Members of the general public are encouraged to testify before legislative committees. Here are suggestions to ensure testifying goes well:
- Contact the committee’s administrator or legislative assistant beforehand.Contact the committee’s administrator or legislative assistant, generally a day in advance, to get on the agenda.
- Arrive early. Come early to get acclimated and identify legislators.
- Introduce yourself. When speaking to the committee, clearly identify yourself and the organization you represent, if any. Then clearly state your position on the bill before the committee.
- Don’t be intimidated.This is a citizen Legislature. Representatives are your friends and neighbors and they want to hear what you have to say. Just state your case clearly and in simple terms as you would to anyone.
- Speak through the committee chair.All questions and answers during committee hearings are routed through the committee chair. Address the chair as “Madame Chair” or “Mr. Chair.”
- Be brief.Make your key points as concisely as possible. Provide specific information about why your position is in the state’s best interest.
- Be prepared to answer questions.The best way to make your case is to provide straightforward answers to legislators’ questions. If you don’t know the answer, say so. Organizations such as JRLC can help get the information to a legislator following the hearing.
- Bring written summaries.You may want to have copies of a concise summary of your key points to hand out to legislators, staff and the news media. Some legislators say a clearly written letter, or issue sheet, is the most effective way of gaining support.
- Display mutual respect.Your views are important and you have a right to be treated courteously by all members and staff. Likewise, legislators are more apt to respond to polite treatment than to browbeating. There are many sides to every issue and each one has merit. Understand the difficult position legislators have in reaching their decisions.
If you need accommodations such as sign language interpreters or large print materials, call (651) 296-4860 as far in advance as possible.
House Public Information Services has also created a series of short videos about testifying before a committee at: http://bit.ly/1JHMTv7.