State lawmakers host ‘Ought to be a Law’ student essay contest

By Lee Stephens….

Ought to be a Law essay contest winner from Coral Park High Ian Escalante.

Miami Republican state representatives Michael Bileca, Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo recently hosted a “There Ought to be a Law” contest at South Miami Senior High School.

The contest was open to high school students residing in the lawmakers’ districts and, out of 150 entries, 18 finalists were chosen to present their essays. With their essays, the students proposed laws ranging from increasing the difficulty in public school curriculum to banning texting while driving.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the ideas and, more importantly, with the presentations the students prepared,”” said Rep. Diaz.

The purpose of the contest was to give students insight into the state lawmaking process. Three winners were chosen at the end of the contest, one from each member’s district, and awarded with the opportunity to become a floor messenger during the 2012 legislative session. The messenger program has been in place for many years and gives 14-17 year old students the opportunity to work in the state capitol for a week. Messengers are sponsored by members of the legislature and there is only one position available per lawmaker.

“This is a great opportunity for these winners to experience firsthand how the legislative process actually works,” said Rep. Bileca.

The contest winners were Coral Park High’s Ian Escalante, South Miami High’s Mercedes Ortiz and Nicolas Suarez from Belen Jesuit Prep. Escalante’s winning essay proposed a law requiring welfare recipients to perform community service hours along with their required job search; Ortiz proposed a bill that would force restaurants to post the calorie count of all food items on every menu; and Suarez suggested a law to create a fixed property tax for seniors on a fixed income, one that would apply only to seniors residing in their home for a specific number of years and available only on homestead property.

“We were happy to facilitate this learning experience and see the enthusiasm of these students, their teachers and schools in getting a deeper understanding of how ideas can become laws,” said Rep. Trujillo.

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