Why should you testify?
- Delivering public testimony is a powerful form of advocacy that allows you to speak directly to a governing body on a specific topic or bill, and get your message to a wider audience.
- Few things are more impactful than telling your story in person to your elected officials.
Testifying at a hearing: Top tips
- If you’re testifying in person, write your testimony beforehand. It’s helpful to bring about 20 paper copies of your testimony to give to the committee clerk, who will distribute them to the committee members.
- Practice your testimony to help you get comfortable sharing it.
- Be sure to share your experience with the issue. Does it relate to your job, family, or personal life? Will it impact you or someone you know?
- When you’re done testifying, remain at the podium in case committee members want to ask questions.
- Be respectful. Please direct your comments to the committee, not to the audience, and give your courteous attention to other speakers, regardless of their views. Silence cell phones and other electronic devices. Don’t applaud or indicate pleasure or displeasure with anyone’s remarks. Only members of the committee may ask questions of persons who testify.
- Remember, you’re providing a valuable perspective, and it’s helpful to lawmakers to hear your viewpoint!
How to craft your testimony
- Introduce yourself and your purpose for speaking.
- Let your elected officials know who you are and the name of the organization you represent (if applicable).
- Make sure to state whether you support or oppose the issue in question – or would like to offer suggestions to improve it.
- Example: Dear Senator Carney, Representative Moonen, and Esteemed Members of the Judiciary Committee, my name is Maureen Drouin and on behalf of Maine Conservation Alliance, a nonproﬁt organization with over 13,000 members and supporters committed to protecting our environment, democracy, and climate future, I’m testifying in support of LD 1970, “An Act to Enact the Maine Indian Child Welfare Act.”
- Tell your story. This is an opportunity to be personal and specific about your concerns. You do not have to share something deeply personal for it to be meaningful. Share why you are passionate about the issue and why you are going to hold the representatives accountable to take action.
- Example: As an environmental organization, Maine Conservation Alliance recognizes the historical and ongoing role of the Wabanaki Nations in caring for the land, water, and wildlife that are so important to our health, economy, and way of life.
- End with a strong statement asking the committee to take action. The most effective “asks” are ones that require a simple action, like voting “yes” or “no” on a bill. Tailor your ask to what makes the most sense for your cause.
- Example: Please help protect Wabanaki children, families, and culture if the Supreme Court rules to weaken or overturn essential ICWA protections. Please vote unanimously ‘Ought to Pass’ on LD 1970 and be part of the movement towards a more just and equitable future for Maine.
- Introduce yourself and your purpose for speaking.
Hello, my name is Meghan Hurley and I am here today as a concerned citizen to testify in support of [piece of legislation or issue name].
[1-2 paragraphs explaining your why and sharing your story]
This issue is urgent and your leadership is a necessary component of protecting our community. Can we count on your support for [piece of legislation or issue name]?
Thank you for your leadership and the opportunity to speak.
Day of the hearing: How to testify
- Check the hearing schedule on the Maine Legislature website. Be sure to block out plenty of time for the hearing – if there are a lot of people testifying, it can take multiple hours to get to your turn.
- If you are testifying in person, remember to bring 20 copies of your written testimony with you. You do not need to submit your testimony online.
- You can opt to testify over zoom or submit a written copy of your testimony online. To do that, follow the instructions on this page. You’ll need to know the name of the committee hearing the bill, which you can find by searching the LD number here.
- If you have any difficulty getting to the hearing location or signing up online to testify virtually, please reach out to our staff.
The hearing: What to expect
- The presiding committee chair will call the public hearing to order and announce the bill to be heard.
- The legislator who sponsored the bill will introduce the bill, after which, the presiding chair will ask if any other cosponsors wish to testify. Once sponsors and cosponsors have had the opportunity to speak, public testimony is invited.
- Generally, the public may present testimony in one of three categories in the following order: those favoring the bill, those against the bill, and those neither for nor against the bill but who wish to offer information about the bill.
- The committee may be hearing several bills during a public hearing. Generally the bills are heard in the order in which they are advertised. However, the schedule is subject to change and the length of the hearing on most bills is difficult to predict.
- Many hearings last throughout the day, and many legislators are members of more than one committee. Legislators may need to leave and re-enter the room if they are scheduled to be at a public hearing or work session in another committee. However, they will receive any written information, which is a good reason to provide written testimony.