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Ideas Challenge 2023: Innovative Policy Solutions Address Biggest Community Issues

Governing alongside The NewDEAL spotlights 20 competitively selected policy proposals across four high-impact categories, aiming to demonstrate effective government problem-solving and results delivery. Leaders present diverse strategies spanning education, equity, economic opportunities and democracy protection.

Celebrating great ideas from NewDEAL Leaders
The Ideas Challenge is a biennial policy competition open to NewDEAL Leaders, accepting policy submissions at any stage, from ideas to fully implemented policies. The ideas are rated by a panel of judges based on potential and/or actual impact and inventiveness. For its sixth Ideas Challenge, The NewDEAL aims to highlight policies that demonstrate how government can work effectively to solve problems and deliver results on the biggest issues facing your communities.

Governing is the media partner for the NewDEAL Ideas Challenge 2023. Selection of the finalists and winners is the sole responsibility of The NewDEAL, a national network for state and local elected leaders with innovative ideas to grow progress.

This biennium's 20 finalists are organized across four categories:

  1. Effective Use of Federal Funds
  2. Lowering Costs and Creating Economic Opportunities for Families
  3. Promoting Equity and Targeting Underserved Communities
  4. Protecting Democracy and Fostering Community Engagement

Effective Use of Federal Funds

Oregon's Janelle Bynum Champions Innovative Grants to Bridge STEM Diversity Gap

Federal CHIPS Funding Powers Trailblazing Initiatives for Diverse Semiconductor Workforce and Educational Equity

Summary: Grant programs to build a diverse workforce in tech and advanced manufacturing sectors and build on the federal CHIPS Act
Providence's Early Learning Support Program Spurs Quality Upgrades, Promises Universal Pre-K Access

Enhancing Safety, Capacity and Quality: Brett Smiley's Initiative Reshapes Providence's Child-Care Landscape

Summary: Uses American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for technical support, planning and construction grants to home-based and center-based child-care providers and centers
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones Launches $685,000 'Right to Counsel' Program, Aids Renters Facing Eviction

Jones' Innovative Housing Initiative Uses ARPA Funds to Provide Legal Aid, Addressing Eviction Crisis

Summary: A program using ARPA funds to provide access to legal services for tenants facing eviction proceedings, which occurs more commonly in majority-Black census tracts.
Scranton’s Innovative Wage Boost Program Aids Small Businesses, Bridges Livable Wage Gap

ARPA-Funded Initiative Enhances Employee Retention, Economic Mobility and City's Business Landscape

Summary: An ARPA funding initiative, the city provides grants to help businesses with employee retention by raising wages by calculating average pay per industry and position.
E3 Re-Entry Program Empowers Successful Reintegration into Manufacturing Workforce

Chester County's Innovative E3 Initiative Uses ARPA Grants to Train and Secure Employment for Justice System Returnees

Summary: Free 12-week program that offers individuals exiting the justice system with a direct pathway to enter the manufacturing industry

Details on the entries in the category are available here.

Lowering Costs and Creating Economic Opportunities for Families

Richmond Pilot Program: Tuition-Free Pathways for Graduates

Mayor Stoney's Initiative Aims to Boost Access to Postsecondary Education, Nurturing Student Success With Cash Allowance and Mentorship

Summary: Program that covers the tuition of any Richmond public school graduate to attend the local community college and take advantage of additional resources to open more pathways for students to achieve postsecondary goals
Arkansas Law Ensures Free School Meals for Low-Income Students

Clarke Tucker's Act 656 Eliminates Meal Costs, Leveraging State Funding to Alleviate Financial Strain on Eligible Families

Summary: A bill to extend free school meals to include families that qualify for reduced-price meals. It will utilize federal funds.
Maine Unveils Groundbreaking Paid Family Leave Plan

Kristen Cloutier's Innovative Initiative Promises 12 Weeks of Paid Leave for All Eligible Workers

Summary: 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
Colorado's MIHA Targets Middle-Income Housing Gap

Jeff Bridges' Market-Oriented Approach Aims to Tackle Affordable Housing Crisis

Summary: 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
Colorado's Sweeping Emissions Reduction Bill

Chris Hansen's Landmark Legislation Targets Broad Climate Mitigation

Summary: Bill advances bold greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction goals to 100 percent net zero by 2050 and provides incentives across many sectors including, individual tax incentive for electric equipment and a new authority of the Energy and Carbon Management Commission to promote carbon capture and storage.

Details on the entries in the category are available here.

Promoting Equity and Targeting Underserved Communities

Georgia's HB 668 Targets Equity in Education Funding for Underserved Students

Proposed Bill Aims to Update Outdated Funding Formula, Prioritizing Resources for Students in Poverty, Across Urban, Suburban and Rural Areas

Summary: Establishes “opportunity weight” to allocate additional resources for students in poverty and help schools meet diverse educational needs of students and eliminate disparities
Montgomery County's HOME Act Sets New Standard for Tenant Protection

Landmark Legislation Aims to Stabilize Rent, Foster Equity and Keep Residents in Their Homes

Summary: Stabilizes rent with a 3 percent annual cap and establishes oversight for landlord responsibilities and rights.
Maryland Introduces Fair Chance in Housing Act 2024

Landmark Legislation Aims to Remove Barriers for Individuals With Criminal Histories, Promoting Equal Access to Housing

Summary: 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
Newport News Transforms Early Education With Comprehensive Center for Low-Income Families

Strategic Plans and ARPA Funding Drive Development of State-of-the-Art Early Childhood Education Centers, Fostering Community Growth and Empowering Working Families

Summary: Develops a fully accredited childhood center that is available to low-income families
Shelby County Aims to Remove Barriers for Returning Citizens

Proposed Legislation Seeks to Enhance Housing Access by Limiting Criminal History Inquiries and Application Fees

Summary: Job website that features updated Shelby County positions for individuals with arrest or conviction records

Details on the entries in the category are available here.

Protecting Democracy and Fostering Community Engagement

New Mexico's Voting Reform: Expanding Ballot Access and Enhancing Integrity Simultaneously

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver Celebrates Passage of Key Bills — NM Voting Rights Act and Election Infrastructure Bill — Promoting Access and Modernizing Election Processes, While Enacting a Pioneering Native American Voting Rights Act Provision.

Summary: Bill 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
Jefferson County Redistricting: A Model (and Maps) of Inclusive Democracy

Colorado's Jefferson County Pioneers a Transparent and Community-Involved Redistricting Process, Promoting Public Engagement and Inclusive Representation Through Accessible, Open and Participatory Map Drawing.

Summary: Division of Elections to 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 polling place and early-voting policies and procedures
San Antonio's CompassionateUSA Initiative Spreads Nationwide, Fosters Community Healing

Ron Nirenberg Champions Program Extending Free Compassion Micro-Courses Nationwide, Impacting Policies and Education at Various Levels

Summary: People-centered campaign with an accompanying micro-course to promote compassion and community healing
Protecting Election Workers: California Bill Strengthens Safeguards Against Voter Aggression

Championed by Josh Becker, SB 485 Aims to Expand Legal Protections for Election Workers Amid Rising Aggression, Gains Traction in California Assembly

Summary: Expands the existing felony of interfering with election officials, voters and the voting process to protect temporary election workers and broadens 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.

Details on the entries in the category are available here.
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