In Maine, every bill gets a public hearing. That means anyone can testify on a bill. If you feel strongly about a bill, a little prep work means you can make your voice heard on it. Before getting started, read our tips on framing your message.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, things will work a little bit differently this legislative session. First thing you want to do is figure out when the bill you care about is going to have a public hearing. You can do this by searching for the bill by its LD number at legislature.maine.gov, and then clicking on the link that says Committee Info. It will take you to a page with the public hearing date and committee.
Search by LD Number
Click on Committee Info
Once you've found the date, you need to sign up to give testimony. Whether you want to testify during the public hearing by phone or by videoconference, or submit written testimony, you must fill out this form. If you need an accommodation to participate, you can call or email the Legislative Information Office at 207-287-1692 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're planning to give live testimony, be prepared to set aside a few hours of your day. Often, multiple bills are scheduled at the same time, and the bill you care about may not go first. And, depending on the number of people testifying, hearings can go for many hours. If you want to weigh in, but don't have time to stay on the line for a couple of hours, you can submit written testimony. Remember, you still have to fill out that form.
Here is a quick guide on how to effectively testify on a bill:
Take time to prepare your testimony in advance. Practice what you are going to say. It’s especially helpful to read your testimony to yourself out loud or to record yourself practicing and go back and listen. Weak phrasings that seem good on paper often reveal themselves when spoken out loud. Harvard has great advice on public speaking, here.
In your testimony, make sure you include your: (1) name and the town/city you live in, (2) personal connection to the bill, (3) accurate facts and evidence, and (4) a thank you to the committee for their time.
When speaking, be sure to keep your testimony short and to the point, remain calm and unhurried, and stay concise while answering any questions the committee may have for you.