Debbie Cox Bultan on Girl and The Gov, The Podcast

Snapshot: Policy Roundtable Shines Spotlight on Climate & Democracy

Snapshot: Ten Key Moments from NewDEAL’s 2024 Legislative Preview

NewDEAL Heads to New Hampshire for Regional Forum

The Well News | NewDEAL Heads to New Hampshire for Regional Forum

By Dan McCue

The NewDEAL is heading to New Hampshire on Friday not to be part of any presidential contest, but rather to cast a spotlight on New England Democratic state and local policymakers and their shared vision of impactful policies.

Friday’s event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College is being held under the auspices of the NewDEAL Forum.

Among the officials who will be in attendance are Manchester, New Hampshire’s, former Mayor Joyce Craig, who is currently running for governor, New Hampshire state Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Massachusetts state Rep. Tram Nguyen, and Maine’s Assistant House Majority Leader Kristen Cloutier.

Also participating will be student members of the institute’s Young Democrats organization.

“In a way I think what we’re doing is going to be a nice contrast to some of the other things going on in the state,” NewDEAL Forum CEO Debbie Cox Bultan told The Well News on Thursday.

She was referring not only to the increasingly nasty GOP primary race between former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, but also to deep disagreement between the Democratic National Committee and New Hampshire on the timing of the state primary.

The DNC wanted South Carolina to come first in primary voting this year, but New Hampshire would have none of it, stating that its status as the first-in-the-nation to vote for president is written into the state constitution.

That’s why the Republicans are actively having a contest, while the Democratic vote is unsanctioned and therefore not likely to be counted.

“Our conversations are going to be about what’s happening in NewDEAL and about striving for well-crafted solutions to the issues and concerns people care about, like climate change, and how to save our democracy, and how to promote freedom,” Bultan said.

A great deal of the afternoon’s agenda will be driven by the NewDeal’s 2024 Freedom Agenda, a plan for the future published late last year in partnership with the New Democrat Coalition.

The event’s agenda features dedicated sessions spotlighting the efforts of two NewDEAL Forum policy groups — one addressing climate change solutions and another centered on strengthening democracy.

The NewDEAL Forum’s Climate Policy Group has been actively arming leaders with the necessary information and resources to leverage new funding opportunities and implement effective solutions in their communities.

Heading into an election year, the Democracy Working Group has been busy helping elected officials safeguard Democratic institutions and ensure universal access for eligible voters to exercise their fundamental rights.

The discussion on Friday is also expected to emphasize the group’s efforts to promote civic engagement and participation among diverse voter demographics while fostering connections within and across communities.

“When we were creating our agenda for this year we were very mindful of the fact that while Republicans have tried to own the word freedom for years, their actions have represented anything but that,” Bultan said.

“I mean, all you have to do is look at what they are doing in regard to women’s reproductive care, book bannings and so many other things that are anathema to the very concept of freedom,” she continued.

“What’s been amazing in the weeks since we released the agenda is how much it has resonated with Democratic state and local leaders across the country and with the communities they serve,” Bultan said. “I really think it has legs, and that Democrats are rightfully rallying around the concept of freedom, not as a political gimmick, but as a way of truly describing the differences that exist between the two political parties right now.

“Frankly, I think it’s why we’ve seen Democrats do as well as they have in the last couple of elections, and I think we need to make sure that our focus continues to stay squarely on that,” she added.

Freedom Is On The Ballot in 2024

Freedom is on the ballot in 2024

By Debbie Cox Bultan and Congresswoman Annie Kuster, The Hill

With another election year upon us, it is time for Americans to decide which candidates best represent their values.

As leaders of the nearly 100 member New Democrat Coalition, one of the largest blocs of House Democrats, and NewDEAL Leaders, a group of nearly 200 forward-looking state and locally elected Democrats, we recognize the stark differences between our pragmatic approach to politics and the chaotic, backward tenets of the GOP.

As we look to November 2024, we urge Democrats to unite around a core strategy: Focus on how Democrats are committed to protecting our fundamental freedoms while Republicans work to derail Americans’ most basic rights.

Our groups jointly released our 2024 Freedom Agenda, a comprehensive playbook laying out the guiding principles that will shape our policy priorities into the future. It calls for Democrats to avoid the distractions of the 24-hour news cycle and instead underscore how our Democratic values resonate with Americans in every state and ZIP code.

Our Freedom Agenda focuses on three core American values: freedom of opportunity, freedom in communities, and freedom through democracy.

First, freedom of opportunity refers to the ability of Americans to achieve their dreams, including making deeply personal choices about their health care, whom they love, and where they live. To achieve these goals, Americans must have access to strong local economies, good schools, affordable housing, transportation and high-quality health care.

In Congress, Democrats are fighting for these opportunities through legislation that New Dems helped usher into law, like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and targeted funding for child care. State and local leaders are embracing this federal funding, coupling it with state funding to prioritize affordable housing, expand access to broadband, and invest in underserved communities.

At the ballot box, Americans have consistently voted for candidates who prioritize freedom of opportunity while rejecting extremist Republicans. In 2022, we saw voters embrace candidates who are fighting to protect Americans’ ability to make deeply personal health care decisions, including access to abortion. For Democrats, that means fighting Republican efforts to curtail access to birth control and passing legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure abortion care is legal and accessible in every state.

Second, Americans deserve the freedom to live in a safe and strong community. Gathering places — from malls to movie theaters to schools — should be free from discrimination and violence, especially gun violence. In Congress, New Dems successfully passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence prevention legislation in a generation. Our members will continue to support pragmatic gun safety policies at the state and federal levels.

Freedom in your community also includes access to clean air and drinking water while living without the fear of extreme weather devastating your home. House Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022 to lower health care and energy costs, and now state and local officials are putting this legislation to work in their communities to strengthen our electric grid, grow the clean energy economy, and create high-quality jobs.

We’re seeing the impact of this legislation across the country. In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego praised the law for bringing high-paying jobs to her city in clean energy industries. Residents are “excited about being able to reduce those energy bills, whether it is solar on your roof or getting a more efficient air conditioner or heat pump,” Gallego said on the law’s first anniversary.

Finally, New Dems and NewDEAL Leaders are deeply committed to protecting and preserving freedom through democracy. We saw in the 2022 midterms how clearly voters rejected anti-democratic, far-right Republican candidates who refused to acknowledge the results of the last presidential election. On the heels of the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection on our Capitol and as former President Trump continues to tout the “Big Lie” ahead of the 2024 election, it’s more important than ever that we speak out against anti-democratic rhetoric.

From federal legislation such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to state measures in MichiganMinnesota, and New Mexico, New Dems and NewDEAL Leaders are working to ensure elections are fair, voting is easy, and both parties respect the results — win or lose. We reject the use of violence, whether it is used to harass local election workers or in an attempted effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.

It’s clear that at every level of government, Democrats are the true defenders of Americans’ fundamental freedoms, while Republicans are working to take them away.

In 2024, just as we did in 2022, we must demonstrate the stark contrast between Democrats and Republicans. Let’s embrace the pragmatic, solutions-oriented candidates who preserve and strengthen our freedoms and reject those who abandon our values in pursuit of power. The decision couldn’t be clearer.

Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd District and is chair of the New Democrat Coalition. Debbie Cox Bultan is NewDEAL CEO.

For NewDEAL’s Bultan Good Government Is All About Encouraging Voters to Vote Their Aspirations

The Well News | For NewDEAL’s Bultan Good Government Is All About Encouraging Voters to Vote Their Aspirations

By Dan McCue

In an era when many lawmakers seem happier to sow chaos than to actually pass meaningful legislation, the members of NewDEAL, a Democratic Party-affiliated network of pro-growth and progressive state and local elected officials, are a marked contrast.

At their recent annual gathering in Washington, hundreds of members sat in rapt attention as one colleague after another spoke about solutions they’d found and strategies they’d employed to deal with local issues like a lack of affordable housing, or mass transit for the elderly and infirmed, or fairer access to educational tools and small business assistance.

Throughout a series of presentations that stretched over two days, several members could be huddled at tables taking and comparing notes.

At a time when the current 118th Congress can gain a measure of infamy by holding 724 votes, but only passing 27 laws, the untarnished, can-do spirit of attendees was infectious.

(By comparison, according to the data collected by the House clerk, the 117th Congress held 549 votes in 2022, and saw 248 of those bills signed into law.)

And then they all went home and got back down to work.

Hoping to learn a bit more about the NewDEAL, The Well News recently caught up with Debbie Cox Bultan, CEO of the organization, via video call to get her closing perspective of 2023 and her thoughts on what’s ahead for the new year.

We started with the question begged by the dire scenario above: Why do state and local governments — all politics aside — seem to work so much better than the federal government does?

“I love that,” Bultan laughed. “It’s the perennial question, right? But what I would say to that suggestion, in all seriousness, is that state and local governments work, arguably, better than the federal government, because they’re simply closer to the ground.

“I mean, people see their local elected officials in the grocery store and other places in the community, and I think as a result, they’re just held more accountable,” she said.

“Now, of course, some of the same rules don’t apply. On the local level, you have officials with direct, executive authority. And on the state level, legislatures are compelled to balance the budget and so on,” Bultan continued.

“But there is something to the American system, something inherent, that requires those in state and local government to be more effective, because they’re more likely to be held directly accountable for their actions or lack of action,” she said.

While Bulton may have agreed in theory that there’s a big difference between what different levels of government appear to get done, she was also quick to point out that a lot of the activity on the local level is the result of the last Congress passing the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Both have pumped billions upon billions of dollars into local economies to spur infrastructure projects, broadband’s expansion and other economic development-related activities.

“A big part of what state and local leaders are doing right now is implementing the things the president and vice president were able to get through Congress [before the Republicans gained the majority in the House in January 2023],” Bultan said.

“What’s interesting is people’s perception of what happened. I was just in Washington last week, and for many of the people I talked to, those major pieces of legislation were something that happened in the distant past,” she said.

“Meanwhile, much of the money those bills allocated for projects and programs is just starting to roll out, and people have yet to see the results of this historic investment on the ground yet,” she added.

Bultan was asked if that accounts for the apparent disconnect between what the Biden administration has accomplished and his woeful poll numbers.

“I think there’s some truth to that,” she said. “A lot of amazing things really have happened in terms of investments in our country, and yet the polls show there is a disconnect. I mean, there was a Third Way poll a while back that suggested only about 25% of the people they surveyed even knew a major infrastructure bill had passed in 2022.

“But that’s why it’s super important to understand that this is still an ongoing process,” she said. “The administration, with the help of like-minded people and allies in Congress, made this funding available, and now states and localities are using it to really transform communities.

“Frankly, I think Democrats need to do a better job of making sure people know what Democrats have delivered for them. And also, I think they need to help people understand that the good that comes from big legislative packages like these is not instantly evident,” she said. “It takes time for federal funding to work its way down to local government.

“And while we’re talking about the difference between perception and reality, I think another approach to messaging that would be helpful, in terms of the poll numbers, would be to remind people of the great work that was done during the COVID pandemic and the recession that followed,” Bultan said.

“I mean, with  the help of federal dollars we had great work done by state and local leaders, NewDEAL leaders, to stave off the worst of the recession and prevent a second, deeper one. NewDEAL leaders across the country worked very effectively to help small businesses survive the pandemic and persevere in the face of what, collectively, was such a traumatic time.

“And it’s still going on. People are still anxious, and some are just starting to see the results of these efforts, so it is not surprising to me that there’s a little bit of a disconnect between what’s been really good news about the economy — about prices coming down and investments being made — and people continuing to feel concern,” she said, adding that “some of that anxiety stems from economics, but some of it is also about the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, and some of it is just a byproduct of the vitriol of our politics.”

Anyone who has ever attended a NewDEAL event in the city, like the group’s recent conference at the Dupont Circle Hotel, has likely been struck by the general zest and verve of the group.

While some attendees are perennials — familiar, almost familial presences in the crowd and on the stage — a large percentage of those who attend the organization’s conference and meetings are fairly new to electoral politics and dedicated to seeking out pragmatic and practical solutions to their constituents’ problems.

“I love state and local leaders,” Bultan said enthusiastically when asked about her membership. “I mean, that’s why I do this. I’m such a cheerleader. And I really do think state and local leaders are the unsung heroes who are on the front lines, doing the work of governance and constituent service.

“One thing the gridlock in Washington has done is kind of force people who were of a pragmatic mind anyway to try to seek out new ways to deliver services their constituents want or need,” she said.

“And I think that meshes well with what the American people say that they want,” Bultan said.

“I was just looking at a national poll recently in which a majority of participants said they are looking to vote for people who are solving problems and putting partisanship aside. Now to some extent, I see that as heartening. But that desire is not reflected in our politics, and I find that incongruency really fascinating.”

Bultan then pointed to the last four years of federal elections, elections in which Democrats did fairly well despite dire predictions to the contrary.

“This is exactly what I’m talking about. If you look at the national polls ahead of recent elections, what we’ve seen time and again is a lot of bad news for Democrats, and yet, when people have actually voted, Democrats have done really, really well,” she said.

“So why has that happened? I think it’s because Democrats have been consistently putting forth an agenda that is about problem solving, that is about protecting freedoms and defending democracy,” Bultan continued.

“I think that certainly explains the party’s good showing in the midterms, and it has also held true in off-year elections like the one held in November, where Democrats won important victories in Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.”

“And when it comes to the next election cycle, we’re going to be advising them to just keep doing what they’re doing, which is solving problems. That, I think, is the most effective any candidate can do in terms of the ballot box,” Bultan said.

In November, NewDEAL and the New Democrat Coalition launched a joint effort called their “2024 Freedom Agenda.”

Very much in line with the thoughts Bultan expressed during her interview with The Well News, it was intended to show how Democrats from city councils to state legislators to Congress are fighting to protect Americans’ fundamental freedoms and expand opportunities.

At the same time, it strives to create a contrast with Republicans, who, the two groups contend, “continue to sow chaos, extremism and division at every level of government.”

“It’s an agenda premised on the idea that freedom is at the foundation of what it means to be a Democrat and is a core value of NewDEAL and New Dems,” Bultan said. “It is also intended to keep them on the path that has led to our success in recent elections.

“Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, I think it is important to caution people against looking at the current polls and reading too much into them — especially this far out from the election,” she said.

“Polls are only a snapshot and by the time we get to the actual election in November, a lot can change,” Bultan continued. “Right now, for a lot of people, candidates and positions and so forth are kind of being viewed in a soft focus, some of what they are talking about is a little bit abstract to voters right now and will remain so until we get a bit closer to election day.

“The other thing about polls is that people often use them to vent their frustrations and voice their anxieties; actually voting is a different thing. I think when people vote, who they vote for is based on their hopes, not their frustrations,” she said. “That’s why we feel so strongly about giving voters something to vote for … and that, again, is the idea behind the freedom agenda.

“Right now, the other side is really about tearing things down. Their agenda is all about everything they are against, and nothing that they are for … and I really believe that when voters are ready to cast their ballot, they are always going to choose to vote for something, rather than against something.”

Bultan said there are a number of races she’s excited about this year, particularly as a number of NewDEAL members are running for higher offices this time around.

“We have four or five who are running for Congress, another four or five who are running for governorships. And still more running for super-important offices like secretary of state and state treasurer,” she said.

“Among the races I’m excited about are state Rep. Janelle Bynum’s congressional bid in Oregon, state Sen. Sarah Elfreth, who is running for Congress in Maryland, state Sen. Sarah McBride, who is running for Congress in Delaware … and then we’ve got people like Josh Stein running for governor in North Carolina … and Matt Meyer and Joyce Craig, who are running for governor, respectively, in Delaware and New Hampshire. … And the fact of the matter is, we have a good number of members who have thrown their hat into the ring for higher office this year and we are really proud of them for that.

“On the issue front, as I’ve said, there are certain issues, certain themes that we’ve focused on … abortion and … climate change, economic opportunity … and I think you’re going to see NewDEAL leaders, especially seeking higher office, doubling down on those. Voters really are afraid of their rights being taken away from them.

“The other thing I think is resonating — and we also talked about this earlier — is all of the economic rebuilding that has been going on post-COVID, and our emphasis being on rebuilding an economy that is more sustainable and inclusive and predicated on the idea that everybody should have a fair shot.”

Reflecting on the dysfunction that so often dominates the 24-hour news cycle, Bultan said the only way state, local and federal lawmakers will be able tamp down on the current cynicism and restore faith in government is if they strive to make government actually work and work well.

“I think that’s really what this is all about,” she said. “Having a functioning government that can solve problems is the key to a healthy democracy.

“Another component of it is encouraging civic engagement and civic participation. Because you really can’t ensure your government is working right if you don’t understand how a system works,” she said.

Three Steps to Pave the Way for the EV Revolution

GOVERNING | Three Steps to Pave the Way for the EV Revolution

By Ben Allen

The electric vehicle revolution is here, and state policymakers should act now to ensure that this important shift is as smooth as possible.

Globally, electric vehicles comprised 14 percent of the vehicle market in 2022, up from just 4 percent in 2020. In the U.S., EV sales are projected to be nearly 50 percent of all light vehicles by 2030. We are fighting for a future where clean cars and trucks like the Chevy Bolt and the Ford F-150 Lightning light up our roads, replacing high-polluting gas-guzzlers.

To make the most of this opportunity, policymakers at the state level have a responsibility to both support consumers and improve efficiencies, usability and flexibility, all while ensuring that EVs are as environmentally responsible as possible. State lawmakers should consider starting with three steps:

First, we must expand access to EV chargers throughout our communities. Charging stations need to be easy to find and access. The most logical place to start is at home. Updating housing codes will ensure that drivers have a convenient and cost-effective place to charge their cars.

The focus must include rental housing as well. Just as legislators would never think of allowing apartments to be built without power outlets or plumbing, they should be taking steps to require that all new construction of multifamily buildings includes EV-charging capability. One study showed that it would cost builders in California only an additional 0.03 percent to ensure charging access for every new condo or apartment with parking.

Existing apartments with parking also must be modified to include EV charging stations. This is not only necessary for renters now; it will help landlords as properties with charging access become more important to an increasing number of EV-driving renters.

And businesses — from grocery stores to hotels to shopping malls — should act now to ensure access to high-quality, low-cost EV chargers. Policymakers can incentivize such initiatives, creating a win for both customers and the environment.

Second, state lawmakers should ensure that there is a plan for electric vehicle batteries that have served their purpose. The metal needed to manufacture EV batteries does have an environmental impact. We must be mindful stewards of these resources.

In California, I introduced Senate Bill 615 to require battery or vehicle manufacturers to reuse old batteries whenever possible, and if it is not possible, to ensure that the batteries are properly recycled. We should prioritize squeezing every bit of life out of a car battery, even if that means repurposing it for a different use.

Some critics of EVs point to the environmental, logistical and moral challenges related to aspects of the extraction, distribution and end use of EV battery component parts. We owe it to our environment and everyone involved with the extraction system to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to recover the reusable component parts of EV batteries and use them in powering the next generation of EVs.

Finally, I urge state legislators to listen to and learn from one another. And I don’t just mean colleagues in one’s own state. There is a wealth of knowledge and innovation happening around the nation. Borrow ideas from other states that could benefit your constituents. Share your ideas that might work elsewhere.

I co-chair the NewDEAL Forum’s Climate Policy Group, which brings together state and local elected officials across the country, along with experts, who are working on pressing issues. We have shared how states are working to take full advantage of the federal support for electric vehicles that is part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Examples include stackable tax credits for EV purchases in Colorado, a transition to clean school buses in Michigan, and Virginia’s requirement for the state to consider the cost of a vehicle over its lifetime when making purchases.

I support an “all of the above” strategy to combat climate change, and I am proud of much of the work we have done in California. But there is much more to be done. With record federal investments in clean energy coming from the Biden administration, now is the time to do everything we can to bring about positive change.

These ideas are a starting point. They are practical steps that state policymakers in red, blue and purple states can make to ensure that the planet is better off tomorrow. Electric vehicles will play a key part of that future, and we must act now to ensure that this transition is a success story for our economy and our environment.

California state Sen. Ben Allen represents the Westside, Hollywood, South Bay and Santa Monica Mountains communities of Los Angeles County. He chairs the Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee and co-chairs the Legislature’s Environmental Caucus.

Statement from the NewDEAL on the Third Anniversary of January 6th Attacks

As the 2024 election year kicks off, we pause to mark the third anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the fundamental American values of protecting the right to vote and to have our votes counted and respected. State and local leaders have vital roles to play in opposing the anti-democratic, un-American forces that inspired the events of January 6, 2021.

We are proud of the work of NewDEAL Leaders who are on the front lines of the battle to preserve and protect our democratic institutions, fighting to protect voting rights, secure safe access to the ballot box, and ensure fair and transparent election results.

Inspired by the NewDEAL Forum’s Democracy Playbook released last year, we urge state and local leaders to do everything in their power to encourage voter registration, increase access to the ballot (through early voting, vote-by-mail, and Election Day voting), and speak forcefully against election disinformation. Together, we can defeat the forces that inspired the Jan. 6 insurrection.

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