MODULE 2 NOTES:
Strategies for Change – The Testimony
In this module we will learn about another advocacy strategy that is often used – the legislative testimony. Testimony can be delivered by any one on any topic at a public hearing. Hearings can be as formal as a congressional hearing in Washington, DC, or more informal such as a local town or school board hearing. But no matter what the venue, the recommendations for writing and presenting the hearing are the same, and both can have the same impact – to implement change.
Whether you are testifying before Congress, a state legislature, a federal or state regulatory agency, or your local school or zoning board, providing legislative testimony can be one of the most effective ways to educate legislators and policymakers about the impact, either positive or negative, that proposed legislation or legislative change might have. The implications of such legislation or change and the impact on constituents are not always known to legislators. Providing testimony is another important component to an advocacy plan that can significantly help you or your organization obtain support for your position on an issue.
Public hearings, where testimony is presented, are called by legislative bodies for a variety of reasons. Often times they are held to inform the public about issues or for a legislative body to collect information about a proposed law or to find out whether legislation is needed. Not every proposed bill, however, needs a public hearing to move through the committee process and become a law. If there is a particular bill that you are tracking that does not have a hearing scheduled you may have an opportunity to influence the decision. Once a bill moves into the appropriate committee for further discussion and review, this is when you would have an opportunity to contact the committee chair, raise your concerns, and request that a public hearing be scheduled.
Once the hearing is scheduled and you decide to testify, the process then begins to develop your testimony. There are two components to any testimony – the written testimony and the oral testimony. You do not always need to present oral testimony but if you do present oral testimony, you should almost always have a written testimony to accompany it.
The written testimony allows you to develop a comprehensive statement of your position. This would include any background information about the issue, references to any statistical reports or publications, facts and figures, and your key messages on the issue. The oral testimony is an abbreviated version of your written testimony and generally needs to be presented in 3-5 minutes. In your oral testimony you would include the highlights of what the issue is, what is your position, and why. This is similar to what some call an “elevator speech” – if you only had the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone what would you say to get your point across.
When preparing a written testimony, the following describes some key components that should be included.
1.Title page that lists the name of the committee, your name, group you represent, date of the hearing, and any specific bill numbers.
2.An introduction where you should identify yourself and the organization you represent or if you are a member of a local community, or registered voter.
3.Your position in support or opposition of the proposed bill and identify the bill by name and number if there is one. If there is not a specific bill, then reference the issue you are testifying on.
4.A summary of your recommendations, beginning with the most important and compelling reasons first and then add explanation that may include background, facts, figures, and experiences to support your recommendation.
5.Conclusion that restates your position and thanks the committee for the opportunity to speak.
The written testimony can be as long or short as you believe is needed but keep in mind that most legislators will not read the entire testimony. And, depending on the length, the staff members of the legislator may not read it in its entirety either. So, while the testimony needs to be significant enough to highlight your positions and present the supporting fact, it does need to be done in a succinct way.
Once your written testimony is complete you would use this to develop your oral testimony. Again, this would be a short 3-5 minute synopsis of your written testimony. We will be completing the oral testimony in the next module.
When presenting your oral testimony it is best not to read your statement. In this short amount of time you want to be passionate about your topic, make your key points, but also maintain eye contact with the legislators to engage them on your issues. Remember, the point of this is to get them to support your position and be willing to work with you on it.
In this module you will be taking your previously identified health care topic and developing written testimony on your position. Before we begin that activity, first you should review the examples of written testimony and the video clips provided on testimony given. Then, identify your own short video clip of testimony for this week’s discussion forum.
For this assignment you will be developing your own written testimony based on your health care issue you identified in Module 2. You will create a formal written testimony that includes the key components addressed in this week’s module notes that could be submitted at a hearing.
Using your previously identified health care issue, and the key components of testimony you learned in this module, you are to develop a formal written testimony that would be submitted at a public hearing. The testimony should identify your position, review your recommendations, and provide any relevant facts, figures, or personal stories to support your position. The testimony should be compelling but need not be long (3-4 pages).