June 21, 2024

How to Testify Before the Maine State Legislature

Testifying in support or opposition to a bill is a vital part of the legislative process. Your voice matters. Hearing from the citizens goes a long way towards deciding the outcome of a bill before one of the many legislative committees. If you’ve never done it before, or if you want a refresher on how to do it, you’ve come to the right page.

How to find out when the hearing is

If you’re following specific bills, the easiest way to find out when there is a hearing is to go to the Maine Legislature’s webpage for that particular bill. You can find it by searching at this link.

You’ll want to select the most recent session in the top left, and if you know the bill number, enter it in the two LD Number boxes. You can also search by Text, or by Title, if you don’t know the LD number.
Once you see your bill, click the link that says, “Committee Status”
This will tell you what committee it was referred to, when the next hearing is, and where it will be.

You can also browse the calendar for upcoming hearings

You can also check out Maine’s Legislative Hearing Calendar at this link. This is a helpful tool to show you all of the upcoming hearings, and you may even discover another bill you’re interested in on this schedule.

Option 1: Testify in Person

If you want to speak in person at a public hearing for a bill, you do not need to register. Make sure you arrive at the hearing on time. The Committee Chairpersons are very good about giving instructions for when the public may speak. Typically, the bill’s sponsor will speak first.

You can speak for a total of 3 minutes.

I highly recommend that you create a written statement to read for the committee. Practice that statement with a stopwatch. This will make sure that you make the most of your three minutes.

Bring 20 printed copies of your written statement, if you choose to use one. That’s in addition to the copy you’ll be reading. When it is your turn to speak, either a clerk will take your copies from you, or there will be a basket for you to set the copies in. It will be distributed to the committee members while you are speaking.

If you have any additional evidence or information you wish to provide to committee members beyond your 3 minute statement, you can include it with your written statement. They will appreciate having any additional information you can provide to help them make their decision. There is no limit to how much information you can provide members in writing.

Option 2: Testify via Zoom

If you cannot make it in person, you can also testify via Zoom. You can go to https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/ and register to testify via Zoom before the Housing Committee.

  • Select “Public Hearing”
  • Choose the committee your bill is with
  • Select the date and time of your bill’s hearing
  • Select your bill. If you don’t see it listed, check to make sure you have the right committee, day, and time.
  • Check the box that says, “I would like to testify electronically over Zoom.”
  • Fill out your contact information at the bottom of the form and submit it.
  • Written testimony is not required but is helpful. If you have prepared a written statement, or if you have any evidence that you are citing in your testimony, I highly recommend uploading it to the committee when you register for Zoom.

You are limited to only 3 minutes to speak on Zoom, just as you are in person.

Update: Legislators are now asking for any written testimony/statements you have that accompany your Zoom testimony, to please submit it online at least 48 hours prior to the the hearing

Option 3: Provide Written Testimony

You do not have to speak to the committee in order to provide testimony. You are welcome to upload your statement and evidence without speaking. To do this, simply follow the steps for Zoom testimony above, except leave the Zoom testimony box unchecked. You can either type your testimony in the box provided, or attached any files you have, such as a PDF, or word document.

Tips for successful testimony

  • Make it personal. If you have a personal connection to the issue your bill addresses, tell that story. Committee members need to know how their decision will affect the people of Maine.
  • Be clear about your intention. Do you support or oppose this bill? Make sure you include that in your statement.
  • Write it all down. Having a written statement will keep you focused and ensures you make the best use of your 3 minutes of speaking time. Remember, you can provide as much written testimony as you’d like. Use the 3 minutes to deliver a powerful summary, and then submit the rest of what you have to say either online or attached to your printed statement that you brought with you (if testifying in person).
  • Save a tree. Upload the additional information. The 20 additional printed copies only applies to your spoken statement. If you have reports and other items you’d like to share as well, you can certainly upload these items ahead of time and let the committee know you’ve done so. That will save you ink and paper costs and help the environment.

Direct Update from the Maine State Legislature

The following is copy/pasted from a document provided by the Legislative Information Office

Suggested guidelines for submitting written testimony:

Public hearing schedules among the Legislature’s committees are becoming increasingly busy.  If you are planning to testify over Zoom and also intend submit written testimony, please try to submit your written testimony 2 business days prior to the date of the public hearing.  This will ensure committee members have access to your written comments when you testify.

If you plan to testify in person please DO NOT submit testimony through the portal.  Pursuant to Committee Rules of Procedure –Persons present in the room and submitting written materials shall provide the committee clerk with at least 20 copies.

Helpful tips when using the testimony portal

When signing up online to testify orally using Zoom, please observe the following to ensure that you receive your link prior to the start of the Public Hearing:

  • Select the LD you wish to testify for. A separate sign up is required for each LD. The Zoom link will not be sent if you omit this step. 
  • IMPORTANT – click the “I would like to testify electronically over Zoom” box. 
  • Enter your name and contact information
  • Click “I am not a robot” box
  • Click “Submit/Register”

Registrations received less than 30 minutes before the start of the hearing will be allowed to testify at the discretion of the Committee Chairs.

For technical issues during the meeting, please contact the Legislative Information Office at (207) 287-1692.

Your voice is important and needs to be heard

I encourage you to make your voice be heard. Whether it’s in person, via Zoom, or written testimony only, putting your story and your evidence forward matters.

If you have any questions about testifying, how to find bills, or any part of the legislative process, please reach out to me at mike@bangormike.com or by clicking here to fill out my contact form.