Democrats, Democracy Emerge as Election Winners

NewDEAL Announces Winners in National Ideas Challenge

For Immediate Release:                                                    

November 7, 2023                                                        

Contact: Jonathon Dworkin, 202-660-1340 x5, jonathon@newdealleaders.org

NewDEAL Announces Winners in National Ideas Challenge

State and local leaders recognized for transformative policy ideas that expand opportunity and strengthen democracy.

Washington, DC – NewDEAL has announced four winners in the 2023 National Ideas Challenge, a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues. Nationally-recognized policy experts serve as judges for proposals that best improve Americans’ well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs.

From nearly 80 entries, the judges (listed below) initially narrowed the field to 20 finalists, and selected these winners:

“I am blown away by this year’s competition entries, and especially these winners,” said Debbie Cox Bultan, CEO of NewDEAL. “The winning ideas, together, highlight a foundational principle of NewDEAL Leaders: fighting every day for policies that help Americans to thrive no matter where they come from or what ZIP code they live in. All the ideas submitted show leaders working relentlessly to improve the life of every American. At a time when there is much focus on problems and division in our politics, NewDEALers like Secretary Toulouse Oliver, Representatives Bynum and Olaleye, and Mayor Stoney fill me with hope and optimism as they work to deliver positive results for their constituents.”

The 2023 Ideas Challenge winning ideas:

Effective Use of Federal Funds Winner:

  • Janelle Bynum, Oregon state Representative, won for her Leveraging Federal CHIPS Funding & Creating a Diverse STEM Workforce program. To directly address the gender, social, and racial gaps in STEM education and careers, Bynum advocated for two new grant programs focused on leveraging federal CHIPS funding to build a diverse workforce for the future. These grants go above and beyond what other states are doing and will work to ensure that the lucrative semiconductor careers of the future are more equitably distributed and incorporate individuals who are often left out of economic development. Bynum emphasizes that, especially considering the Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action, investing in students who will attend HBCUs is more important than ever to address the STEM education and career gap.

    “My focus in the legislature continues to be closing the gap between talent and opportunity,” Bynum said. “We have brilliant kids across this state that, if they didn’t have the opportunity, they wouldn’t go as far as they could.” Bynym added that the most important thing the government can do “is give people agency and options, and not prescribe the rest of their lives based on where they were born, who they love, or what they look like.”

Creating Economic Opportunities and Lowering Costs for Families Winner:

  • Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, won for his Richmond Pathways Program, an initiative to provide assistance to students to community college. With an initial investment of $1.7 million from the City of Richmond, the Richmond Pathways Program pilot program will cover the tuition of any Richmond Public School graduate to attend the local community college. The award will be paired with a monthly cash allowance, mentorship, and additional resources to open more pathways for students to access postsecondary institutions and achieve success. Students will be able to pursue instruction in career-specific or skilled-trades credentials in addition to earning credits to transfer to a four-year college.

    “I want to create ladders to opportunity – ladders to success – for so many of our children,” Stoney said. “And the Richmond Pathways program will help us eliminate barriers to college. We want the dreams of all these children unlocked with this Richmond Pathways program.”

Promoting Equality with a Focus on Underserved Communities Winner:

  • Phil Olaleye, Georgia state Representative, won for his Georgia Educational Opportunity Act, a bill to expand resources to low-income students. Georgia HB 668 introduces an “opportunity weight” to allocate additional resources for students in poverty. Georgia is one of only six states that does not allocate specific state funds to help educate students living in poverty. This initiative ensures schools can meet diverse educational needs, from rural transportation to mental health support and urban meal programs, striving to eliminate disparities and enhance education statewide. For example, schools in rural Georgia might use the funds to transport students to dual enrollment programs or provide Wi-Fi hotspots. Suburban schools might use the funds to enhance mental health counseling and increase after-school tutoring. And urban districts might use the funds to pay for school meal programs and provide critical wraparound services.

    “One of the reasons I ran for office was to stand up for Georgia children, especially those most under-resourced, most economically disadvantaged youth across the state, not just in my district,” said Olaleye. “When you live in a state where we have close to half a million children living in poverty, and those students aren’t receiving additional resources for academic recovery, for enrichment programming, for dual-enrollment transportation, for nutrition services, those stressors make it really difficult for those children and the school at large to be successful,” he added. “It’s past-due that we, as a state, put our children first.”

Protecting Democracy Winner:

  • Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State, won for her New Mexico Voting Rights Act and Election Infrastructure Bills, legislation she championed that was signed into law this year focused on voting rights and protecting elections. Her efforts focused on voting rights and election infrastructure, demonstrating that expanding ballot access while enhancing ballot integrity can happen simultaneously. The NM Voting Rights Act includes provisions to restore voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals; strengthen New Mexico’s automatic voter registration system; create a permanent absentee ballot list and expand the use of secure ballot drop-boxes; and enact the “Native American Voting Rights Act,” a first of its kind in the entire country. The NAVRA portion of this bill protects ballot access for Indian, Tribal, and Pueblo communities throughout New Mexico by ensuring they have input on polling locations.

    A second bill (SB 180) brings New Mexico’s election infrastructure further into the 21st century and allows candidates to pursue digital petition collection options, making this process more equitable and more aligned with campaign practices of today. It creates more layers of protection to ensure the integrity of absentee ballots and reflect the growing preference for absentee voting nationally. It also creates a more substantive process by which New Mexico’s elections are audited to ensure accurate and reliable results, while also including provisions for local officials to verify and streamline those and related processes.

    “Our democracy is at its healthiest when we have the widest participation possible,” Toulouse Oliver said. “When I look around the country, and see some places where states are making it more difficult to cast a ballot, I looked for ways in New Mexico to make voting both easier and more secure at the same time.”

About the Ideas Challenge

The Ideas Challenge was open to the nearly 200 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a national network of rising state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives. A list of this year’s twenty finalists, and a brief description of their ideas, can be found here.

NewDEAL’s mission is to bring together leaders focused on expanding opportunity and to help them develop and spread innovative ideas to spur economic growth that is broadly-earned and sustainable. NewDEAL Leaders connect with each other, and with other pro-growth progressive political, policy, and private sector leaders, to achieve the group’s mission.

The winners of the 2023 Ideas Challenge are featured in GOVERNING, and will be recognized at the thirteenth annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference, November 15-17, in Washington, D.C.

NewDEAL would like to thank the following panel of judges for reviewing the Ideas Challenge submissions:

Kate Burns, Executive Director of the MetroLab Network

Frank DiGiammarino, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton

Jorge Elorza, CEO of Democrats for Education Reform

Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO of Chicago Urban League

Patrick Gaspard, President & CEO of the Center for American Progress

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, U.S. Representative (NH) & Chair of the New Democrat Coalition

Andi Phillips, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Maycomb Capital

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, President & CEO of Accelerator for America

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Growing Up Center-Left

Broadband Task Force Leaders: Congress Must Fully Fund Affordability Subsidy

For Immediate Release:

October 30, 2023

Contact: Jonathon Dworkin (NewDEAL), 202-660-1340 x5, jonathon@newdealleaders.org

Broadband Task Force Leaders: Congress Must Fully Fund Affordability Subsidy

Co-chairs of the NewDEAL Forum’s Broadband Task Force highlight the positive impacts of the Affordable Connectivity Program, and request $7 billion in continued funding.

Washington, D.C. – Co-chairs of the NewDEAL Forum’s Broadband Task Force have asked Congressional leaders for an additional $7 billion of funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), an initiative created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that subsidizes high-speed internet for more than 20 million Americans, with more eligible to participate, and is projected to run out of funding in the coming months.

“Access to affordable high-speed internet is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for millions of Americans to fully participate in today’s digital economy,” co-chairs Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (MI); Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (NC); and Commissioner Dana Barrett (Fulton County, GA), wrote in a letter addressed to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

From virtual schooling to remote work to telemedicine, the need for high-speed internet could not be clearer. And broadband access is about more than convenience – it is a smart investment. The co-chairs cite a 2021 study showing the ACP increases both employment rates and incomes.

As the letter notes, the ACP has resulted in “significant strides in connecting people to high-speed internet access in our home states,” adding that the Task Force has “heard similar stories from our colleagues in NewDEAL’s network of state and local policymakers.”

Yet experts expect funding for the ACP to run out in the middle of 2024. Congress should include ACP funding in the current efforts to fund the government beyond the current stopgap measure.

“I hope it is a no-brainer that every member of Congress would support a program like ACP, which has proven to be critical in rural communities, urban centers, and everywhere in between,” NewDEAL Forum CEO Debbie Cox Bultan said when the letter was released. “I’m grateful that elected officials like Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, Sen. Chaudhuri, and Commissioner Barrett are leading the charge on such an important issue for creating opportuning for more Americans.”

“ACP is a vital initiative that prevented millions of Americans from falling behind economically during the pandemic, and it is essential to the progress of other federal broadband investments and the ongoing pursuit of digital equity,” the co-chairs wrote. They further emphasize that the opportunity to effectively and efficiently administer the biggest broadband access initiatives under the Bipartisan Instructure Law “relies on continued access to a reliable low-cost option,” which must exist for states to access all of the funds allocated to them. Implementation will be “diminished by the expiration of what was the major affordability piece of the infrastructure law.”

This letter was the first action taken under the Task Force’s new leadership, which features two new co-chairs as Chaudhuri and Barrett join Gilchrist, who has helped lead the group since its launch in 2021 and is at the forefront of Michigan’s broadband access work. Chaudhuri has sponsored bipartisan legislation to push for broadband expansion while advocating for high-speed WiFi in schools, assistance for low-income families, and digital inclusion. Barrett, who began her career in the technology sector, has helped spearhead the Connect the Dots Digital Equity initiative, which will provide hardware, software, training, and free or low-cost internet services to families and children in lower socio-economic neighborhoods

Read the full letter from the Task Force here.

About NewDEAL Forum

The NewDEAL Forum is a Washington-DC based non-profit organization which identifies and promotes innovative, future-oriented state and local pro-growth progressive policies that can improve the lives of all Americans. By facilitating the identification and spread of policy ideas, the NewDEAL Forum seeks to foster economic growth, reduce barriers to opportunity, and promote good government in communities throughout the country.

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Ben Bowman tapped for spot in group of rising young leaders

Debbie Cox Bultan on Freedom Over Fascism

NewDEAL Announces Finalists in National Ideas Challenge

For Immediate Release:                                                    

October 25, 2023                                                        

Contact: Jonathon Dworkin, 202-660-1340 x5, jonathon@newdealleaders.org

NewDEAL Announces Finalists in National Ideas Challenge

State and local leaders recognized for the most innovative and impactful policy ideas that expand opportunity, strengthen democracy.

Washington, DC – NewDEAL has announced twenty finalists in the 2023 National Ideas Challenge, a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues. Nationally-recognized policy experts serve as judges for proposals that best improve Americans’ well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs.

This year, the judges (listed below) reviewed entries specifically for how well they address at least one of four key goals: Effective Use of Federal Funds (specifically supporting the major laws enacted by the Biden Administration); Creating Economic Opportunities and Lowering Costs for Families; Promoting Equity and Targeting Underserved Communities; and Protecting Democracy. From nearly 80 entries, the judges narrowed the field to 20 finalists.

 “The Ideas Challenge shows how a group of innovative elected officials are doing more than identifying problems; they are rising to the occasion to findsolutions,” said Debbie Cox Bultan, CEO of NewDEAL. “These ideas showcase how state and local leaders can expand freedom and opportunity in ways that are replicable across the country. I congratulate the finalists for proposals that, together, set an important governing agenda for the country to follow, with a relentless focus on improving the lives of everyone in our communities.”

The finalists are:

Effective Use of Federal Funds:

  • Janelle Bynum, Oregon State Representative, for her proposal on Leveraging Federal CHIPS Funding & Creating a Diverse STEM Workforce. The program provides grants to build a diverse workforce in the tech and advanced manufacturing sectors and build on the benefits of the federal CHIPS Act.

  • Paige Cognetti, Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, for her Small Business Wage Boost program. Through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the city provides grants to help businesses with employee retention by raising wages.

  • Tishaura Jones, Mayor of St. Louis, for her Right to Counsel Program. The program uses ARPA funds to provide access to legal services for tenants facing eviction proceedings, which occur more commonly in majority-black census tracts.

  • Josh Maxwell, Chester County (PA) Commissioner, for his E-3 Re-entry Program. This free 12-week program, launched with ARPA funds, offers individuals exiting the justice system a direct pathway to enter the manufacturing industry.

  • Brett Smiley, Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, for his Early Learning Infrastructure Support Program. The program uses ARPA funds for technical support, planning, and construction grants to home-based and center-based child care providers.

Lowering Costs and Creating Economic Opportunities for Families:

  • Jeff Bridges, Colorado state Senator, for his Middle Income Housing Authority (MIHA) program. This program creates market-based incentives to drive the development of housing that is affordable for middle-income folks, leveraging tax-free municipal bonds and social impact investors to attract private capital.

  • Kristen Cloutier, Maine state Representative, for her Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy for Maine program. This program provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year to all eligible employees who take leave to care for their own health needs and to care for any individual with whom they have a significant personal bond.

  • Chris Hansen, Colorado state Senator, for his proposal on Reducing Emissions Across the Colorado Economy. This bill advances bold greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals, calling for 100% net zero emissions by 2050, and provides incentives across many sectors, including individual tax incentives for electric equipment. It also promotes carbon capture and storage.

  • Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, for his Richmond Pathways Program. The program covers the tuition of any Richmond Public School graduate to attend the local community college. In addition, the program takes advantage of additional resources to open more pathways for students to achieve postsecondary goals.

  • Clarke Tucker, Arkansas state Senator, for his Free School Meals for Eligible Kids proposal. Utilizing federal funds, the bill would extend free school meals to include families that qualify for reduced-price meals.

Promoting Equity and Targeting Underserved Communities:

  • Adrian Boafo, Maryland state Delegate, for his Maryland Fair Chance in Housing Act. This effort enables individuals with older criminal histories to have a fair chance at securing housing and ensures transparency by requiring housing providers to provide a physical disclosure stating the reasons for denying an applicant.

  • Lee Harris, Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, for his Work to Break the Cycle initiative. A new jobs website features updated Shelby County positions for individuals with arrest or conviction records.

  • Will Jawando, Montgomery County (Maryland) County Councilmember, for his Home Act. This program stabilizes rents and establishes oversight for landlord responsibilities and rights.

  • Phillip Jones, Mayor of Newport News, Virginia, for his Peake Early Childhood Center / Virginia Peninsula Community College Center of Excellence initiative. This effort develops a fully-accredited childhood center that is available to low-income families.

  • Phil Olaleye, Georgia state Representative, for his Georgia Educational Opportunity Act. The program establishes an “opportunity weight” to allocate additional resources to schools serving students in poverty. It aims to help schools meet diverse educational needs of students and eliminate disparities.

Protect Democracy and Foster Community Engagement:

  • Josh Becker, California state Senator, for his Expanded Protections for Election Workers bill. This bill would expand the existing felony of interfering with election officials, voters, and the voting process to protect temporary election workers and broaden the definition of “voting at an election” to include in-person voting at polling places, the office of the election official, satellite locations, and voting by mail.

  • Amanda Gonzalez, Jefferson County (CO) Clerk, for Creating a More Inclusive Redistricting Process. Gonzalez’s inclusive redistricting process created maps with public input.

  • Krista Griffith, Delaware state Representative, for her Access to Accurate and Timely Election Information program. Now, the Department of Elections will biennially mail a notice to all registered voters containing pertinent information, including their polling place, the dates and times of the general and any primary elections, registration deadlines, and early voting policies and procedures.

  • Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, for his CompassionateUSA program. This program is a people-centered campaign with an accompanying micro-course to promote compassion and community healing.

  • Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico Secretary of State, for her New Mexico Voting Rights Act and Election Infrastructure Bill. The bill, signed into law this year, restores voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals; strengthens New Mexico’s automatic voter registration system; creates a permanent absentee ballot list; and expands the use of secure ballot drop-boxes.

The Ideas Challenge was open to the nearly 200 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a national network of rising state and local elected leaders who are pro-growth progressives. The organization’s mission is to bring together leaders focused on expanding opportunity and to help them develop and spread innovative ideas to spur economic growth that is broadly-earned and sustainable. NewDEAL Leaders connect with each other, and with other pro-growth progressive political, policy, and private sector leaders, to achieve the group’s mission. All Challenge entries can be found here.

The winners of the 2023 Ideas Challenge will be announced next month and featured by GOVERNING, as well as at the thirteenth annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference, November 15-17, in Washington, D.C.

NewDEAL would like to thank the following panel of judges for reviewing the Ideas Challenge submissions:

Kate Burns, Executive Director of the MetroLab Network

Frank DiGiammarino, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton

Jorge Elorza, CEO of Democrats for Education Reform

Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO of Chicago Urban League

Patrick Gaspard, President & CEO of the Center for American Progress

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, U.S. Representative (NH) & Chair of the New Democrat Coalition

Andi Phillips, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Maycomb Capital

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, President & CEO of Accelerator for America