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New Hampshire has always allowed the public to testify at bill hearings, but childcare, work, and transportation make it difficult to travel to Concord for mid-day hearings. Thanks to the coronavirus, this year anyone can testify virtually from their home or office.
How to find bills up for debate
There are several ways you can identify the bills up for debate in Concord.
The state legislative website, gencourt.state.nh.us, has “Links to Remote Meetings” about halfway down on the right side of the homepage.
You can also find a schedule of every upcoming bill hearing in the House and Senate calendars, linked from a lower area of the homepage titled “Resources.”
If you are searching for bills related to a specific topic, you can browse bills on the Citizens Count website at citizenscount.org/bills.
Many nonprofits and advocacy groups also track legislation and will alert followers to upcoming bill hearings.
How to testify at a virtual bill hearing
If you want to testify at a House or Senate hearing, there is a link to sign up beforehand.
Legislative staff recommend signing up as early as possible.
There is a checkbox to indicate if you want to speak or not. You can always email testimony instead of speaking. Once you complete the sign-up process you should be shown contact information to email the committee.
Your testimony can make a difference
Testifying at a public hearing is not like testifying in court. There is no oath, and nobody is on trial. Start by stating your name and where you are from, then say your piece. At the end of your testimony legislators may ask you questions, but there are no wrong answers.
You do not have to prepare a written statement but writing down your argument is recommended. This will help you remember what you want to say. It also helps legislators if you email a copy of this written testimony so they can reference it later.
There is a good chance legislators already have access to studies and statistics you find, so when you testify consider your personal experience as it relates to the bill. Why do you have a stake in this issue? What personal experience can you share that legislators have not heard before?
Legislators also appreciate testimony that is to the point, especially if there is a long line of people waiting to testify. If previous speakers have made most of your points, just say so, offer any new input, and then leave the rest in your written testimony.
Your testimony can make a difference
New Hampshire legislators have fewer staff than legislators in other states, but they consider hundreds of bills every year. That means legislators rely more on lobbyists, industry experts, and members of the public to research and analyze legislation. If you testify at a public hearing, there is a good chance you could influence the legislators on the Zoom.
If you don’t think the Legislature impacts your daily life, think again. The law touches on everything from your health to your paycheck to your dinner table. Do you want to require your employer to offer paid sick time? Check out SB 67 and HB 590. Concerned about state law around vaccine requirements? HB 220 would create a right to refuse immunizations. Want to be able to buy mixed drinks with your restaurant takeout? There’s a bill for that this year, HB 176.
Citizens Count is a nonprofit serving the New Hampshire community by providing objective information about issues, elected officials, bills, elections, and candidates. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.
Story written by Anna Brown for Citizens Count.
These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.