TIPS FOR WRITING & DELIVERINg TESTIMONY
The most effective method for testimony is to speak in front of the committee during a bill's public hearing, bringing along 20 copies of your written statement. (Note that your written statement can be much longer than what you say before the committee, since that time is generally limited to three minutes). Alternatively, you can submit copies of your comments in writing HERE. Either way, whatever you submit will remain part of the written record for the bill (and be available online).
speak from the heart!
Greet the two committee chairs by name (“Good afternoon Chair X, Chair Y, and Distinguished Members of the Z Committee”).
Give a local or personal example illustrating why you’ve taken a position on a bill. Try to be specific about the benefits/threats to lake values like wildlife habitat, economic/spiritual/recreational resources, beauty, aesthetics, etc.
Close your spoken comments by thanking the committee for the opportunity to address them.
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.
Never overstate or exaggerate; it undermines your credibility.
Telling personal stories and sharing experiences can be more effective than all the data and graphs in the world.
keep it short.
You generally have less than three minutes to get your message across. Limiting your focus to one or two main points for your testimony is best.
how to structure?
Include your name and where you live in the first sentence, as well the position you’re taking (support/oppose/neither for nor against) and the name and number of the bill. If you are part of a group like a Lake Association, Land Trust or Alliance, or you volunteer for a lake group or relevant town committee, be sure to include that in your introduction.
Spoken testimony does not have to match verbatim what you submit in writing.
If you find your testimony repeating points others have made in detail, do your best to edit your spoken comments so they reflect your concern but perhaps without lengthy repeats in explanations. Legislators appreciate efficiency!
submit supporting material.
You are allowed to submit written materials (which can include additional comments, charts, maps or information prepared by you or other experts) to help make your case. Make sure to bring 20 copies for committee members.
Taking notes on the testimony submitted by others can help you track points that need reiteration, further clarification, or rebuttal when you speak. You may address these issues during your oral testimony or through additional written comments submitted after the hearing.
Public hearings can become very emotionally charged. You may hear some things that you strongly oppose, or things that you absolutely agree with. It is important to keep your emotions under control and your statement focused on points that will advance your position. Expressing your frustration about someone else’s testimony cuts into the limited time you have to address your important arguments and make your case.
See below for directions on how to testify in person, in writing, or via Zoom. Telling a personal story about your experience with lake protection will be engaging and compelling to committee members. The committee will get facts and statistics from organizations and agencies. Focus instead on a personal story that connects you to lakes. The same advice applies to written testimony. For tips on preparing testimony, click here.
You can also submit written testimony to the committee easily and quickly. You’ll need to know the committee where the bill is being heard, as well as the date and time of the scheduled hearing. You can upload a document or type your testimony in directly. Testimony does not have to be lengthy or overly detailed. For tips on writing testimony, click here.
• To submit written testimony: Visit www.legislature.maine.gov, and click on the “Testimony Submission” button (bottom, right). At the next screen select the committee where the bill is heard, then the date and time. Check the box for the bill you want to address. Upload your document (Word or PDF). You can also type text directly into the submission box. Below that, add your full name, town or organization in Maine (either full time or part time/seasonal residence), email and phone.
• To speak at the public hearing in-person: Plan to arrive at the committee room at the time of or a little before the scheduled hearing. Note that if there are other hearings earlier in the day, the schedule may be significantly delayed. Plan to be patient! Bring a book or some knitting to pass the time while you wait. Plan to bring 20 copies of written testimony or supplemental materials for committee members. Note that in-person testimony is typically limited to three minutes. People speaking at public hearings have been asked to not submit electronic testimony via the website. There may be a sign up sheet if the room is crowded. Please not for either Zoom or in-person testimony you often are limited to three minutes. While testifying can seem overwhelming, we can assure you that legislators are friendly and the atmosphere in the committee rooms is congenial and welcoming. Legislators listen to a lot of lobbyists, but they really like to hear from “regular” people who are passionate about a bill.
• To speak at the public hearing via Zoom: Follow the directions above but check the box beside “I would like to testify electronically over Zoom.” You do not need to upload any written testimony, but note that if you do you will need to upload it after you check that box. You’ll see an additional box to indicate that you support, oppose or are neutral on the bill. Uploading written testimony at this time is always a good idea so that legislators have a written record of the topics you are going to cover when you speak. Note that what you submit and what you say do not have to be the same, especially since you will likely be given a three-minute limit to speak and you may want to submit more information in writing. You will receive an invitation and Zoom link from the committee clerk.
Any questions? Email Susan Gallo at email@example.com FMI.
Persons with special needs wishing to participate in a Legislative hearing who require accommodations should notify the Legislative Information Office as soon as possible: 207-287-1692, FAX 207-287-1580, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for speaking up for Maine's lakes!
Committee meetings may be heard at www.mainelegislature.org and click the audio link in the top right corner.