Advocate in Annapolis with MACo’s Tips for Testifying

Maryland’s 90-day legislative session has begun. Thousands of bills will be introduced and hundreds of them will affect county governments. Will you be ready to testify if needed?

DtMwUZsU8AEqZGxMACo’s Legislative Committee decides the Association’s positions on bills, which are analyzed and coordinated by MACo’s team of policy experts. The testimony and perspective of county elected officials and professionals carries a lot of weight in a bill hearing. If you’re interested in testifying with MACo on a bill or being a resource, please email Outreach Coordinator, Nicolette Querry.

MACo’s Tips for Testifying:

KNOW YOUR STUFF

  • Understand both the pros and cons of your issue, and address opposing arguments
  • Answer questions directly and truthfully.
  • Anticipate likely questions and bring any experts or documents necessary to respond
  • Provide specific examples.
  • Respond to points raised by earlier testimony when appropriate.
  • Know your legislators – before testifying, research the committee members and try to gauge how each might feel about your issue.
  • Never lie, fib, or make anything up. If you do not know the answer to a question, tell the legislator that you do not know and will follow up – and do.
  • Keep testimony concise. Do not read your written testimony word-for-word. Do not repeat testimony already delivered – simply say “Me, too!” The legislators will appreciate it.

NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS

  • If your county’s legislators are on the committee, try to discuss the issue with them beforehand.
  • Treat committee and support staff particularly respectfully and courteously. Staff wield significant power that can help or hurt your cause. Treat them with the same respect and courtesy you would show a legislator.
  • Build consensus. The strongest cases have the support of key stakeholders impacted by the proposed legislation at the time of the hearing – especially when those stakeholders are frequently at odds with each other.
  • Don’t be a sore loser. Remain gracious and civil even if you are not successful. You may well need to work with the same legislators, committees, and stakeholders in the future.

KEEP CALM, COURTEOUS, AND PROFESSIONAL

  • Always be polite and respectful.
  • If challenged, respond calmly with facts. Do not get emotional – even if a legislator gets confrontational with you.
  • Don’t get political. Most local issues are nonpartisan in nature. Allowing your issue to become political will alienate legislators who might have otherwise supported you.
  • If your position comes with a uniform, such as law enforcement, wear it while testifying.
  • Remain flexible. It may take several years to get a bill passed or a bill may pass in a slightly different form than what you originally wanted. Keep expectations flexible and do not sacrifice the good in pursuit of the perfect.
  • Don’t get frustrated. The legislative process is often exhausting and bewildering. You may have to wait several hours just for a few minutes to testify. Legislators may not appear to be listening. Things change on the fly. Keep a positive attitude throughout!
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