What is testimony, and why do we need it?

  • When bills are proposed in the state legislature, there is an opportunity for members of the public to voice our opinions for (in support of) or against (in opposition of) it. 
  • Telling your story to the lawmakers involved is called a testimony.
  • Testimony is a very important part of the lawmaking process because it gives community members a place and time to advocate for policies directly to representatives. 

Senators and Representatives should hear how laws directly impact their voters and other factors in the community.

Preparing Your Statement

  1. Address the committee chairman and committee members.
  2. State your name, the city/county where you live, and the organization you are representing.
  3. Clearly state whether you support or oppose the bill. This can be done by identifying the bill by its number and author.
  4. Summarize your reasons for your position concisely.
  5. Share a personal story or anecdote that relates to the issue if you have one.
  6. Restate your position clearly.
  7. Thank the committee for their time.
  8. Before or after testifying, be sure to fill out and submit a witness form that will be given to you at the hearing.

Tips for Written Testimony

  • State your name, district/city/county, organizational affiliation (if any), and what piece of legislation you are in favor of or opposed to
  • Describe how the bill will impact your constituency/community 
  • Legislator’s offices tend to filter out letters that are exact replicas, so when using a template, edit to add personal details when possible
  • Send through snail mail, email, or fax to the representatives from your district

Tone and Terminology

It is important to communicate the serious nature of the bill to everyone in the room.

  • Project your voice (if there is no mic or you are on camera through ZOOM)
  • Speak clearly with an even tone and pace
  • Use simple, direct language
  • Make eye contact with the committee (even on camera, refrain from simply reading your statement)

Fielding Questions

Sometimes a committee member may ask a question about your position or story. If you have a good answer, do share!

  • Take a deep breath and consider your response
  • Thank the committee member for their question
  • Answer honestly and concisely

If you do not feel comfortable responding or think you don’t know the answer, just be honest! 

  • Take a deep breath and express that you’re “unsure” or “do not know” the answer to their question
  • If you feel inclined, reframe the conversation with your testimony:  “I am not sure about that, but what I do know is…”
  • If there are others testifying that have spoken to or will speak to the question asked, you may pass the question along: “I’m not 100% sure, but there is an advocate coming up that could speak to that concern more directly.”