How to Testify in Committee

Click Legislative Meeting Schedules and Calendars for individual committee agendas and daily and weekly meeting schedules.

"Open" Legislature

Washington State has one of the most open legislatures in the country. A bill has a public hearing before Senate and House committees before being considered on the floor of the House and Senate. Your opportunity to testify comes at the committee hearings. If you cannot appear before a committee, contact your legislator making your position on a bill known. You can do so by writing a letter, sending an e-mail, calling the legislator's Olympia office, or by calling the Legislative Hotline at 800.562.6000.

Senate Committees usually meet in hearing rooms in the John A. Cherberg Building and House Committees usually meet in the John L. O'Brien Building. Both buildings are adjacent to the Legislative Building in Olympia.

Committee Hearings

Legislative hearings are conducted informally. They are not judicial proceedings and the rules are somewhat relaxed. Anyone can testify; you do not need formal training.

To find out when a hearing is scheduled:

  • Click Schedules of committee hearings to obtain electronic copy of the weekly and daily schedules.
  • Go to the Legislative Information Center, 106 Legislative Building, to get paper copies.
  • Call the toll-free Legislative Hotline number (1.800.562.6000).
  • Inquire in person or by phone in the Legislative Information Center 106 Legislative Building (360-786-7573).
  • Subscribe to the Legislature's Committee E-mail Notification Service.


The Legislative Information Center also has copies of bills for distribution. Be sure to ask for any pending amendments or substitutes to particular bills. Notices of interim committee hearings are sent out by committees between legislative sessions and are available via the Legislature's Committee E-mail Notification Service (Listserv).

Before the Hearing

Are You a Lobbyist? Generally, if you are testifying on a bill or issues and represent only yourself, you will not be required to register as a lobbyist.

A Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) brochure outlines guidelines on this subject:

You do not have to register and report if you:

  1. appear only before public meetings of legislative committees or state agencies, or
  2. do not receive pay, expenses or other consideration for lobbying and make no expenditure for on behalf of a legislator, elected official or state employee in connection with lobbying, or
  3. restrict your lobbying to four days during any three-month period and spend no more than $15 for or on behalf of a legislator, elected official or state employee.


A copy of the PDC brochure is available through the State Capitol Information Center, or you may check with the PDC if you're uncertain. The PDC provides online information for lobbyists as well.

Prepare Your Remarks. Time is usually limited, so be brief and direct. Written testimony should not be read at committee hearings. Committee staff will distribute copies of written testimony to members of the committee if you bring a sufficient number -- one for each member. Writing your comments in outline form will be helpful when you speak, and you should summarize your written testimony.

Avoid Duplication. If other persons will be offering similar testimony at the hearing, try to coordinate your testimony and avoid duplication. Well organized testimony is the most effective.

At the Meeting

  • Be punctual; usually there is only one public hearing at which testimony is taken on a particular bill.
  • If testifying in the House of Representatives: Locate the sign-up sheet near the entrance of the hearing room and write your name, address, and whether you favor or oppose the bill.
  • If testifying in the Senate, sign-in is now done electronically in most committees. You may:
    (1) Go to one of the Committee Sign-In kiosks located in the Cherberg building main hallway, each Senate hearing room, or the first floor of the Legislative Building; or
    (2) Access the Committee Sign-In Program from a web-enabled device (smartphone, laptop or tablet), only while on campus and connected to the Legislature's WSLPublic wireless Internet network; or
    (3) Since not all Senate committees use the Committee Sign-In Program, if you do not see the committee listed within the sign-in program, go to the hearing room to sign-in on the paper sheets.
  • Click Committee Electronic Sign-In Instructions to obtain more detailed instructions or for information on how to create an optional Committee Sign-In account.
  • Check to see if copies of proposed amendments or substitute bills are available.
  • Take your written materials to the committee staff for distribution.
  • Talk to the committee staff if you are going to be using the presentation equipment.


How the Meeting Is Conducted

Be present at the beginning of the hearing. The committee chair will open the hearing on a particular bill. Frequently, opening comments will be made by the bill's sponsor or by committee staff. Sometimes, however, the chair will ask for testimony from proponents and opponents immediately.

The chair will organize the hearing to ensure

  1. that the committee members hear relevant information,
  2. that interested persons are given the opportunity to express their positions, and
  3. that the hearing does not exceed the time available.


Most committee hearings are limited to two hours and may have several matters pending. The chair will attempt to be fair and provide each person an opportunity to testify. It may be necessary, however, to restrict testimony so that everyone is given an opportunity to express his or her opinions. You may be called to testify with others to save time.

Making Your Remarks

  1. Begin by introducing yourself to the chair and committee members and stating your purpose. For example,

    "Mr. or Madam Chair and members of the committee, I am John Doe from Spokane. I am here representing myself. I support this bill because . . ."
  2. In your opening remarks, make it clear whether you are representing other citizens or a separate group.
  3. Be brief and be sure your remarks are clear. Avoid being too technical and do not repeat previously made remarks. You do not need to be nervous or worried about how you present your testimony.
  4. Be prepared for questions and comments from committee members. These are designed to gain additional information, but don't answer if you are not sure of the answer. Tell the members you will send a written answer to the committee, and then follow through.
  5. Restrict yourself to your testimony. Abstain from other overt demonstrations such as clapping, cheering, booing, etc.

Highlights

Parking
Follow exit #105-A from Interstate 5, to Public Parking. Take the Legislative Shuttle to the Capitol. Parking for people with disabilities is available on the Capitol Campus. Click Parking for more information.

Persons with Disabilities
For auxiliary aids or services while attending hearings or participating in other legislative activities, call the House of Representatives at 360.786.7101, or the Senate at 360.786.7400 (TTY 1.800.635.9993). See Accessibility Information for more details.