Students compete to turn bills into laws

One winner from a Hillsborough high school will see his or her bill go to lawmakers, maybe even pass.

Published February 9, 2007

Sixteen-year-old Cory Givens has three minutes Saturday before a panel of Hillsborough County legislative delegation members.

If all goes well, the Robinson High School junior's plan to reward students with credits for community service could become Florida law.

It's the district's third annual "Ought to be a Law" bill-drafting competition, with students from each of Hillsborough County's high schools presenting bills.

Teens will advocate to bring back motorcycle helmet laws, allow homosexuals to adopt children and add traffic lights at crosswalks outside high schools.

Middleton High School 11th-grader Taniqua Roberts wants to outlaw sagging britches on Tampa men.

"I feel that this fashion trend is nonsense," she says in her proposed bill. "People should not have to be exposed to others' underwear when in a public place."

Cory has eyed all his competition on the district Web site, with a bit of trepidation.

"Students should contribute because they're increasing the workload," he said of his bill, which started out as a homework assignment in teacher Tomas Montero's American government class.

He sees opportunities to clean and cook on school campuses and help hospitals, public parks and local businesses.

High school students would earn half a credit for 25 hours of service.

He's learned a lot about lawmaking already. He capped the volunteer hours private companies could use after he saw a loophole: Businesses could let employees go and replace them with free labor.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the School Administrative Center downtown, legislators will quiz students on their bills and pick one winner.

State Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, and Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, will take the bill before the Legislature to try to make it a law.

Ambler created the competition in 2004 at Gaither High School. He came up with the idea while visiting the school where his two children attended during the Great American Teach-in. He talked to students about writing bills and they had some good ideas for new laws.

The first year's bill would have protected people from car impound fees. No student-sponsored bill has yet passed.

Last year, the competition spread to include Chamberlain and Sickles high schools. The winning bill, drafted by a student at Chamberlain, would have required Florida drivers to take an eye exam before renewing their licenses.

This year, the competition opened to all the district's high school history and American government students.

Should his bill pass, Cory plans to volunteer at the Humane Society or in Robinson's library, where he likes to hang out.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or 813 226-3321.