PHOTO COURTESY OF PALM BEACH LAKES HIGH SCHOOL
WEST PALM BEACH — Three Palm Beach County high school students joined a couple of South Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee on Wednesday to present companion bills that would affect child safety at meetings of the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and the House Highway and Waterway Safety Subcommittee.
State Senator Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and Representative Bobby Powell Jr. (D-Riviera Beach) hosted the students from Palm Beach Lakes Community High School in West Palm Beach.
Ruben Garcia, Deili Gomez, and Zindi Rios, all juniors at Palm Beach Lakes, submitted the winning proposal of the “There Ought to Be a Law” competition, which is sponsored by Powell and Clemens.
Their proposal would make it illegal to smoke a cigarette while driving with a child younger than 13 in the car. On Wednesday, the students got a first-hand look at the legislative process. They heard subcommittee deliberations in both chambers, heard testimony, and even grilled lawmakers.
The bill passed the House subcommittee unanimously and Senate Regulated Industries by a 7-4 vote.
“These students are amongst the brightest in Florida,” Clemens said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to participate in democracy as it unfolds in front of them.”
“Public participation is the most important part that we rely on as public officials,” said Powell. “This is an opportunity for our best and brightest to contribute to the process.”
The students were chosen from a competition that started at Palm Beach Lakes High in mid-October. Students from the school’s law program worked in groups to develop possible legislation for the current session. The proposals were graded based on the quality of the teams’ research and presentation, and how well the students were able to identify a problem and develop a solution.
Of the proposals submitted, seven proposals were chosen as finalists. Powell and Clemens announced the winning team in December.