Aurelia Anderson, left, Shayanne Richardson, second from left, and the other Senate pages with Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, center. | Shayanne Richardson
IDAHO FALLS – With the Idaho Legislature in full swing, the statehouse in Boise is buzzing with activity.
The 2022 Legislative session convened on Jan. 10 in the wake of a 311-day session in 2021 — the longest in the state’s history.
A bill introduced by a Senate panel earlier this week would set the last Friday in March as the end date with a few exceptions. Whether it passes remains to be seen.
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Meanwhile, a measure to implement a $600 million tax cut is gaining momentum. The state’s largest-ever tax rebate has already cleared the House and is now in the Senate. It’s not clear when it will be up for vote.
Other bills, such as an anti-abortion resolution to lower flags and a measure banning youth conversion therapy, are moving forward in the House.
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Amid the bustle, a group of local students are hoping to see their education bill get some attention this session. Aurelia Anderson, a 17-year-old student attending a private school in Ammon, tells EastIdahoNews.com the proposal would allow state education funds to follow individual students, rather than go towards public school budgets.
“That way they can have more options for education,” Aurelia explains. “If they want to go the public school route, they have that option. But if they want to go to a private school, they also have that option.”
Aurelia, who is working directly with the Senate Transportation Committee and The Judiciary and Rules Committee as a page, says the bill “is getting closer to being in committee.”
“I did see a petition for it and I got super excited,” she says.
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Aurelia started attending the Deseret Study Abroad Academy last school year after years of being home-schooled. She learned about the youth page program after spending a week in Boise with her classmates last February and decided to apply.
Three weeks into the session, she’s gotten to know many of the senators personally and says she’s gained a greater understanding of how the legislative process works. Aurelia says interacting with senators, committee secretaries and lobbyists has been “awesome” and she’s “enjoyed every minute of it.”
“When you get to know them (the senators) and you serve very closely with them, you see that they’re just like you. They’re everyday people,” says Aurelia. “(They’re) really passionate about making Idaho a better place and making the government more sustainable.”
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Though there is some political debate that takes place on the Senate floor and in individual committees, Aurelia’s fellow page and classmate Shayanne Richardson, 18, says they all seem to personally get along.
“They’re basically best friends because they’re all super nice to each other. It’s a good working environment,” Richardson says.
And the legislative process is more complicated than either of them realized.
The statehouse in Boise. | EastIdahoNews.com file photo
There are a total of 12 pages working in the Legislature this year — six in the Senate and six in the House. They work full-time Monday through Friday while it’s in session. Their responsibilities consist of preparing agendas and other documents for each committee meeting, along with running documents and other errands back and forth for each of the senators.
Aurelia hopes to develop personal relationships with lawmakers so she can have conversations with them in the future as a voter.
She and Richardson will be working in Boise through Feb. 18. Though they are compensated for their six weeks of service, Aurelia says the educational experience is what makes it all worth it and she highly recommends it for others who are interested.
“All seniors should do this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will completely change your outlook and how things work in the world,” she says.
“The experience is absolutely amazing,” Richardson adds.
The page program is available to high school seniors throughout Idaho. Positions are available in the House and Senate. To apply or learn more, visit the website and click on “Senate” or “House.”
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