Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Maryland lawmakers host annual party for members and staff after 2017 legislative session comes to a close


Story Highlights:
  • Maryland legislature hosts annual party to say thanks to lawmakers and staff.
  • Security plays critical role, especially after 2014 fight in House of Delegates building.
  • Graphic design team provides original and creative yearly ticket design.





Maryland's legislative session ended at midnight on Monday, April 10. After a long day of debating and voting on last-minute bills, lawmakers and their staff relaxed and let loose at the legislature's annual end of session party. 

Each year, the Maryland legislature throws its traditional Sine Die party. Sine Die, which means 'adjournment' in Latin, marks the required end of the legislative session. The party shows appreciation to members and their staff for their hard work throughout the intense and grueling 90-day legislative session. 

Each year, the Maryland legislature throws its traditional Sine Die party. Sine Die, which means 'adjournment' in Latin, marks the required end of the legislative session. The party shows appreciation to members and their staff for their hard work throughout the intense and grueling 90-day legislative session.

Valerie Kwiatkowski, Assistant to Maryland's Speaker of the House, says the party holds special meaning because it allows legislators from both parties to come together. She explains, "It's meaningful because at the end of the day, after getting all the work done, even if they might have disagreed with some things, they can still come together at the end and part as friends."

But Kwiatkowski also emphasizes that the party isn't just for legislators. "A lot of people recognize the members, but we recognize the staff because we know how hard they worked," she says.

Security on the day of the event is critical. Matt Stoller, Assistant House Administrator, helps manage the event and works with Maryland Capitol Police to ensure safety. He explains, "Throughout the day, Capitol Police has a big presence in the building."

In 2014, during Stoller's first year assisting with the party, a legislative aide made headlines for getting into a bloody fist fight with his brother in the House of Delegates office building on the last day of the session. The aide and his brother had been drinking that day.

In response to the incident, there was been an increase in police presence at the event. Stoller explains that every hour or so on the final day, "Three or four officers walk through to make sure there's nothing crazy going on."

Police focus on securing entryways to stop people from sneaking in, and also making sure that guests are drinking responsibly. In compliance with State law, bartenders at the event are asked to check ID to prevent underage drinking, especially given that underage interns are encouraged to attend the party.

The exclusive event is restricted to members and staff only. Lobbyists and press are denied access to the party. Event tickets and State-issued ID badges are required to enter.

The party planning team, made up of legislative staffers, spends considerable time preparing for the party. The process involves collecting money from member offices to pay for the party, working with graphic designers on ticket design, distributing tickets to legislative offices, and working with vendors to ensure the event goes as planned.

Department of Legislative Services graphic designer Raymond Marte designed the tickets this year. He says that the tickets are designed and printed with security features that make them difficult to reproduce.

Each year, Marte and a team of three other graphic designers create several different ticket designs for party planners to choose from. Then, committee staff selects the design that they like the best.

Staffer Carletta Bingham assists with all phases of the party planning and execution. For Bingham, the most difficult part of planning the party is selecting a ticket design. She states, "The design of the tickets...that's a challenge. It depends on the feel of the session as to what the tone would be for the actual tickets."

This year, an image of the State dome with rainbow-colored confetti was chosen. According to Victoria Clark, a staffer who works alongside Bingham, "Its confetti speaks to where we are at this stage."


And speaking of confetti, each year at the stroke of midnight, confetti is thrown in the Senate and House chambers to celebrate the end of the session. Maryland high school seniors that serve as pages drop the confetti from the balconies above the Speaker of the House and Senate President.

The confetti is made of recycled paper scraps from the legislature's print shop. According to printing operator Jay Spry, Jr., the print shop used to throw recycled paper dots but was asked to stop because they clumped together and posed an injury risk to members and those standing on the House and Senate floors.


Each year, the party featured a DJ, dance floor, cash bar, and full breakfast buffet. Breakfast food is the longstanding tradition because the party takes place after midnight, and also because it’s cost-effective.

While the event was held in the Maryland House of Delegates this year, there are plans to potentially host it in the Senate office building next year.