.”

The Office of the Attorney General indicted Robert Blum and Castle Construction Corporation for fraudulently obtaining public money reserved for disadvantaged businesses in 2009, resulting in a March 2011 conviction. Subsequently, the Attorney General sued Blum and Castle for their actions, but a review of the defendant’s assets by the courts concluded they were no longer liable. HB 909 will correct this type of discrepancy.

The legislation has passed out of the Illinois General Assembly and will head to Governor Pat Quinn to be signed into law.

Senator Kwame Raoul, Chicago Hospital Officials Visit Grace in HaitiCHICAGO — More than a year has passed since Haiti was devastated by a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake. State Senator Kwame Raoul recently traveled to the nation, with a Chicago-based coalition, to help resurrect one of its facilities, Grace Children’s Hospital (GCH). When rebuilt, the hospital will provide needed care and services to the children of Haiti.

For Senator Raoul, helping improve life for Haitians in the wake of this natural disaster is a personal commitment. Raoul was born in Chicago to Haitian-born immigrants. His father practiced medicine, made house calls to the underserved and underprivileged across Chicago, and was a board member of International Health Care. The state senator, whose legislative district is located in Chicago, still has family in Haiti.

Read more: Senator Kwame Raoul, Chicago Hospital Officials Visit Grace

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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."