How to Testify in Committee

Click Committee Schedules, Agendas, and Documents 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. During the 2021 session, House and Senate committees will meet virtually. You have the opportunity to provide written testimony, state your position on a bill, or register to testify remotely via videoconference by registering at Committee Sign In. You may also 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.

Committee Hearings

Legislative hearings are conducted informally. The rules are somewhat relaxed but are intended to help preserve decorum and allow respectful, courteous debate. Anyone can testify; you do not need formal training.

To find out when a hearing is scheduled:

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 $35 for or on behalf of a legislator, elected official or state employee.

You can 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. 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.

Meeting Virtually

  • Be punctual; usually there is only one public hearing at which testimony is taken on a particular bill.
  • Sign-in is done electronically in all committees at Committee Sign In. You will receive an individual link to join the virtual meeting after you sign in. See detailed instructions on how to join the meeting once signed in​.
  • Check to see if copies of proposed amendments or substitute bills are available at the Committee Schedules page. Click view docs for the meeting you are interested in.

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 not be called on to testify, however, you may still provide written testimony for 24 hours after the start of the hearing.

Making Your Remarks

  1. Begin by introducing yourself to the chair and committee members and stating your purpose. For example,
  2. "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 . . ."
  3. In your opening remarks, make it clear whether you are representing other citizens or a separate group.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Restrict yourself to your testimony. Abstain from other overt demonstrations such as clapping, cheering, booing, etc.

How to Submit Written Testimony

If you are unable to attend a committee meeting, you may use the following method for submitting written testimony:

In the House. You may submit written testimony up to 24 hours after the start of the hearing. Or you may email your written testimony directly to all committee members as well as to the Committee Chair or the Chair's LA. Be sure to include the bill number and your position on the bill. A list of Committee Chairs can be found at this website: http://app.leg.wa.gov/Rosters/CommitteeMembersByCommittee/House.

In the Senate. You may submit written testimony up to 24 hours after the start of the hearing. Or you may email your written testimony directly to committee members as well as to the Committee Chair or the Chair's LA. Be sure to include the bill number and your position on the bill. Another option is to email your written testimony to committee staff, as an alternative or in addition to submitting testimony to committee members. A list of Senate committees and staff can be found at this website: http://leg.wa.gov/Senate/Committees/Pages/default.aspx.

Your District Members: Please refer to How to comment on a bill for instructions on submitting bill comments directly to members in your district.


Highlights

  • Persons with Disabilities
    For auxiliary aids or services while attending hearings or participating in other legislative activities, call the House of Representatives at 360.786.7271, or the Senate at 360.786.7189 (TTY 1.800.833.6388). See Accessibility Informatio​​n for more details.