Suggestions for Testifying at a Public Hearing
Logistics: Plan to arrive 15 minutes early. It is best to park in the brick garage at the corner of Capitol and Sewell Streets where duration is unlimited and you won’t be ticketed if you have to stay longer than two hours.
When you reach the Hearing Room: Check in with the Clerk of the Committee. Ask where to sign in, and inquire if he or she wants your testimony right away or prefers that you hold it until your turn to speak.
Written Testimony is Best. If you can, bring 20 copies of your statement with you. The Clerk of the Committee will take them from you and distribute one to each member of the Committee. They may not remember your spoken words, but when the Committee goes into Work Session, your testimony will then be part of each legislator’s information packet. If you cannot produce the written piece in time - Oral testimony is OK, too!
Whether your testimony is written or spoken, try to follow these guidelines:
- Greet the Chairmen by name. (Legislative Hearings convene before joint House and Senate Committees; so there will be a Senate Chairman and a House of Representatives Chairman of each Committee)
- Also Greet the” “Distinguished Members” of the particular Committee
- Tell who you are, where you live, and how long you have lived there. Identify your interest in Maine’s Lakes. If you are part of a group like a Lake Association, Alliance, or work as a Volunteer Lake Monitor, or serve on a relevant town committee, etc., be sure to say so
- Identify the bill by number and title and state whether you support or oppose it.
- Give 1,2, or 3 reasons why you are testifying in favor or against.
- If you can, give a local example showing how this bill would affect your lake and your community. (Try to be specific: choose among such goods as wildlife habitat, economic/spiritual/recreational resource, beauty, value as a water source if appropriate, etc.)
- Keep your testimony to two minutes if you can. Avoid repeating what preceding speakers have said. Do not exceed 5 minutes
- Never overstate or exaggerate; it undermines credibility.
- The legislators may have questions for you when you finish. Answer them forthrightly. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.
- Close by thanking them for the opportunity to address them.