Teens get bill approved
Now the Hillsborough teens can say there is a law. Their proposal from the Ought To Be A Law contest, to create high school internship programs across Florida, won unanimous approval in the House right after lunch, and gained unanimous support in the Senate just after 4 p.m. Senate President Ken Pruitt stopped the breakneck rush through the consent calendar to applaud the students, who were sitting in the gallery, for becoming what appears to be the first group of teenagers to successfully write and lobby for a bill in Florida. " You did an absolutely awesome job," Pruitt told them.
Bloomingdale High freshman Tomas Gacio called the experience "awesome" and said he felt confident Gov. Charlie Crist will sign the bill into law. "It was like watching a baby. I was really proud of it," Tomas said after the final vote. "Every little thing they would say against it I would get ticked off about it. I am extremely pleased that it passed."
He said the hardest part of the process was the give and take. "We actually lobbied each individual representative and senator that was on the committees we presented to," Tomas said. "President Pruitt in the Senate, we met with him and asked him to put it on the agenda. ... He was definitely a key player in this. It was vital that we lobbied him."
Hillsborough district lobbyist Connie Milito said she was impressed with the students' tenacity in a season when only about 5 percent of bills are winning approval. When their bill looked bottled up in a Senate committee, for instance, the kids waited in chairman Don Gaetz's office to ask for movement. When other districts' lobbyists began expressing some concerns, they compromised to amend the bill to the other districts' liking. In other words, Milito said, the students got a real education in government.
Tomas, who wants to work in politics, agreed with that: "I learned more than I would learn in a government classroom," he said.