Studt serves as legislative page

Nathan Steele

“I think that kids my age should get involved in our government. Even if you’re not going to go into it, you need to just see how it works,” said Custer High School senior Abby Studt, who recently served as a page in the 99th South Dakota State Legislature in Pierre. “It’s important because we’re up next.”
Studt served as a page for the week of March 3-7, and said that legislatively, it was “a weird week” due to relatively few committee meetings and a shortened work week. Although several legislators had told her that the weird week gave pages “the short end of the stick,” she still found the experience valuable and enjoyable.
“I think it’s really interesting that you have this opportunity to step in the state’s capitol and serve our state’s legislators. I think that’s really cool,” said Studt.
She said the week consisted of “a lot of hurry up and wait” with bursts of busy time followed by periods of downtime, during which time Studt said she and the other pages could spend time in a downstairs room meant just for them where they could play Uno and “goof around.” Over the course of the week, she  made good friends with the other pages from across the state.
“This group was awesome. It’s much better when you’re working with your friends,” said Studt. In all, there were nine house pages and five senate pages.
Although a fun experience, it wasn’t all games. The pages are sponsored by individual legislators, but once in, they are, “doing something for everyone,” said Studt.
Work included a variety of tasks from getting vote count to attending committee meetings and hearings, and “getting a lot of coffees and waters, that’s for sure.”
“They love their coffee, and it’s really not even that good,” joked Studt. “It was a really intense week—a lot of running around.”
Studt said her favorite thing about the week was that the pages didn’t have their cell phones.
“We had them taken away at the beginning of the day, and we weren’t able to have them until the end of the work day when all of the legislators left. That was my favorite part because we made all these meaningful  connections,” she said.
Although they couldn’t answer personal calls, they still spent plenty of time on the phone, interacting with constituents.
“We each did phones for an hour a day,” said Studt. She said she didn’t realize before serving as a page how accessible her state representatives are—just a phone call away to share any input regarding legislation.
Studt also got to see citizens interacting with their legislative branch of government firsthand in committee meetings, which she said could be intense at times. One such time was in committee meetings for Senate Bill 201, which would “provide new statutory requirements for regulating linear transmission facilities, to allow counties to impose a surcharge on certain pipeline companies, and to establish a landowner bill of rights.”
She said that there were pipeline company employees in their company T-shirts on one side of the committee room with upset property owners on the other side and “cops in every corner.”
Studt said that when the opportunity came to serve as a page last year, she “blew it off” and didn’t think she had time to do it, but after going to Girls State, her interest was sparked.
“Even if you’re not going into political science, it’s just one of those things that you need to go see for yourself how our government works. You need to become involved, and it’s just a good exercise as a citizen to see and be there and talk to your legislators,” said Studt.  
Getting to talk to and meet the state legislators was another aspect Studt enjoyed about the week.
“It’s really cool to see how the legislators are all business in the committee rooms and on the floor, but then out in the hall you can just talk to them like they’re a normal person. It’s great because you make all these connections,” said Studt.
Studt recommends the program to others and encourages those interested to go to Girls State or Boys State too, saying it helps in the application process.
“I think it was really by far my favorite high school experience,” said Studt.
Next year, Studt is planning to go to Black Hills State University to study music education.

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