Maryland General Assembly’s page program allows high schoolers to view legislative process

April 15, 2023

Maryland Matters

Aidan Judge (center) peers over the balcony minutes past midnight on April 11, 2023 after dropping balloons and confetti as the General Assembly adjourned sine die. Photo by Christine Zhu.

In the leadup to midnight on Monday, high school seniors wearing gray blazers lined the gallery balconies overlooking the State House chambers.

As the clock struck 12, they released bags of confetti and balloons, showering the lawmakers below.

They’re the Maryland General Assembly’s pages — and their duties culminate with playing a key role in celebrations for sine die, the end of the legislature’s 90-day session.

Each year, 105 pages and 36 alternates from around the state spend two nonconsecutive weeks in Annapolis to learn about how a bill becomes a law.

For some, it’s their first time at the legislative complex. Their responsibilities include delivering coffee, amendments and vote totals to politicians on the floor.

In addition to the pages, the 2023 session saw other new faces around the State House halls with Gov. Wes Moore (D) and dozens of freshman lawmakers.

“It was a very unique period that we were able to be brought in for, because we have a new administration,” Aidan Judge said.

Judge, a student at Severna Park High School in Anne Arundel County, served as a page for opening day.

He spent time watching hearings and meeting legislators like Economics Matters Committee Chair C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), who sponsored the Child Victims Act.

The bill removes the statutory deadline for when sexual abuse survivors can sue the perpetrator. Moore signed it into law on Tuesday.

“It was inspirational seeing someone who is pushing for the things he’s pushing for succeeding in this environment,” Judge said.

For others, the program meant reaching a longtime goal.

Henry Miser, a student at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown, said he’s wanted to be a page since he was nine years old.

At the time, he visited the Vermont State House on a family trip and found out about a similar program. He’s had it in the back of his mind ever since.

“That ended up coming to fruition, thankfully, and I had the opportunity to be a page this year,” Miser said.

He’s worked with the Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention as well as the Maryland Center for School Safety, so legislation related to mental health and school safety stand out the most to him.

Miser witnessed debates for bills about abortion and cannabis reform, two contentious topics in this year’s session.

With intense party division at the federal level in recent months, he said he found it “refreshing” to see collaboration across the aisle with lawmakers engaging in “productive” discussions despite their differences.

“Something that I really appreciated and didn’t necessarily expect was the bipartisanship that you see at the state legislature,” he said.

Wilde Lake High School student Oliver Song described his tasks as intern roles — but instead of interning with a specific legislator, it was for the entire General Assembly.

A Columbia resident, Song sat in on hearings with Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery), who serves as Vice Chair of the Education, Energy and the Environment Committee.

Song said Kagan dashed out of the meeting to file bills, which she had about five minutes to do before returning to committee.

“We ended up running across the street with her to get her legislation filed and it was really cool,” he said.

As a page, Song worked on a school research project on youth voting and engagement. He was able to interview lawmakers about their outreach work.

Song noted the difference between how politicians interact with constituents during the campaign period and legislative session.

“For campaigning, legislators are focused on getting the vote, versus with legislating, they are more interested in hearing what constituents have to say,” Song said.