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  • Gina Scrofano

How To Submit Testimony to NH State Legislators


The public is becoming more and more aware of the pressing matters we face in NH and the legislative process involved in addressing them. These issues, which at times could literally mean the difference between life and death, are essentially in the hands of our state representatives and senators. We often are unaware of exactly when proposed legislation is being discussed, but even when we are aware, we may not know how to get involved, how to get our thoughts to the right person, or simply where to begin. Below are three ways to make your voice heard and how to take those important matters out of the sole hands of our representatives and put them in our own.


NH Legislative Committees

Each bill introduced into NH State Legislature is referred to a House Committee or Senate Committee. It is that committee that holds a hearing and that you will initially submit testimony to. After that hearing, if the bill passes and moves on to a full house or senate vote, then you may submit comments to your specific representatives/senators who you can find here. Straight Twist will always advise you which committee a bill has been referred to when posting articles and action alerts.



First Step At Every Public Hearing - SIGN IN

Directly outside the room or on a table within the room where the hearing is being held, there will be a 'sign-In sheet' (it is often on blue or white paper). Be sure the bill number at the top of the sign-in sheet is correct (committees often leave multiple sign-in sheets on the table), then put your name and town, and check off either the support or oppose column accordingly.



1. VERBAL TESTIMONY

This is the all-mighty form of testimony. When a resident takes time out of their day to come and testify on an issue in person, it shows our representatives that we know our power as constituents and the issue at hand is truly important to us. Verbal testimony can be a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least. However, the more you do it, the more comfortable you become, and it can be very empowering. Verbal testimony becomes permanent record and is also often recorded.

NH State House (Left) / NH Legislative Office Building (Right)


Where To Go

NH public hearings are held at one of two locations, which will be announced beforehand. Senate Committees meet in committee rooms within the State House and House Committees meet in rooms at the Legislative Office Building. Straight Twist will provide room numbers for you when posting articles or alerts regarding hearings. When committees are expecting an exceptionally large amount of citizens to be in attendance, hearings are held at the state house in the Representatives Hall (the large room where House Representatives meet for full house floor votes).


NH State House

107 North Main Street,

Concord, NH 03301


Legislative Office Building (LOB)

33 North State Street (directly behind the State House),

Concord, NH 03301

What To Do

(a) Sign In (see above)

(b) Indicate that you intend to verbally testify on the 'sign-In sheet,' if there is a column on the sheet to do so. If not, fill out a verbal testimony sheet, or a pink verbal testimony card, and hand it to the individual collecting them, or leave it on the table you picked it up off of. (The State House often has a sheet, whereas the Legislative Office Building often has the pink cards.)

(c) Take a seat

(d) When it is your turn to speak, your name will be called.

(e) In Committee Rooms, you may take the seat designated for those giving testimony in front of the committee members.

(f) In the Representatives Hall, you will be called when ‘on deck’ to make your way to a microphone while the person before you is speaking.

(g) Once that person is done, you may approach the mic.

(h) Be prepared!

(i) Prepare your testimony ahead of time; the goal is to be clear and concise. It is helpful to pick a few points (3 max) and stick to them.

(j) Do Not exceed 2 minutes at the Representatives Hall or 3 minutes in a Committee Room. Anything over that and you risk being cut off by the chairman, but more importantly, people begin to glaze over if you speak for too long.

(k) Start off by thanking the committee, "Thank you Chairman/Chairwoman [their last name] and members of the [committee name]"

(l) Introduce yourself, "Hello my name is [your name], I'm a NH resident and I'm here in [support/opposition] of [bill number]"

(m) Be sure to say ‘Thank You’ when your done

(n) Legislators may or may not ask you questions following your testimony. If they do, thank them for their question, then answer honestly and to the best of your ability. Don't be afraid to take a breath and think before you respond. If you don't have the answer, that is okay. It is better to say that you don't know, than answer incorrectly. You may simply say, "Thank you for your question representative/senator, I don't happen to have that information, but I'm more than willing to get back to you on that." (Feel free to reach out to Straight Twist if that does occur regarding a bill that an article has been posted for and if you're seeking the information needed. StraightTwist will provide you with the answer if possible and the email address to follow up with the committee.

(n) Bring copies of the written version of your testimony (one for each committee member), which you may leave on the table when you sign in, or hand to the committee immediately before your verbal testimony when in a Committee Room, or immediately following your testimony when at the Representatives Hall. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.


Bashful? This might help

1. Your testimony matters, but only if you actually give it. So get up and give it.

2. Our legislators represent us. Representing us is what they have sworn to do.

3. Legislators and those who will be at the hearing are people just like you and me. Each person in the room is likely to be just as nervous as you are.

4. Others may not know your perspective or the information you have until you share it with them. Try to pretend your sharing information with a room full of friends (strongly opinionated friends may be more accurate, but friends nonetheless).

5. It's okay to smile

6. It's okay if you stumble on your words; it happens to the greatest speakers on earth. Simply correct yourself and move on, no sweat.

7. When all else fails, do the “picture them in their underwear” thing.



2. WRITTEN TESTIMONY

Not everyone is a public speaker and that is okay. Well-written testimony beats poor verbal testimony any day! Submitting only written testimony is also beneficial when hearings are long lasting and can be just as impactful.


When written testimony is submitted, not only does it remain part of the permanent record for that particular piece of legislation, but it also shows our representatives that we have a strong interest and opinion regarding the issue.


How To Submit Written Testimony

In order for written testimony to officially be kept on record, it must be submitted in person at the time of a public hearing, which will be held at one of the locations listed above.


What To Do

(a) Sign In (see above)

(b) Leave copies of your written testimony (one for each committee member) on the table next to the sign-in sheet or hand it to a staff/committee member if someone is collecting them. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.

(c) You may take a seat to watch the hearing, or you may leave.


What To Write

(a) Basic Info: Date, Name, Address, Support/Oppose, Bill Number, Committee Name

(b) State why you support/oppose the bill

(c) Be Clear and Concise. Again, it is helpful to pick a few points and briefly explain them

(d) 1 page is preferable - 2 pages max

(e) If 2 pages, be sure to include page numbers on your testimony


Example:


3. EMAIL COMMENTS

We all have hectic lives, and schedules we are responsible for following. If you are unable to attend a hearing, all hope is not lost. You may submit a comment to a committee via email, fax or mail. Straight Twist will always advise you of committee email addresses, important comment periods and deadlines when posting an article or action alert. Emailed comments do not become permanent record, however, do make an important impression upon our representatives.


What Do I Write?

Subject Line: (Support/Oppose) (Bill Number)

Address To: Dear (Chairman name) and members of the (Committee Name),

(a) Include that you are a resident of (town), NH

(b) Explain briefly why you support/oppose the bill. You may do so in multiple paragraphs as shown below, or with a few points noted in one simple paragraph. Often times, one simple paragraph is all you need.

(c) Be Clear and Concise. Again, it is helpful to pick a few points and briefly explain them

(d) Provide Name, Address, Phone Number (if comfortable) and Email Address


Example:


One Comment = Huge Impact

On numerous occasions, our representatives have stated something along the lines of, ‘I would consider our residents feedback on this, however, I have not received comments from anyone.' Statements like this from our legislative leaders are tough to hear because we know for certain there are numerous residents in our state that most likely have strong opinions on the legislation they’re discussing. Submission of literally one form of commentary could mean the difference between our representatives passing or killing a proposed law.


So warm up your voices and get those pens or keyboards ready folks, because your voice, whether spoken or written, makes a difference!





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