Abigail Rittenberg, Bennett Wies and Bates Bland

Assemblymember Amy Paulin announced that two Pelham Middle School students—Bates Bland and Bennett Wies—and one at Albert Leonard Middle School in New Rochelle—Abigail Rittenberg— are the winners of her Fourth Annual “There Ought to Be a Law” Contest.

All three were invited by Assemblymember Paulin to meet with the Assemblymember and their Senators at the Capitol in Albany, where they were introduced on the New York State Assembly floor during session and saluted for their achievement.

Bates Bland from Pelham Middle School proposed establishing a minimum age for passengers riding in the front seat of motor vehicles. Although the New York State Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Task Force have conducted rigorous public education on the dangers of children under the age of 13 riding in the front seat of a car, no minimum age has yet been set by law. Four states and Puerto Rico have a requirement for children under a certain age to be seated in the back seat, and Assemblymember Paulin is introducing a bill to do the same.

Bennett Wies, another student from Pelham Middle School, proposed regulating single-use plastic devices used to hold together beverage containers, commonly called “six-pack rings.” A number of microbrew companies have begun using fully biodegradable six-pack rings instead of plastic. Corona recently announced they would follow suit this year, becoming the first major brewing company to do so. Given the continued harm to the environment and ocean life posed by single-used plastics, and the technological leap forward within the beverage industry, the Assemblymember agreed that the time has come to come to update New York’s regulations on plastic beverage container holders.

Finally, Abigail Rittenberg from Albert Leonard Middle School in New Rochelle wrote an essay proposing that vape and smoke shops be banned from operating within a certain distance from schools, day care centers, or other area where children learn or play. Many past winners of the contest have also expressed concern that high school students and even some middle school students could become hooked on smoking and Juuling and have proposed various remedies to protect their peers.

This is the fourth year of the contest, in which Assemblymember Paulin encourages Middle School students throughout her district to identify an issue impacting New York residents and to write a persuasive essay arguing for a specific legislative solution.

“Judging from the incredibly thoughtful essays I received, our students understood very well that our government works best when it’s focused on solving real problems that our citizens see in their own lives every day,” said Assemblymember Paulin. “With nearly 100 students in five middle schools participating this year, the competition was very strong. The essays written by these students were the best of the best, and it’s always thrilling to see such intelligent, creative problem-solving ideas come from the next generation of civic leaders. I was honored to introduce them to my Assembly colleagues, and plan to make the case for action on these critical issues.”

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