Legislative pages watch history unfold

“So what are you doing for your senior project?”

“I’m going to be a page in the state Legislature”

Julia Horman with Speaker
Speak of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, congratulates Julia Horman on her graduation from the House page program.

Blank expression or frown.

“What’s that?”

“I will move to Boise for six weeks and work in the Capitol!”

Continued blank expression or frown.

That’s how the conversation goes 99 percent of the time.

First, let me explain exactly what a page is. A page is a high school senior who gets sponsored by their representative or senator to work during the legislative session.

A page has three main jobs: committee duties, floor assignments and errands.

I was assigned to the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee. It has oversight of the courts, prisons and law enforcement, plus administrative rules of the House of Representatives.

Every time the committee meets, I prepare all the papers like agendas and bills. I make sure that visitors sign in and that their signature is legible so that it can be spelled correctly for the chairman and the record we give the Legislative Library. I place the chairman’s gavel at his seat and put the nameplates out for  each representative. I’m in charge of the technology in the room, like microphone systems, projectors and Internet streaming.

During the meeting I pay attention to the chairman and all the members to see if they need anything. Sometimes they need a note delivered or copies made. After the meeting, I put everything away.

Each day, the House of Representatives convenes its session in the House chambers. Each page has a specific floor assignment. Some are in the page room to respond to legislators if they request assistance from the floor. The doorkeepers monitor the entrance. Those seated at the back of the chamber deliver notes and assist legislators.

One page leads the Pledge of Allegiance each day and then sits next to the assistant chief clerk and delivers bills to be signed by committee chairs as they are approved or moved to a different order of business. Bills also need to be delivered to committee secretaries or the governor’s office.

When I’m not busy doing all of these things, pages assist members of the Legislature or legislative staff with errands or clerical work.

But there’s a lot more to being a page than that.

It is an experience that is unique for everyone who serves. Mine is slightly different because my mom, Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, is a member of the House of Representatives. I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to live or making the commute. I just live with my mom! But I also don’t get paid like the other pages do.

It’s not the first time I’ve moved to Boise with my mom. Last session, I transferred schools from Hillcrest to Borah for the third quarter – meaning I went to school full-time during the day and to legislative events in the evening with my mom.

This time, I work all day and do school before and after work so there isn’t much time for anything else. Each school handles the situation a little differently, but it definitely isn’t a free pass for skipping school for six weeks! I am still responsible for my class assignments through email. I have two AP classes and one dual enrollment class so there is plenty of homework. All of the pages are keeping journals of their experience.

My morning starts at 6:30 a.m. at Boise High School LDS Seminary, then I walk three blocks to the Capitol, have breakfast in the legislative dining room and get to work. Sometimes during the day, there is time to do homework which has been a good thing – there have a been a few times I got home from work at 5 p.m. and fall asleep and don’t wake up until 5:30 the next morning.

So the tasks themselves aren’t daunting and the logistics of moving and arrangements with your school can be arranged if you are willing to make the effort. But the best part of this experience is that you get a behind-the-scenes knowledge of how the government actually works. For example, I have to copy vocabulary words for my Advance Placement government class like “lobbyist” and “bill” so I get a textbook understanding. But as I was copying the term for my homework, a lobbyist actually walked by me in the Capitol. Here I get to actually experience what those terms mean in real life! I get to participate in history being made.