Advocacy Toolkit: Pandemic Edition
The pandemic shouldn’t stop us from making our voices heard on issues that matter to members of the Alliance, and the people we serve.
This toolkit has been updated to ensure success.
A legislative public hearing is a step in the process of a bill becoming a law. Hearings are held by legislative committees and present an opportunity for Maine Senators and Representatives to listen to bipartisan testimony about an issue.
Our Goal at a Public Hearing:
To persuade the legislative committee to vote along with the Alliance in the way that will make the best impact.
To present our message to the general public. Public hearings are often covered in the media.
How do I Participate in a Public Hearing in 2021?
Step 1: Follow your Bill
The legislature will consider roughly 1,800 bills this session, and some will be considered next year.
Click here for our tracking report.
- To look up the status of a bill once it has been printed click here
- To follow the schedule of the legislature and public hearings click here
- To receive automated emails from committees with information about registering for public hearings email the committee clerk listed here
The Alliance will send regular Action Alert emails and share information about bills that are important to our membership.
Step 2: Register as a Participant in a Public Hearing
To sign up to provide testimony click here
- You will be prompted to select “Confirmation Hearing” or “Public Hearing” – select Public Hearing
- You will be prompted to “Choose a committee” – Choose the appropriate committee.
- You will be prompted to “Choose date” – Choose the appropriate date and time for your bill.
- You will be prompted to “Choose a bill” – Choose the bill.
- Scroll down and check the box next to “I would like to present my testimony live”
- Once you check the box you will be prompted to select a box determining whether you are for, against or neither for nor against the proposed legislation. The system will default to neither for nor against.
- You may choose to upload written testimony by clicking “Choose File.” You can also copy/paste your testimony into the provided box where it says “… and/or enter testimony below.” Any text in this box or attachment will be posted online.
- Fill out the required contact information fields and check the “I’m not a robot box.”
After you click “Submit/Register” the system will then email you (at the email address you provided with your contact information) a link to zoom for the day of the hearing. You will use this link to access the Public Hearing and provide live testimony.
Step 3: Join us at a Public Hearing!
When it’s time, we’ll email you an Action Alert to let you know about important upcoming Public Hearings. People who are directly affected by the bill are the most important voices legislators can hear from. Family members, advocates and allies should all weigh in to help define the problem and solutions needed.
Let us know that you want to share your story. We can help.
Step 4: Prepare for the Hearing:
Learn about the committee that will hear your testimony. Knowing which legislators, what districts they represent and why they should care about the policy is helpful to know ahead of time. Making a meaningful connection with them in your testimony will further support your cause.
Step 5: Testify at the Hearing
Public hearings are held via Zoom.
On the day of the hearing, you will join the webinar as an attendee in the “waiting room”(with your camera and microphone off). When it is time to deliver your testimony, you will be “promoted” by the staff running the Zoom to a panelist. You will see yourself then. Turn on your camera and microphone to deliver your testimony.
- The Committee Chairs will start the hearing by introducing the Committee. Legislators who sponsor the bill testify first. Then the public will be invited to testify.
- There is no limit on the length of written testimony that you submit but you will have just 3 minutes to speak. Testimony should be less than two pages for speaking. You don’t need to read exactly what you submitting in writing. A chair of the committee will watch the time and approaching 3 minutes ask you to wrap up. It is helpful to practice reading your testimony out loud beforehand.
- Written testimony is posted wqhen you register through the testimony portal, and legislators will easily follow along if you have submitted testimony at least half an hour prior to the hearing.
- When it’s your turn to speak, you will be brought into the zoom panel – you may see the zoom panel dissapear momentarily and find yourself in limbo between the waiting room and the panel – but wait and you will be connected.
- Make sure to unmute yourself and turn on your video! Try to testify in a spot in your home with reliable internet connection, and as little background noise and visual distraction as possible. We want the Committee to focus on your words! Feel free to blur your background and preserve your privacy.
To greet the committee introduce yourself like this: “Senator ______, Representative _______, and honorable members of the Joint Standing Committee on ______________: my name is _____, I live in (town or city) _____ and I am here today to testify (in support of/against/neither for nor against) LD ________.”
Then you share your testimony. After you are finished, you can offer to answer questions. Committee members can ask clarifying questions but it is always OK to say you don’t know the answer. You can offer to get the committee the information after the hearing.
Step 6: Submit Written Testimony
Whether you attend the hearing or not, you can submit testimony through the online portal found on the Maine Legislature’s website. When submitted this way, it is automatically distributed to members of the committee via email. The online submission form can be found here
To Structure Your Written Testimony:
- Introduction: “Senator Claxton, Representative Meyer, and honorable members of the Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services: my name is _____, I am a resident of _____ and I am here today to testify in favor of _________.”
- Key messages: Pick one or two — just one sentence on each.
- Story: Tell a story from your life that illustrates your point.
- Closing: Reinforce your key message (again, just a sentence) and thank the committee.
Step 7: Follow Up
After the hearing send a thank you email to committee members. We should be creative in our approach to educate legislators about our beliefs.
The best way to get your point across is to share your story. Policy and legal “experts” weigh in. We need you to show the human element and you can leave the facts to them.
You make a difference! We have heard from many legislators over the years that when regular people testify it has a huge impact on legislation. The story you are sharing is powerful and can support policies that help thousands of Mainers.