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How to Testify Before a Legislative Committee

Some quick tips on preparing your testimony for a public hearing.

Many of our neighbors will be in attendance at the Capitol today ready to testify either for or against HB 636. While I could not locate anything specific to Georgia for the purposes of preparing a primer for how to testify before a legislative committee, I thought these tips gleaned from the Oregon Legislature would suffice.

Many of our neighbors are involved civic leaders in our community. However, for those making the House Governmental Affairs Committee hearing their public testimony debut, the below tips may be helpful. Feel free to add on to this list and share with others.

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  • Know Your Audience
    The members of the committee are "citizen legislators." They care that you have taken time out of your day to come and testify before them.
    • Be respectful.
    • Don't accuse committee members of causing your particular problem.
    • Resist the temptation to scold, put down, or insult the decision makers or other witnesses. This tactic will likely alienate them from your cause.
  • Know the Issue
    Support your personal opinions with as many facts as possible. Be knowledgeable of the "other side of the story." You may be asked to discuss the differences. Draw from your own knowledge and experience.
  • Be Familiar with the Committee Process
    • Know the location of the building, the meeting room, and the meeting time.
    • If possible, attend a committee meeting before you testify to become familiar with the process and room layout.
    • When you arrive at the meeting, sign the witness registration sheet. Witnesses are not necessarily called in chronological order.
  • Presenting Your Written Testimony
  1. When you are called to testify, give copies of your testimony to committee staff before you begin your presentation. The number of copies requested is printed on the bottom of the committee meeting agenda.
  2. Begin your presentation by addressing the chairperson first, then members of the committee. "Chair___, members of the committee . . ."
  3. For the record, state your name, address, and the organization or group you represent.
  4. State whether you support or oppose the legislative measure being heard and briefly explain. Do not read your testimony to the committee word for word. Prepare an outline.
  5. Keep in mind you may have a ten minute version of your testimony--be prepared to summarize it in one minute--that may be all the time you are allowed!
  6. Thank the committee members and offer to answer any questions. "Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions."
  7. When a member asks you a question respond: "Chair ______ , Senator/Representative (state name), the answer to your question is . . ."
  8. Relax! The members understand that this can be an intimidating experience--they don't expect a perfect presentation.

Source: Oregon State Legislature

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