Simple Guide how to testify in committee meetings of the Ohio House or Senate
In Person Testimony: If attending a hearing you must submit a witness form at least 24 hours before the hearing. Here is a link to a fill-able PDF for the Ohio Senate Education Committee. (link). For the Senate Finance Committee (link). For other committees follow this link to the Ohio League of Women Voter’s Advocacy Page (link) Testimony should not be longer than 5 minutes. Or email or call the chair of the committee you are interested in and have a form sent.
The Witness Form gets submitted to the office that committee’s chair. So, you may have to contact the chair’s office directly. When addressing the Committee you should be specific about who you are addressing, using their titles, and thanking them for the opportunity to be heard.
For May 2021, the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee, the chair is Andrew Brenner and the email contact for his Acting Lead legislative Aide, Aaron Riggins, is email@example.com. The Chair of the Senate Finance Committee is Senator Matt Dolan and the email contact for his legislative aide is Sarah Totedo at Sarah.Totedo@ohiosenate.gov
Written Testimony only: Written testimony should be submitted as an attachment to an email (in some well known format) to the office of the committee’s chair (like above). Make sure to state your name and who you represent (if anyone). For instance, in the body of the statement or in the title if you choose, you could state: My name is Mary Jones. I have grandchildren in the public schools and volunteer for the public school in my neighborhood.
Your testimony should make sure to note what bill you are addressing and your reasons for supporting or opposing its provisions.
Here (link) is an example of written testimony from Susie Kaeser to the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee in favor of keeping the Fair School Funding Plan in HB 110 in the state budget.
In Person – Questions
There is a possibility that if you give in person testimony that you could be asked questions. Don’t make stuff up – just answer what you know. Don’t be afraid of letting the panelists know that you will send them information afterwards if you want to make sure of your facts.
The following conventions are important in testifying before a legislative committee:
- Testimony is always delivered “through the Chairman”, meaning witnesses are asked to address the Chairman first when speaking to the committee, either when delivering testimony or responding to a legislator’s question.
- Senator Brenner: Ms. Smith, are you aware that this bill originated in the House?
- Ms. Smith: Through the Chair, Senator Brenner, yes I am,
- Respect, both in the content and tone of testimony, is of utmost importance. Those testifying should bear in mind that if they are invoking the name of an organization (including a school district) the legislators being addressed will associate the remarks with that organization as they consider any matter of legislation, including and beyond the bill in question.
- Hearing this testimony for the first time. Sometimes members sit on more than one committee, so sometimes an issue may have come up in another hearing. There will always be members of the committee who are hearing about the bill for the first time from in-person witnesses. This is important to consider from the context of a “first impression.”
Watch sample video from past hearings (here) if you are concerned about how the protocols work