by Danielle Hubley
Policy Analyst, Partnership for Strong Communities
As an advocate for housing & homelessness in Connecticut, I am often asked what people can do to connect with legislators on issues that matter to them. Getting involved in legislative matters can seem like a daunting task, but there are simple, straightforward ways to make your voice heard.
Elected officials want to hear their constituents’ thoughts on proposed legislation before they vote on it. During the legislative session each year, Committees will host public hearings, to get the opinions and perspectives from communities and constituents around the legislative changes being proposed. There are many ways you can connect with your representatives, but today we’re going to focus on public hearings, and submitting written/spoken testimony.
When you submit written testimony on a bill, your comments are entered into the public record. This allows you to make a substantive case for the legislation you want to get passed. In contrast, spoken testimony allows you to tell a short, personal story about why a specific piece of legislation matters to you. If you have a personal connection to the legislation, spoken testimony is a particularly effective way to make your case!
Want to submit testimony but don’t know what to do, or why to do it? We’re here to help! As part of the Reaching Home Campaign, I work to engage people around the state to become advocates to end homelessness in Connecticut. This week, I worked with several partners in the Campaign to submit testimony for the Appropriations Committee’s budget hearing. If you think that speaking in front of legislators is difficult, don’t worry! When you join an effort like ours, you join a committed group of advocates that testifies together to make the case for ending homelessness.
There are two main ways you can share your knowledge/insights with the legislature:
If you want to submit written testimony, here are a few things you need to know:
a) Sign up for our action alerts. Here we send information to our partners about the public hearing date, focus, and deadline to submit testimony to us by.
b) Use our testimony templates (included in the action alert) to get ideas to include in your own testimony. You will want to make it clear right away whether you support the bill, oppose it, or are offering suggestions to improve it, and then explain why with personal understandings and examples. Repeat this process for all bills you are writing testimony for.
c) Submit your testimony back to PSC by the set deadline to do so, and we will make sure your testimony is shared with the legislature before the hearing takes place.
If you want to testify at a public hearing…
a) Respond to our action alerts! Let PSC know that you are interested in testifying and read the details of the action alert to know when we need you to submit your testimony to us by. This way we can make sure you are signed up to testify. Submit a written version of your testimony to PSC by the set deadline using the written testimony guidance.
b) Once you are signed up, you will receive a “sign up number” on the day of the public hearing. This will determine the order of speakers at the hearing. You will wait until your number is called before you can share your testimony.
c) Once your number is called, you will have no more than 5 minutes to share your remarks, so keep them short! If someone else before you made a point you wanted to make yourself, you can say you agree with the remarks of one (or more) previous speaker(s).
Finally, make sure to check out this detailed guide from the Connecticut General Assembly on how to interface with your legislators and be a more effective advocate! We hope this helps you feel more confident in sharing your voice. If you have any questions or get involved, remember to sign up for our action alerts and feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle Hubley is a Policy Analyst for the Partnership for Strong Communities, focusing primarily on the Reaching Home Campaign to end homelessness in Connecticut.