The protocol of hearings varies from state to state, but in general, you have two choices when you attend a hearingyou can opt solely to submit your stance on paper, or you can also ask to testify.
Arrive at the hearing at least ten minutes early. Please dress appropriatelyjeans and T-shirts are frowned upon, especially slogan T-shirts. When you enter the room, you should see senate/house/assembly staff who can help you fill out a position form, called a “slip.” To “slip” a bill is to fill out this form; one often will hear lobbyists use this language: “I slipped the bill, but I didn’t testify.” The slip is used to officially record your position on the bill (support, oppose or record of appearance only) and such basic information as your name and address. If you are acting on behalf of any affiliation or organization, you should indicate how many members you represent. The slip may also ask you if you want to submit oral or written testimony. At beginning of the hearing, the information gathered from the slips will be read into the record (the number of people and organizations that support the bill, those against it, etc.). At this point, it is perfectly fine to leave if you do not want to testifythere is now a record of your appearance.
If you have elected to testify, it is vital that you are prepared with facts and statistics to back up your position. However, that doesn’t mean that your testimony must be scientific and drylegislators appreciate personal stories of how bills will impact people, so feel free to share a relevant anecdote. When testifying, always be courteous and polite. If you must disagree with someone, do so with respect, and do not be argumentative or threatening.
Attending a public hearing is a great example of how one person can make a difference in the legislative process. Unlike an official vote, please note that the side with the majority present at a hearing is not guaranteed victory, but a large turnout can be a persuasive influence on legislators.