In 2005, State Representative Kevin Ambler (R-Lutz) had a great idea: the It Oughta Be a Law contest. The idea is get high school students involved in the legislative process by letting them actually propose legislation. In my years working in the legislature (including two with Rep. Ambler), this is by far the best idea I have seen.
He started with Gaither High Schools, where his children attended. The students proposed legislation, Representative Ambler selected three, and the students voted which of the three to take to Tallahassee. Representative Ambler and State Senator Victor Crist (R-Temple Terrace) sponsored the legislation in their respective Houses.
In 2006, Representative Ambler expanded the idea to the three high schools in his district: Gaither, Sickles, and Chamberlain. Each school presented one bill to a panel including other legislators, who selected the bills on which the students at all three schools would vote. Ambler and Crist again sponsored the legislation.
This year, Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia felt that all Hillsborough County high schools should participate — and tomorrow morning, each school will be presenting their ideas to a panel consisting of members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation.
They have some interesting proposals (all links below are to PDF files):
Alonso High School – Make all parks and recreation centers smoke free.
Armwood High School – Change financial reporting deadlines for political parties.
Blake High School – Remove the bad on adoption by homosexuals.
Bloomingdale High School – Improve services for adults with mental disabilities.
Brandon High School – Reduced-speed zones and cross walks for high schools.
Chamberlain High School – Reduced-speed zones for high schools.
Durant High School – Require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.
Freedom High School – Specialty license plates for high schools.
Gaither High School – Remove styofoam products from school cafeterias.
Hillsborough High School – Tax breaks for companies who offer internships for high school students.
Jefferson High School – Require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.
King High School – Require teenagers to pass the FCAT before getting their drivers license.
Lennard High School – Reduced-speed zones for all schools.
Middleton High School – Require school dress codes that prohibit low-riding pants, a current style for teenagers.
Newsome High School – Repeal the ban on same-sex marriage.
Plant High School – Amending the Florida Constituion to eliminate retention elections f or judges.
Plant City High School – Allow federal government agencies to offer emergency services without waiting for the governor to request assistance or declare a state of emergency.
Riverview High School – Ban sex offenders from living within five miles of schools, parks, playgrounds, camps, or daycare centers.
Robinson High School – Credit for community service.
Sickles High School – School stress relief period.
Spoto High School – Require employers to give a 1/2 day paid holiday for Election Day.
An interesting note: The Armwood proposal belongs to Cheryl McBride, daughter of Bill McBride (former Democratic candidate for Governor) and Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
Interesting legislation, to say the least. Neither the 2005 or 2006 bills managed to pass the legislature, but I think there are some here that could pass this year — depending on which bill is selected.