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NewDEAL Announces Finalists in National Ideas Challenge

For Immediate Release:                                                    

October 25, 2023                                                        

Contact: Jonathon Dworkin, 202-660-1340 x5,

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

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