You have the power to shape the decisions being made at the Capitol. One valuable way to harness that power is testifying in person. In-person testimonies can sway senator votes and impact media coverage on important issues that will impact Nebraskans’ lives.
There’s so much is at stake. Make a plan to head to the Capitol, meet the Capitol cat, and advocate for your rights. Here are some helpful tips for how to testify.
Make a Plan for What to Say
Your testimony should be 2-5 minutes long—we recommend 3. Here’s a general outline of how your testimony can flow. Remember that you’re speaking from a place of expertise-your own experience! It’s most important for testifiers to share their own words.
- Introduce yourself and your position on the bill.
- SUPPORT: “Good afternoon Chairperson Elrond and members of the Elf and Human Services Committee, my name is Frodo Baggins (F R O D O B A G G I N S) and I am here to speak in support of LB 123.”
- OPPOSE: “Good afternoon Chairperson Elrond and members of the Elf and Human Services Committee, my name is Frodo Baggins (F R O D O B A G G I N S) and I am here to speak in opposition to LB 123.”
- Say why you support or oppose the bill. This is where you should share your story or specific experience and the reasons you have for supporting or opposing the legislation.
- SUPPORT: “I support LB 123 because it will allow more hobbits to enjoy all of their rights and live healthier, happier lives in the Shire. My experience destroying the One Ring was harrowing, but it left me in a position to better advocate for hobbits like me.”
- OPPOSE: “I oppose LB 123 because it takes away the rights of hobbits like me. If LB 123 had been law when I went to destroy the One Ring, my experience would have been even more harrowing.”
Remember-legislators want to hear multiple perspectives and experiences. Make sure to share your unique voice and story!
- Finish your testimony by thanking the committee and asking them again to support or oppose the bill.
- SUPPORT: “Thank you for your time, and I urge you to vote LB 123 on to the floor of the Legislature.”
- OPPOSE: “Thank you for your time, and I urge you to oppose LB 123 and keep it off the floor of the Legislature.”
Before You Head to the Capitol, Print Copies of Your Testimony
Bring at least 1 copy for every committee member, 1 for the clerk, and 1 for the legal counsel to the hearing (the Nebraska Legislature’s website recommends up to 15 copies, to be safe). If you submit your testimony ahead of time, be sure to indicate that you want your testimony to be included in the record.
Get Ready to Testify
- On the day of your testimony, head to the Capitol and give yourself plenty of time to park (it can be a challenge).
- All afternoon hearings begin at 1:30 p.m. Arrive 1-1:15 p.m. for controversial or important hearings to find a seat.
- Look for the hearing agenda posted outside the room to make sure you are in the correct room and to know the order in which bills will be heard.
- Silence your cell phone, and remember you might be on camera (don’t pick your nose!).
- If you are not testifying, some committees have a sign in sheet to indicate which stance you’re taking on a bill.
- If you are testifying, grab a green testifier sheet as you enter and fill out your name, stance, the bill #, and the organization/company/entity you represent (if applicable).
- For each bill hearing, the committee hears supporters, opponents, and then neutral testimony.
- Hand the cover sheet and copies of your testimony to the page.
- Wait until you are seated before you start speaking. The microphones are powerful, but no need to rush and have part of your testimony get cut off for the transcribers.
- Clearly state and spell your first and last name when you begin.
- Depending on the committee, you will have 2-5 minutes to speak. Expect to speak for only 3 minutes, and be prepared to shorten your testimony (the chair may announce a cut time of 2 minutes per testifier). Committees use a light system to keep time: 0-3 minutes = green, 3-4 minutes = yellow, and at 5 minutes = red, indicating your time is up.
- After you finish or your time is up, committee members will have a chance to ask you questions. This is not common. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you don’t have to answer it, but don’t say, “I don’t know.” Instead, say something like, “I don’t have that information with me, but I’m happy to get it to you later,” or, “I’m not the best person to answer that question, but I believe one of the individuals testifying after me might be able to.”
Things to Keep in Mind
Taken directly from the Nebraska Legislature’s site for tips on testifying. Find more tips there.
- Be aware that sometimes the sponsor of a bill will offer amendments when they present the bill to the committee. These proposed amendments may change the way you feel about the bill and, thus, affect your testimony.
- Addressing committee members or witnesses from the audience, public demonstrations, and applause are prohibited.
- You should not be offended if senators come and go during a hearing. They have other commitments, including the presentation of bills in other committees that are meeting simultaneously.
- If auxiliary aids or reasonable accommodations are needed for you to attend a hearing, please call the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature, (402) 471-2271, or if you have a hearing or speech impairment, please call the Ombudsman's Office at (402) 471-2035 or 800-742-7690. Advance notice of seven days is needed when requesting an interpreter.
Your voice is crucial to ensuring a healthy, equitable future in our state. Thank you for testifying to speak up for your rights, and the rights of all Nebraskans.