Raoul's year in review
01/04/2012 10:00 PM
Happy New Year!
As we begin 2012, itís only fair that we reflect on 2011 and the progress weíve made.
Last year, as I traveled the district I noted that for some the holiday season is one filled with grief, sorrow, and loneliness because theyíve undeservingly lost a loved one due to Illinoisí failed death penalty experiment. While I canít change the past, I remain humble and proud that my legislation to permanently end the death penalty in Illinois has since been signed into law. This historical achievement is paving the way for other states to follow Illinoisí lead and ban the practice as well. Itís my hope that one day our entire country will join the rest of the civilized world and end state-sanctioned homicide.
The death penalty abolition canít be the end of our work to fight for the innocent in Illinois however. Our record on the death penalty only highlights the holes in our criminal justice system and its alarming statistics on wrongful convictions. In an investigation of 85 cases, the Better Government Association reports that since 1976, innocent men and women served a total of 926 years for crimes they did not commit. These are only the cases where men or women have been exonerated. We canít continue along this pattern and thatís why Iím partnering with the Better Government Association and taking aim at mandating practices that will minimize wrongful convictions.
Recently, thereís been a lot of attention by the Chicago media about the hurdles and hiccups of the ward remap process. As Chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, I led an open process along with Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie to produce a state legislative map and congressional map which reflects the diversity of our state and has met the approval of the courts. By now, youíre probably aware of my disdain of how our friends in Chinatown were impacted by legislative boundaries that diluted their influence in legislative elections and Iím happy to report that the community is now within one district which will allow them to influence the outcomes of future elections. This accomplishment wouldnít have been possible if Representative Currie and I had not led the effort to pass the Illinois Voting Rights Act of 2011.
Unlike the gridlock weíre currently seeing in Washington, members on both sides of the aisle have begun to work together to address the problems at hand in Springfield. Together, weíve implemented new work rules to help attract shows to McCormick Place, passed a budget on a bipartisan basis, put kids first with an education overhaul and I even received broad bipartisan support on my legislation to reform workers compensation.
Most recently, during the fall veto session, I partnered with Republican Leader Tom Cross to pass legislation to eliminate pension double-dipping abuses committed by select union leaders that were not in the interest of rank and file members whoíve worked hard to earn their pensions. During the veto session, we also increased the earned income tax credit to lessen the tax burden on the working poor. Without a doubt itís been a productive year but itís a testament to what we can do when we work together.
These accomplishments shouldnít be undervalued and Iím thankful for your support over the last year. I truly am honored to serve each of you and have the opportunity to fight for you in Springfield. As you know, getting things done in Springfield isnít always easy but as I look back at our results itís clear that the late nights and miles back and forth were definitely worth it.
I hope that youíve had a wonderful holiday filled with warmth and cheer and I look forward to continue working with each of you to get more done in 2012!
Kwame Raoul is a state senator representing Illinoisí 13th District, which stretches along the lakefront from downtown Chicago to the far Southeast Side. He was appointed to the seat in 2004.