Legislative Testimony for Beginners
At committee hearings, legislators hear testimony from the public. Testimony is an effective way to tell your story to the legislature, and your elected officials use this testimony to make decisions. Before a committee meetings, they put out agendas of what bills they will be hearing and when. You can find this information on the Ohio House and Ohio Senate websites.
There are specific formalities that you should follow when submitting testimony to a committee. This resource will help you get started:
Preparing Your Testimony
There are two ways to testify: written-only or written & in-person. Either way, write your testimony so that it highlights your main points. Be sure to include what you like or don't like about the bill and include how it might impact you. There are a couple things that you should do when formatting your testimony:
1. In the header of your testimony, you should include your name/your organization's name, the committee you are testifying in, the bill you are testifying on & your position on it, and the date. Here is how it might be set up:
[position of testimony: Proponent, Opponent, or Interested Party] on [name of bill
[Where the bill is being heard]
[Date of Committee]
The Ohio Home and Community-Based Services Coalition
Interested Party Testimony on House Bill 110
Senate Health Committee
May 6, 2021
2. For your first paragraph, you should address the committee chair, vice chair and any ranking members (found on the House/Senate websites when you click on a committee), and thank them.
a. You should include the name of the bill you are testifying on. This will be either "House Bill ___" or "Senate Bill ____." These are often shortened as HB or SB. You can find the bill numbers on the House/Senate websites.
b. You should also put in what your position is on the bill. A proponent position would mean that you agree with the bill, an opponent position would mean that you disagree with the bill, and an interested party position usually means that you like some parts and don’t like some parts.
3. Keep your testimony short and to-the-point. Try to aim for 2 pages or less in writing
4. Your final paragraph should re-thank the committee and provide any contact information.
Here is an example of the final paragraph for testimony the Coalition submitted to the Senate Health Committee on the state's biennial budget, HB 110:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony as an interested party on HB 110. If you have any questions or would like to discuss these issues further, please contact [Name] at [email] or at [phone number].
Here is an example of the first paragraph for testimony the Coalition submitted to the Senate Health Committee on the state's biennial budget, HB 110:
Chairman Huffman, Vice Chair Antani, Ranking Member Antonio, and members of Senate Health Committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide written-only, interested party testimony in consideration of House Bill 110 (HB 110)—the state’s biennial budget.
You can use our Testimony Generator [downloadable Word document] to automatically include some of these formatting requirements. You can also look at our testimony as a Coalition as an example. Both of these documents are available for download below:
Things to Know When Testifying In Person
If you testify in person, it is important to address them at the beginning, then address the Chair every time you answer a question.
If you will be testifying in-person, you likely will have 3-5 minutes (possibly less).
You do not need to read your written testimony word for word. Be prepared to answer questions to the committee.
If someone on the committee asks you a question, you will first address the Chair, then the member that asked the question, then you can answer the question. For example, if Ranking Member Antonio asks a question in the Senate Health committee, you would say, "Chairman Huffman, Ranking Member Antonio, thank you for the question. [your answer]."
If you do not know the answer to the question, ask if you can find out and get the information back to them. Never guess or make something up.
When you go to submit it, you’ll just email it to the chair of the committee and their legislative aides. This information can often be found on the committee's website. To testify, you must submit testimony at least 24 hours prior to a hearing; the earlier the better!
Your email header should include your position, the title of the bill, and the committee you want to testify in.
For example: Ohio HCBS Coalition's Interested Party Testimony on HB 110
Be sure to let them know if you will be submitting written-only testimony or if you will also be testifying in person
For example, you would put “Interested Party Testimony for HB 110” and “Senate Health Committee” for the testimony we submitted on the budget
They usually email back a ‘witness slip’ which is just a page asking for your name & any other relevant information. Regardless of whether you testify in-person or just by written submission, you will need to fill out a witness slip
If you are testifying in-person, this is also the point in time where you should let them know if you need accommodations dues to a disability.
If your Senator or Representative is on the committee in question, you can also call or email and let them know that you'll be going.
That covers the structured pieces of submitting testimony, but everything else is up to you! When you write testimony, it can anywhere from a paragraph or two to several pages.