ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's General Assembly gaveled in for its 90-day session on Wednesday. There is a lot of optimism and excitement as the new session begins, especially from two of the chamber's youngest delegates who were just sworn in.
"I'm not distracted by the marble walls and columns," said Democrat Jeff Long as he stepped off the Speaker's dais in the House of Delegates.
Del. Long, 26, represents Brandywine and parts of Prince George's and Calvert Counties.
Delegate Vogel, 25, lives in Montgomery County. His district includes Rockville and Gaithersburg. Both say they are eager to get to work after taking the oath of office Wednesday.
"We're the first two Gen Z representatives elected in the state of Maryland," Vogel said.
Both delegates understand the gravity of not only representing their districts, but standing up for young people across Maryland.
"To be here as a voice for my generation, it's very humbling," Long said. "I'm not just carrying myself or my community, but the state as a whole."
"I represent an entire generation of young people who have been unrepresented or under-represented in our government," Vogel said.
Both young Democrats say they are behind the Speaker's agenda and they also have policy priorities of their own.
"Mental health. Especially mental health in schools. We have a crisis right now," said Vogel. “We’re going to make sure schools are getting the resources they need in order to address the shortage of mental health providers here in our state."
He also said he wants to see the state take action on abortion rights, gun violence and climate change.
"Going to codify abortion into the Constitution, fill vacancies in our state government," said Long. "Really do our best to uplift every Maryland family with paid family medical leave. It’s a great agenda."
Long also wants to focus on small business and infrastructure issues.
"I want to help dignify small businesses and help rural Maryland," he said. "We have a very vast transportation issue right now. Our infrastructure system is broken."
In the town that spends the taxpayers' money, both delegates know that talk is cheap in Annapolis and acknowledge now is the time to roll up their sleeves.
"To be honest with you, I'm ready to get past the pomp and circumstance and get to work," Vogel said. “In a contrast with what we’re seeing in Washington, DC, which is marked by disfunction and division, here in Maryland we’re going to be defined by our capacity to deliver for the families of our state. To get things done. We function in a very bipartisan way. We bring people together. We form consensus to get things done and that’s exactly what we’re going to do this session.”
Among the issues Maryland state legislators will debate this session are abortion rights, gun legislation and the implementation of recreational marijuana which was recently approved by voters.