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Public committee testimony gives legislators ideas
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
As the heart of Oregon’s legislative process, committees allow legislators to study bills closely and receive supporting and opposing testimony during public hearings. Public testimony can influence the committee’s action. Your testimony also becomes part of the public record and may be used in future research. Giving public testimony before a legislative committee can be an exciting and fulfilling experience if you are prepared.
- Be courteous.
- Take the time to know the members of the committee by visiting their legislative webpages. Review their biographies, new letters or publications, and, if possible, any previous positions taken or statements made on the topic.
Be a reliable source of information
- Although you can work individually with legislators, the best chance of accomplishing your goals is to work with your fellow board members to establish district priorities and advocate for them together. The entire board may not agree completely on every issue, but you will build more credibility and be more effective if you speak with one voice rather than at cross-purposes. Involving others from your district or community also adds to your message’s strength.
- Be factual and on point. Remember to specify how the issue will affect children in the classroom.
- Be prepared to support your view in light of any known oppositions.
- Familiarize yourself with the layout of the building. Maps are available at the information desk and on the legislative website. Agendas are posted outside the meeting room and on the legislative website. Check the agenda to make sure the bill hasn’t been rescheduled. The order of the agenda may change, consider arriving at the beginning of the hearing. Also be sure to allow enough time for traffic and parking.
- Consider attending a committee meeting in person to learn about the process. Videos of past meetings are available on the legislative website.
- When you arrive, print your name legibly on the witness registration sheet for the appropriate bill. Registration order does not indicate the order in which witnesses will be called. Do not sign up if you only wish to watch the meeting.
- You should electronically submit materials you would otherwise distribute to the committee at the meeting, including written testimony, digital presentations, reports, or handouts. Submit materials as early as possible, but no later than noon the business day before the meeting, to allow posting to OLIS system for the members and public to view. The email address is the committee code, followed by “firstname.lastname@example.org”. In the email subject line, identify the bill number and the name of the committee holding the meeting. In the body of the email, include the name of person who is testifying, the meeting date and the topic, if the material is not related to a bill (e.g., for an informational meeting). Do not send materials until you know they are final. If your materials change prior to the meeting, bring paper copies of the correct version to the meeting and tell the members when you begin your testimony that they should refer to the paper version of your materials.
- If materials were not submitted in advance, give your paper copies to committee staff after you are called and before you begin speaking. Both types of testimony are considered public record and are made available on the Internet. Written testimony is not required.
- Materials become official “exhibits” when they are submitted and become part of the “public record,” which means they go in the committee’s official record and can be viewed by anyone who wishes to see them. Please use discretion with your personal information in written testimony.
- Formally address members of the committee by using their title and last name, and be sure to respond to questions through the chair. For example, “Chair Jones and members of the committee …”
Introduce yourself by stating your name, city or county and school district (even if you were previously introduced or called by name).
- Clearly state whether you support or oppose the bill and briefly explain your reason. Do not read written testimony aloud, summarize the main points, and keep it to two minutes.
- Close by thanking the members of the committee and ask for any questions.
- Members recognize that the committee process is not an everyday occurrence for most citizens and do not expect perfection.
- If for some reason you are unable to testify, materials can be submitted as “for the record.”
- Oregon School Boards Association
Revised: December 4, 2019