Sen. Haskell Wins National Ideas Challenge

At the organization’s eleventh annual Leaders Conference today, NewDEAL released the winners of its 2021 Ideas Challenge – a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues.

Policy experts voted for the proposals that would best improve Americans’ economic well-being and overall quality of life, and that would make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs. Of more than fifty solutions submitted, an esteemed and diverse panel of judges (listed below) selected the following five winners in their respective categories: 

Expanding Access to Education: Student Loan Repayment Tax Credit - State Senator Will Haskell (Westport, CT)

Responding to Immediate Post-Pandemic Needs & Building a Stronger Safety Net: Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project – State Representative Nima Kulkarni (Louisville, KY)

Rebuilding Jobs and the Economy: Secure Tokens for State Financial Offerings - State Senator Chris Hansen (Denver, CO)

Securing our Communities and our Planet: Biogas to Vehicle Fuel - Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird (Lincoln, NE)

Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community: New Standards for Police Use of Force - Councilmember Will Jawando (Montgomery County, MD)

More information on the winning ideas is below. A full list of finalists and their ideas can be found here.

“Congratulations to our winners for their innovative and impactful ideas that can help inform policymakers in states across the country, as well as leaders in Washington,” said NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan. “Their solutions embrace the keys to prosperity in the 21st century -- adapting to the new economy, strengthening our safety net, improving access to a great education, promoting cleaner and more sustainable energy, and healing divisions. At a moment of extraordinary challenges facing our nation, but also enormous opportunities to solve persistent problems, the Ideas Challenge has highlighted the critical role of state and local leaders in building back better from the pandemic. Together, the more than 50 proposals submitted in this year’s competition serve as a governing agenda for a more equitable and prosperous society.” 

“This is such an unexpected honor, and I really appreciate the NewDEAL highlighting our work to combat student debt in Connecticut,” said Senator Haskell. “This tax credit would never have passed without the brains and advocacy of colleagues like James Maroney and Alex Kasser. I can’t wait to see the credit become available this January, helping entice graduates to launch their careers in our state.”

In its fifth edition, the Challenge was open to 178 members of the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), an organization that supports state and local pro-growth progressive elected officials through the exchange of ideas and engagement with other top public, private, and non-profit sector officials. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (DE), Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), and Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin serve as Honorary Co-chairs of the group.

Submissions to the New Ideas Challenge were evaluated by seven judges:

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Chair, New Democrat Coalition 

Elizabeth Fairchild, Executive Director, Business Forward

Josh Freed, Senior Vice President for the Climate and Energy Program, Third Way

Zachary Markovits, Managing Director of What Works Cities, Results for America

Nelson Reyneri Jr., Chair-Elect, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Cathilea Robinett, CEO, e.Republic

Desiree Tims, President and CEO, Innovations Ohio

2021 Ideas Challenge Winners:

Connecticut Senator Will Haskell’s Student Loan Repayment Tax Credit won in the “Expanding Access to Education” category, which included ideas that promote opportunities at every level — from early childhood to post-secondary — to put students on a pathway to success in college and career and, ultimately, to making the most of their abilities. Haskell’s submission involves a corporate tax credit for any business that helps to pay off the student loans of employees. The credit can be valued up to $5,250 per year to sync with a federal tax benefit available to employers.

Kentucky Representative Nima Kulkarni’s Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project won in the “Responding to Immediate Post-Pandemic Needs & Building a Stronger Safety Net” category, which included ideas to help address Americans’ short-term financial instability, joblessness, housing insecurity, and other needs, while also reimagining safety net systems to better meet Americans’ needs now and beyond the pandemic. Her submission focused on a package of 21 bills and resolutions introduced this year that recognize that expanding resources to women is imperative to ensure their safety and wellbeing. The rate of Kentucky women dying from pregnancy-related causes is more than double the national average. Among its solutions, the legislation addresses: care for families, mental health, incarceration, access to care, and health equity. 

Colorado Senator Chris Hansen’s Secure Tokens for State Financial Offerings won in the “Rebuilding Jobs and the Economy” category, which included ideas that help communities rebound from the lows of the pandemic, get Americans working for pay that allows for a better quality of life, and address inequities. His idea revolves around finding a new way for people to partake in capital financing by digitizing the origination process and building a transparent system that allows for a broader range of investors. The traditional method of securing state debts limits the number of businesses and organizations that can invest in the state and assist in financing capital projects. Hansen’s plan would reduce dependence on commercial banks, institutional investors, mutual funds, and pension funds. Certificates of Participation (COPs) could be funded by millions of individual investors through the use of secure tokens. The introduction of a policy that sets up a plan for secure tokens to be used to finance COPs would greatly expand the number of potential investors and decrease the interest rate that the state would owe on its principal loan as a result of direct purchases by retail investors. 

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s Biogas to Vehicle Fuel submission won in the “Securing our Communities and our Planet” category, which included ideas for states, cities, and regions to address climate change with cleaner and more resilient power, transportation, and infrastructure, and to promote a more sustainable society. Her submission highlights a project in Lincoln to treat, clean, and transform the biogas generated by wastewater systems into quality, renewable vehicle fuel. This initiative addresses the challenge that the anaerobic digestion of solids that go to wastewater treatment facilities produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Lincoln has partnered with the private sector, including companies that have developed infrastructure to connect the renewable natural gas to the national natural gas pipeline and to get renewable energy on the marketplace.

Councilmember Will Jawando’s New Standards for Police Use of Force won in the Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community category, which included ideas aimed at promoting the right to vote, engaging people in civic society, and healing divisions in our society, especially by addressing systemic inequality. His idea starts with prohibiting a police officer from using deadly force except when absolutely necessary when no other alternatives are available. This includes prohibiting neck or carotid restraints and striking a restrained individual. The bill bans no-knock warrants in drug cases and shooting from or at moving vehicles, unless the vehicle is being used as a weapon and the circumstances would authorize the use of deadly force. In addition, Jawando’s solution requires officers to stop or attempt to stop the use of excessive force or the commission of a crime by another officer. Officers who intervene must not be retaliated against or disciplined for taking action. 


Follow Westport HamletHub