Testify at a Committee Meeting
Testifying is one of the most direct ways to make your voice heard at all levels of government. Use the tips below to learn about the process and how to draft and deliver compelling testimony. While this is specific to the Rhode Island General Assembly committee meetings, these tips can be applied to giving testimony or public comment at other governmental hearings at the local and federal levels.
Prepare your testimony
Research the bill.
- Be sure to read the most current version of the bill.
- You can search bills on the General Assembly’s website.
- Understanding the bill:
- All blue and underlined text is the proposed additions to the law; red struck through text is the proposed aspects to remove from the current law; and all black text is what will remain the same.
- Bills that introduce an entire new section or chapter of law will be entirely in blue text and underlined.
- Know who is sponsoring the bill.
- Your testimony will occur before a House or Senate committee. Committees are groups of lawmakers within the State House of Representatives and State Senate that gather and evaluate information on proposed bills, and recommend courses of action to their parent body.
- Know who is on the committee, and who is part of the committee leadership.
- You can find the committee membership and contact information by searching each individual committee here.
Draft your testimony ahead of time.
- Keep your testimony simple and straightforward. Sometimes committees will announce a limit on testimony length on their agenda, or they will announce at the start of the committee meeting if they will be limiting length of testimony. Try to limit your testimony to approximately three minutes.
- Avoid using jargon and acronyms.
- Stick with what you know; personal stories are best if you have one.
- Outside of your personal story, confine remarks to irrefutable facts and/or your area of expertise only.
- If you have written materials, bring enough copies for everyone on the committee.
Find Committee Schedules
You can attend an upcoming committee hearing.
- The digital versions of the committee calendars will also link to the most current version of the bill.
- Check the committee agenda to see if there are specific instructions on how to sign-up to testify. Prior to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, people wanting to testify only needed to appear in person and sign up the day of the committee meeting. Now, sometimes committees require that people sign-up via phone or email in advance of testifying.
All committees meet in the State House. The room number of where the committee meeting will take place is listed on the agenda. Sign-up to give testimony outside the committee room, unless otherwise noted on the agenda.
ATTENTION: You may not bring signs on sticks into the State House. Signs may or may not be permitted in the committee hearing room, depending on the rules for that legislative session. If you plan to bring signs, please contact the committee in advance to see if they are permitted.