Laws Need Your Input: Public Hearings Begin


When you hear of a new law – especially something absurd or one that changes the way you live – have you ever wondered who decided to pass it? Perhaps you’ve encountered a regulation that got in your way? Got a suggestion on how to improve things especially to something that might get passed with unintended consequences?

Well its time to speak up! Its law making season at the Capitol.

Over the past month, individual legislators have submitted thousands of ideas for laws and now comes the sausage making process of passing a few hundred of them into law. Some bills will be jettisoned as unworkable or unpopular. Others may express broad ideas but will be narrowed to specific issues. Still others might lead to studies for a future law. And once in a while, a bill may highlight an issue that few in the legislature may know anything about until now.

Public hearings at the Capitol are open to anyone, of any age. Experts in a particular field may include people who are in business in that field or will be most affected by a tax, regulation or new rule. Others in the public may simply wish to provide an anecdote or observation about the impact of a bill. Everyone is treated as equals though.

If you decide to testify on a bill or group of bills being proposed, you have two options to do so. First, you can write by e-mail or snail mail to the pertinent committee dealing with that bill. Alternatively, you could testify in person at the Capitol. This will mean preparing for a long day though. Because many people testify on sometimes dozens of bills, the people most likely to testify are college students, researchers, union members and others who can get the day off.

You should have written testimony prepared, and arrive early so you can sign up to speak. The first hour of any public hearing is reserved for public officials. After that, the general public gives their input. Most public members get 3 minutes to speak, although legislators may ask additional questions for clarification or additional knowledge. Testimony may also be submitted to the committee after a hearing, but be sure to turn it in soon so that it is included and disseminated amongst the legislatures who will consider it.

Some resources:

Guide to Testifying at the Capitol
Bill Search by Keyword
Legislative Bulletin
a daily publication which lists upcoming committee meetings and public hearings as well as which bills will be heard.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Legislature

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