Unless you’ve been to the statehouse or our temporary quarters while we are in session, you might not know about Pages. I admit I don’t know that much about pages, except that there are quite a lot of them, that they seem to have a sense of humor and that they keep the legislature from existing as this insulated club of 105 mostly older men, and some women, with little or no connection to the generation now contemplating first dates, acne, college applications and a world attached to little or no experiential limitations.
Sure some legislators are grandparents, a few are parents with kids this age or younger, a few of us are teachers, but it’s a very few. Yet we spend all day, five days a week with the equivalent of a high school graduating class, from an average sized rural high school in our midst, studying us, learning the rules, the procedures and personal politics from very, very close quarters. I confess at first, it is a bit easier not to notice them, particularly in the balcony where we are somewhat out of the way on our two dead end rows perched above the main floor. Eventually they make their impression, they say hi, they ask questions, make a joke or hang there just outside the debate.
Practically speaking, day to day, pages staff our committees, retrieve code books, pass notes for us, they run errands, make copies, fold letters, and congregate in a little room off the House Lounge near the snack area. Of course these are not just any high school seniors or juniors. They hale from particular towns around Idaho and tend to have last names like Lake, Andrus or Moyle, names that reveal their lineage and ties to the committee chairs and sheep-rancher-legislators they are the children and grand children of.
Dan Popkey noted two years ago how the pages, if they had been the ones to determine the fate of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (and civil unions and anything remotely similar), that this younger generation would have rejected the amendment quite soundly. Listening to their conversations this year you see them thoughtful and playful, exploring what party affiliation they feel fits, what hair styles they might enjoy and what law makers they might emulate or avoid.
If you watch the floor session from public television or the internet, something I find hard to recommend until the session gets into full swing and we are actually beginning to debate legislation (as we likely will next week,) you might have noted on Friday that one of the pages on stage during the prayer had her hair in a pretty vigorously teased "do." The speaker called it a beaufont. Given that I am actually one of the now growing handful of gen xers in the legislature, I was not alive in the era of the beaufont, so probably can’t well judge how beaufont the hair was. What I do know is that chairman Dennis Lake’s grand daughter and page for the House Revenue and Taxation Committee has one fabulous, wild, gutsy hair-do. We’ll call it a horizontal beaufont. Kind of a giant, blond, back of the head, eye lash. All the female pages I understand on Friday were trying to apply enough hair product and combing techniques to achieve this level of hair. The Speaker took it well. It was much needed levity in a long somber week.
As for the pages, they are here until half way through the session when they return to high school and a new batch arrives on the House floor. I suspect they see a lot more than we think. If past groups of pages are any indication, there are thinkers, scientists, writers, activists and governors among them. It will be a surreal transition for them I’m sure, from immersion in politics and issues in a stuffy, adult-centered environment, to home and school again. All the secrets of the House will spin off to far parts of the state with them. For now they are here, perfectly capable of judging us, our integrity and actions, hovering, hair flying, just behind us here, but ever so slightly invisible in the legislative process.