Testimony and Public Comment
Testimonies and public comments are intended to provide the public the opportunitiy to influence policy by providing further context, opinions, and background information. They serve the purpose to educate decision-makers on specific issues. You can advocate the position of your organization, or the broader community that you represent.
Opportunities for testimony and public comment are often provided for pending legislation and regulations, and it is often accepted in both oral and written forms.
Written Public Comment
Here are some tips for writing effective testimonies and public comments.
- Use a letter format, include “from”, “to”, and a title.
- Identify the organization you represent, if applicable.
- Keep the remarks short and concise. For the written testimony, one page is sufficient. Oral public comments can be a bit longer but usually no longer than 3 minutes.
- Directly address your concern regarding the policy proposal, whether you are for it or against it.
- Demonstrate your understanding of the policy issue by explaining the policy issue in a logical way that is easy for non-professional to understand. Present factual evidence as well as personal anecdotes.
- Avoid excessive use of jargons.
- Thank whoever you are addressing.
Oral Public Comment
Testmony and public comments can be given orally on hearings. Oral testimony can be extremely powerful, especially in high profile hearings with news coverage. If you are giving an oral testimony or comment, bear these additional points in mind:
- Familiarize yourself with the rules and arrangements of the specific hearing you are attending. Attend one before your speech if possible.
- Present yourself in a professional way.
- Do not just read a written statement. Make bullet points and build your speech upon that.
- Start and finish with your position and recommendation.
- Expect questions about the field that is not directly related. Be honest about topic that you does not understand.
- Expect adversarial questions and comments, but don’t engage in argument.
- Expect interruption by legislator and change of arrangement.
- Thank the chair before and after you deliver your speech.
The state and federal governments track all regulatory activity and provide the opportunity for public comment through the folliwing websites:
State Legislative Meetings
The Virginia General Assembly meets for their annual Regular Session in the winter, as well as at other times in the year when called into Special Sessions. While they are in session, Committee meetings are the primary opportunity for the public to provide comments. You can view their upcoming meeting schedule here to look up what Committees of interest are holding meetings in the coming month.
Written Public Comment Examples
Here is an example of a written testimony to Congress by the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) regarding education funding. You can also read an oral statement given by CGCS to a Senate subcommittee here.