RIVERSIDE - A Mira Loma high school sophomore born with a disabling condition brought on by his mother's drug abuse will see his proposal to screen welfare applicants for narcotics introduced this year before the state Assembly, a lawmaker announced Friday.
R.J. Feild, a student at Jurupa Valley High School, competed with more than 200 students from campuses across Riverside County in Assemblyman John J. Benoit's "There Ought To Be a Law" contest. The youths composed 500-word essays stating what new laws they believe should be put on the books.
The teen's essay was well-written, the most compelling and met feasibility criteria, according to Benoit, a Republican who represents the 64th District that encompasses part of the Coachella Valley and western Riverside County.
He said he and his staff "had the difficult dilemma of choosing only one entry among so many good ideas."
"R.J.'s captivating story provided a clear reason why we need his law," he said. "I look forward to introducing 'RJ's Law' in this legislative session."
The boy has spastic triplegic cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around, according to Benoit spokeswoman Cheryll Bisco.
In his essay, he explained how he was born at 2 pounds, 2 ounces with traces of heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, alcohol and cocaine in his body - substances that caused his lifelong affliction, she said.
The teen's mother consumed the illegal drugs throughout her pregnancy, while she was living on public assistance, according to Bisco.
He proposed "RJ's Law" as a means to ''break the destructive cycle of supporting drug addicts with public assistance monies,'' she said.
"RJ's Law would apply the same standard for drug screening (to welfare recipients) that employees undergo in order to obtain employment," Bisco said.
As winner of the contest, Feild will receive an airline ticket to Sacramento, where, in the next six weeks, he will be afforded the chance to formally introduce his bill on the Assembly floor, Bisco said, adding that the teen will also be given an honorary plaque and a tour of the state Capitol.
According to Bisco, this is the first time in his five-year legislative career that Benoit has sponsored the contest, which he was inspired to do after seeing the results of other legislators.
"He just thought it was a great way to get high school students involved in the legislative process," Bisco said.
She said high school students were given from early September to the end of November to send their completed essays to Benoit's office.
Though many of the proposals were well-written, Bisco said, they were passed over because they fell short of meeting the feasibility criteria.
"Some were kind of outrageous, at least to us," she said. "One recommended a fee on plastic shopping bags. We had others who wanted a law making it mandatory for seniors 75 years and over to retake a driver's license test every year. Most of those proposals came out of the desert, where a lot of older people live."