STATE REP. TRAM NGUYEN, shown above meeting with the Tewksbury Board of Selectmen following her election to the State House back in 2018, was recently named a finalist in the Ideas Challenge, a competition sponsored by NewDEAL, a "selective national network of exceptional, rising, pro-growth progressive state and local elected leaders."

The NewDEAL, a “selective national network of exceptional, rising, pro-growth progressive state and local elected leaders,” announced that the efforts of Massachusetts State Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover) to promote justice for victims of violent crimes have made her a finalist in the 2021 Ideas Challenge – a competition among rising and innovative state and local policymakers to propose the most effective solutions on an array of issues.

Rep. Nguyen represents Tewksbury in the 18th Essex District.

“I am thrilled to be named a finalist and to be included in this group of talented leaders across the country,” said Rep. Nguyen. “We can’t wait for political rhetoric to solve our problems, and that’s why these solutions proposed by state and local leaders across the country are so important. By building on what we have learned from best practices, our work for victims and witnesses of human trafficking and other violent crimes takes concrete steps toward improving our justice system. I’m excited to have the chance to share it as a template that can be replicated by NewDEALers and others across the country.”

Rep. Nguyen joined the State House in 2018 by defeating incumbent Republican Jim Lyons. She won reelection last year.

Her solution, NewDEAL said, addresses the barriers, including long delays, encountered by victims and witnesses of violent crimes in receiving U and T visas. Rep. Nguyen's idea standardizes the process for law enforcement, prosecution, and investigatory agencies to provide victims and witnesses who have been helpful in an investigation or prosecution of serious crimes, described in the federal Violence Against Women Act, with the certification form they need to help them apply for a U-visa or a T-visa. These certifications are crucial in seeking legal status for victims and witnesses of certain crimes, such as human trafficking.

Policy experts vote for the proposals that best improve Americans’ economic well-being and overall quality of life, and that make government work more effectively to meet communities’ needs.

After evaluation by a diverse panel of judges (see list below), Rep. Nguyen’s Equal Access to Justice for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes and Human Trafficking idea is a finalist among submissions for healing the democracy and rebuilding community. This category includes ideas aimed at promoting the right to vote, engaging people in civic society, and healing divisions in society, especially by addressing systemic inequality.

“State and local leaders face enormous challenges as they work on the front lines to rebuild from a persistent pandemic, close the long-standing inequities highlighted by COVID-19, and ensure our communities emerge with more opportunity for everyone,” said NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan. “The Ideas Challenge shows how a group of innovative state and local officials are rising to the occasion of finding solutions. Rep. Nguyen and her fellow finalists have made proposals that, together, set an important governing agenda to help our nation make good on the promise to build back better.”

The Challenge was open to the 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), U.S. Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), and Columbia, SC Mayor Steve Benjamin serve as honorary co-chairs of the group.

The five winners of the Ideas Challenge will be announced on Thursday, Nov. 18, at the 11th annual NewDEAL Leaders Conference in Washington.

In its fifth edition, this year’s competition takes place in the context of one of the most challenging times to be a state or local elected official as communities navigate a host of issues related to the ongoing pandemic while aiming to rebuild in a way that improves opportunities and quality of life compared to before this crisis.

One helpful tool will be the recently signed $1T infrastructure bill supported by President Joe Biden and passed with bipartisan support in the US House and Senate. However, another bill, also supported by the president, might not make it to his desk. A “reconciliation” bill originally costing $3.5T but now down to $1.75T garnered the support of progressive Democrats, but so far failed to win over many moderate Democrats or any Republicans.

The second “reconciliation” bill would absolutely receive the backing of an organization like NewDEAL (though maybe not as strongly in its current cheaper, perhaps weaker state, with items like paid family leave removed at the request of moderates in the Senate).

On the other hand, coronavirus relief packages like the American Rescue Plan Act and the CARES Act offer substantial payments to cities and towns to help recover costs associated with COVID expenditures.

NewDEAL noted how members across the country are leading the response to COVID-19 and other crises, and the Ideas Challenge recognizes that these leaders, who represent diverse communities from urban centers to rural towns and in red, blue, and purple areas, have powerful messages, experiences, and proposals that must be heard.

Winners for this year’s Ideas Challenge were selected in the following categories:

• Responding to Immediate Post-Pandemic Needs & Building a Stronger Safety Net with 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;

• Rebuilding Jobs and the Economy, with ideas that help Americans rebound from the lows of the pandemic, get Americans working for pay that allows for a better quality of life, and address inequities;

• Expanding Access to Education, with opportunities at every level — from early childhood to post-secondary — to put students on a pathway to success in college and career and, ultimately, making the most of their abilities;

• Securing our Communities and our Planet with policies for states, cities, and regions to address climate change with cleaner and more resilient power, transportation, and infrastructure;

• Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community by promoting the right to vote and access to do so, engaging people in civic society, and healing divisions in society, especially by addressing systemic inequality.

Submissions to the 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 Finalists in Healing our Democracy and Rebuilding Community Category:

• Enhancing Access to the At-Home Ballot Box - House Speaker Ryan Fecteau (Biddeford, ME)

• Expanding Access to the Ballot Box - Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (Las Vegas, NV)

• New Standards for Police Use of Force - Council member Will Jawando (Montgomery County, MD)

• Justice for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes and Human Trafficking - State Rep. Tram Nguyen (Andover)

• Civics Education - Middle School through College - State Sen Troy Singleton (Moorestown, NJ)

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