How do I testify in person at a public hearing?
A public hearing is a part of the legislative process in which elected officials invite members of the public to give input on why they should or shouldn’t vote for a bill. You don’t have to have any special credentials to testify, nor do you need to be some kind of subject matter expert. In this article, we’ll walk you through the process for testifying at a public hearing.
If you have a particular issue you care about, but you aren’t sure what bills are being considered that relate to this issue, you can get started by perusing the topics on our website. Drill down to identify specific issues and learn more about the policy landscape. You can also see a list of all the bills up for debate this year in the Legislature on our bills page. If you need more help or ideas, read our tutorial on finding bills that interest you.
Once you’ve identified the bill you wish to testify about, you can find the latest public hearing date and location on the bill page on the Citizens Count website. "SH" stands for "State House," the golden-domed building in Concord. "LOB" stands for "Legislative Office Building," a stone building just behind the State House.
You can also find public hearing locations on the official "bill docket." That is a page on the Legislature’s website that allows you to track the bill as it makes its way through committees. Learn more about how to track a piece of legislation on the Legislature’s website.
The bill docket will show any upcoming public hearings along with their date, time, and location. If there is an upcoming public hearing, it will include a line that says something like, "Public Hearing: 01/12/2022 01:30 pm LOB 206-208." That means there is a public hearing January 12 at 1:30pm in the Legislative Office Building, room number 206-208. If there’s nothing listed yet, try checking back occasionally. Hearing dates are often updated on Fridays.
Many bills will have two public hearings at which you can testify—one in the House, another in the Senate.
Now that you’ve selected a bill and found out when the hearing will be, it’s time to prepare. You have a few options when it comes to testifying about a bill in New Hampshire. You can get up in front of the bill committee and testify in person. You can also submit written testimony which will be provided to the legislators on the committee as they consider the bill. Either way, it’s a good idea to gather your thoughts about the bill on paper in a succinct, compelling statement. If the issue personally impacts you, it can be powerful to share your personal experience with the legislators.
Although it is not required, you can prepare written copies of your testimony to be given to committee members. Bring 21 copies for a House hearing and 10 copies for a Senate hearing.
Now it’s time to make your way to the State House and Legislative Office Building in Concord. It’s located off of Exit 14, a few blocks west of I-93. Leave plenty of time to find parking. Most hearings take place in the Legislative Office Building on State Street on the first, second, or third floors. Again, check the information on the General Court website to find out where your hearing will take place.
If you are testifying on a very popular issue, such as marijuana legalization, it’s possible the public hearing will go on for a few hours, so keep that in mind when parking. Most bill hearings will be under an hour, however.
Once you make it to the hearing room, you’ll want to sign up to speak. You do this by filling out a “pink card” (literally, a pink notecard) in the House or the sign-up sheet in the Senate. Usually these are located near the entrance of the room. These forms will ask you to identify yourself, whether you’re in favor of or against the bill, and how long you’ll need to speak. You’ll usually get about three to five minutes. Depending how many bills are being discussed in that room on that day, there may be multiple sign-up sheets, so be sure you sign up to testify about the correct bill!
The chair of the committee will open the bill hearing and call your name when it is your turn to speak. You’ll be ushered to a microphone where you can give your testimony. You can choose whether or not you want to take questions from the legislators after you are done presenting.
Once you are done, you can hand any written copies you’ve brought with you to a committee member who will pass them along to the committee clerk.
It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to testify out loud. You can also just sign in and state your position. You can also hand over a written statement without speaking.
If there are many people signed up to speak that day, legislators appreciate if you avoid repeating arguments other people have already made. Instead, say something like, “I agree with many of the people who have spoken before me, but I will not repeat what they have already said.” You should still share any new information or unique perspectives you have.
Once you’ve had your chance to testify, you should periodically check the docket page for your bill on the General Court’s website. This will allow you to see if legislators ended up agreeing with your position on the bill. You should also consider contacting your legislators when it is their turn to vote on the bill. Click here to read our tutorial on how to contact your elected officials.