How to Testify to a Committee
Giving public testimony before a legislative committee can be an exciting and fulfilling experience.
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Committees, as the heart of Oregon’s legislative process, allow legislators to study bills closely and hear testimony during public hearings in support of or in opposition to the bills.
Public testimony before a committee may influence the committee’s action. Your testimony also becomes part of the public record and may be used in future research.
You can better prepare and succeed in giving testimony by following the suggestions below.
Know Your Audience
- Committee members are “citizen legislators,” and they want to hear your comments.
- Be respectful of committee members as well as other people who come to testify.
- Do not scold or insult members or other witnesses, or accuse members of causing your issue. This may alienate members from your cause.
Know the Issue
- Draw from your own knowledge and experience.
- Support personal opinions with as many facts as possible.
- Be knowledgeable of the "other side of the story." You may be asked to discuss how and why your opinion differs from others.
Be Familiar with the Committee Process
- Know the location of the building and meeting room, and be sure of the meeting time.
- Agendas are posted outside the meeting room. Check the agenda to make sure the bill you are interested in has not been removed or rescheduled. Bills are not always heard in the order in which they appear on the agenda.
- If possible, attend a committee meeting before you testify to learn about the process. You can also watch videos of past meetings on OLIS.
- When you arrive at the public hearing, print your name legibly on the witness registration sheet for the appropriate bill. Witnesses may be called out of order. Do not sign up if you only wish to watch the meeting.
- Visit the legislative website (OLIS) at oregonlegislature.gov to learn more about committees.
Presenting Your Written Testimony
- Email your written testimony and any materials (reports, handouts, presentations) at least 24 hours in advance so it can be posted electronically to OLIS for the members and public to view. However, written testimony is not required.
- If you did not submit materials in advance, give your paper copies to committee staff—not directly to the members—after you are called and before you begin speaking.
- Address members formally (e.g., Senator Jones, Representative Brown). Respond to questions through the chair (e.g., ‘Chair Jones and members of the committee…’).
- State your name, city or county, and any other affiliation for the record, even if you’ve already been introduced or called upon by name.
- Clearly state whether you support or oppose the bill and briefly explain your reason.
- If you submitted written testimony, do not read it word-for-word to members. Make an outline and summarize the main points of the testimony.
- Keep in mind that many people testifying or a busy agenda may require you to summarize your testimony in two minutes.
- When finished, thank the members and offer to answer any questions.
- Members realize that the process may be intimidating; they do not expect perfect presentations.
- Testifying as a group: Select a few people to cover different topics so the testimony is not repetitive. Address the problem, possible solutions, and your group’s solution. Check with committee staff to determine how much time will be allotted for testimony on the bill.
- Verbal testimony and written materials are public records available to the public on the Internet. Use discretion on what personal information to include.
- If you require special accommodation to testify before a committee, contact committee staff 24 hours before the meeting. Contact staff 72 hours in advance if a sign language interpreter is needed.
Making a Difference - A Citizen's Guide on How to Testify
"Making a Difference - A Citizen's Guide on How to Testify" covers protocols and procedures of testifying before a Legislative Committee and offers important online resources.