Here is some helpful information on what to do if you go to Concord to testify on a bill of importance to you. Many thanks to Sue Ford, Grassroots Coordinator for the NHDP. https://www.facebook.com/sue.ford.332
Testifying in Concord
Parking: For specific information you may want to check the official web site below. There is street parking around the State House (SH) but many of the very close spaces are reserved on session days. You may want to look on the side streets to the north along State Street. The closest places are metered and many of the parking places have a 2 or 3 hour limit. Some people park at the Capital Shopping Center – 80 Storrs St but you will need to walk up the hill to the State House if you park here. The Firehouse Parking Garage is close to the State House.
Find parking costs, opening hours and a parking map of all Concord NH parking lots, street parking, parking meters and private garages at en.parkopedia.com/parking/concord_nh/.
Locating the Hearing: The hearing you’re looking for will either be in the State House (SH) or right behind the SH, in the Legislative Office Building (LOB). Most of the Senate hearings are held in the SH or on the first floor of the LOB. House hearings are held in the LOB. If a hearing is expected to draw a huge crowd it may be scheduled for Representatives’ Hall on the second floor of the SH. If you forget what room you’re looking for, the security guards are always willing to help, they have a daily room schedule available.
You can only enter the SH and LOB by the main front doors due to security concerns. The SH is obvious with its gold copula, if you’re not sure you’re at the LOB look up and if it says “United States Post Office and Court House,” you’re at the right place.
Signing In: Do you intend to testify? If you’re in a House Hearing sign in on a pink card, (Fill out ONLY IF SPEAKING on Bill) indicating your name, for or against the bill and time required. Hand that card to a Committee Member and he/she will make sure it gets to the Committee Chair.
If you want your opinion taken into consideration but don’t intend to testify, sign in on the blue sheet (To Register Opinion without Speaking) and indicate whether you are in favor or against a bill.
If you have written testimony, it’s a good idea to bring enough copies for everyone on the committee. Check the NH General Court web site for the number of committee members and add 1. The Committee Clerk needs an extra copy for the files.
In a Senate Hearing, you sign in on their white sheet and indicate whether you wish to speak or just sign in pro or con.
Testifying: Hearings are quite formal. When you start your testimony you need to identify yourself – ”Thank you Mr. Chairman (Madame Chairwoman). For the record my name is ______ and I am from ____________. If you represent a group/board it’s good to mention this now. If you have written testimony you can leave it with a committee member at the end of the table and he/she will pass it up. It is not appropriate to walk up to the chair or clerk to deliver your testimony. In the Finance Committee a Legislative Budget Assistant will pass out your material.
What Should I Say?: Keep your testimony short and concise. If you have written testimony – don’t read it, summarize it. It helps to tell the committee why you are in favor or against a bill. How will this impact you or your town? The committee wants to know why you think it’s important enough to drive to Concord to speak to the committee. Give the committee facts but it isn’t necessary to exaggerate. Again, make your point and then give the committee an opportunity to ask questions.
The Committee chair will recognize Committee Representatives and Senators as they are called on to ask questions.
Generally, you will be called on in the order you submit your pink card, however, the prime sponsor of the bill will speak first and then the chair will call on senators and representatives. After a legislator testifies, he or she may leave the hearing room. Quite often that’s to return to his or her own committee where another hearing is in progress.
There may be times that you get a question that really isn’t a question but an opportunity for a committee member to agree or disagree with your testimony. Sometimes these start out – would you believe… You are not expected to know everything. I’ve had a committee chair apologize for some hostile questions I got during a hearing. (I wouldn’t agree that public funds should go to religious schools.) It wasn’t a big deal…just don’t take it personally. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. If someone is following you and knows the answer, he or she can add it to their testimony.
Don’t want to formally testify?: There are several ways to get your opinion known when you’re at a hearing. Sign in on the “blue sheet.” This sheet will be located at the back of the hearing room and asks for your name, address, phone number and then you check if you’re pro or con. These names are read into the record indicating pro or con. Or…you can give a copy of written testimony to a member of the committee for distribution.
Want to express your opinion but can’t go to Concord?: Check the General Court Site or the Facebook page to locate email addresses and phone numbers for members of all the committees. It is possible to email the committee with 1 email. [Bonnie’s note: 1 phone call has the power of 10 emails. Just remember: We have a volunteer legislation. (They are paid $100 per year.) When you call a NH Rep, you are calling their personal cell phone or their home. If you want them to respond to you, treat them with respect!)]