Testify before a Committee

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How to Testify Before A Government Committee

You have the right…

You have the right, as do all citizens, to testify before the Ohio General Assembly on any bill or resolution.

Legislative committees meet in a variety of rooms in the Statehouse and Senate Annex in Columbus. Sometimes committee meeting are also held around the state. You can come into a committee meeting at any time, even if the door is closed or a hearing is in progress.

In order to be as effective as possible in your testimony, it’s important to follow a few rules.

Before the Hearing, You Should…

  • Find out when and where your bill will be heard. Be on time for the hearing. Usually, once a hearing is closed on a particular bill for that day, no further testimony is heard.
  • Plan your testimony. It is not necessary, but it is helpful, to have written copies of your comments available.
  • See if other persons will be testifying on your bill. If so, try to coordinate your testimony before the hearing to avoid duplication.

At the Hearing You Should…

  • Be present at the start of the hearing. All persons present usually get a chance to speak, but sometimes, because of large turnouts, it is not possible to give everyone a chance to speak. If you do not get a chance to testify, your presence may be acknowledged and you might be asked if you favor or oppose the bill. And, you can always submit written testimony.
  • Fill out a witness form at the front of the room (usually available from the Committee Chairman’s staff person). Give the bill number, whether you favor or oppose the bill, your name.
  • Wait your turn. The chairman announces the beginning of the hearing on a particular bill. The chairman will call to the podium (one-by-one) the names of those signed up to testify.
  • Plan on following the custom of beginning your remarks by addressing the chairman and committee members, giving your name, company and/or City, and why you are there. For example: “Mr. or Madam Chairman, and members of the committee, my name is John Q. Public from Edwinton. I’m in favor of this bill because, etc.”
  • Be brief. Do not repeat what others have said. Try to be conversational. Avoid being too technical. Avoid using acronyms or technical references unless you first explain what they mean.
  • Do not be nervous, or worried about doing something wrong. There are no “rights and wrongs” about testifying. Legislators work for you they want to hear what you have to say.
  • Expect some questions and comments from committee members. These questions are not designed to embarrass you, but merely to provide additional information.
  • When responding to the question begin by addressing the Chairman and then the legislator who asked the question. For example, Representative Smith asks a question. The response to that question would be “Mr/Madam Chairman (or Chairman Jones), Representative Smith, the answer to your questions is…..”

After the Hearing…

  • Some committees vote right after a hearing. Others wait until the end of the meeting. Some postpone voting until another meeting.
  • All committee action is public, so you can stay to listen to committee debate and its vote, even though the public comment portion of the hearing is over.

You have a right to testify on any bill before a legislative committee. Legislators want to hear what you have to say.

OMA’s Advocacy Managers can give you additional assistance and direction in testifying before a committee. Contact them for more information.