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'There Oughta Be A Law': Palm Beach County Lawmakers Create Student Bill Writing Contest

News Service of Florida

An annual writing contest in Palm Beach County hopes to get students excited about state government and it's got a notable prize for the winner — their proposal holds the potential to become Florida law.

Democratic Boca Raton lawmakers, state Rep. Kelly Skidmore and state Sen. Tina Polsky, are holding a competition for high school students to write their own legislative bills.

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It moves around the district, but this year the competition is open to students at West Boca Raton Community and Olympic Heights High Schools.

Skidmore started hosting the contest in the 2000s with now-Congressman Ted Deutch. When she was reelected in 2020, she asked Sen. Polsky to keep it going with her.

Together, Skidmore and Polsky will sponsor this year's winning bill during the 2022 legislative session.

Skidmore thinks of it as almost like citizen science. After students write their bills they can track the winning one as it goes through the Legislature.

"You see when it gets filed, when it gets a bill number or when it gets referred to committee — when it gets heard and all those things. We gotta get people engaged in the process and we need all the help we can get with good ideas," she said.  

Some of those ideas in years past have included a ban on texting while driving. That one eventually became Florida law.

As part of the contest students have to title their bill, write about the problem they are trying to fix — and pitch their solution. They also have to write about who they think would support the measure, and who might oppose it. A panel of experts will weigh the five finalist bills for credibility and impact — and what's most likely to survive the lawmaking process to become a law.

A self-proclaimed 'student government geek,' Skidmore sees this contest as a way to engage students in an important process, and demystify how state government works.

"When you can engage a group of young people and they can see the value that you put into their ideas and their suggestions that gives them that branch to hang on to when the rest of the things that are going on in their world just seem uncontrollable," she said.

The deadline for students to submit proposals is Friday, Oct. 1.

Interested students at the eligible high schools can email the district for the submission form at HDIST81@myfloridahouse.gov.

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Caitie Switalski Muñoz