How to Testify Before a North Dakota Legislative Committee
You have the right...
You have the right, as do all citizens, to testify before the
North Dakota Legislative Assembly on any bill or resolution.
North Dakota has one of the most open legislatures in
the nation. Every bill must have a public hearing before a
legislative committee, must be publicly voted upon by the
committee, and then must come before the full House or Senate for
still another public vote.
Your opportunity to testify on a bill comes at the committee
Legislative committees meet in rooms on the ground floor or in the
legislative wing of the State Capitol. You can come into a
committee meeting at any time, even if the door is closed or a
hearing is in progress.
Lists of the legislative committees, committee members, and the
days and places committees meet are available at the Legislative
Information Kiosk in the hall between the Senate and House
You can find out which committee will be hearing the bill in which you are
interested by calling the toll-free number and asking for
information or inquiring in person at the Legislative Information
Kiosk. Also, most of the state's daily newspapers carry listings
of all the bills that are introduced and of scheduled committee
In addition to checking with the Legislative Information Kiosk,
you can find out what bills are being heard by what committees by
reviewing the TV monitors on the kiosk and in the hall of the
ground floor of the Capitol. All committee hearings are listed
on these monitors weekly.
You can get copies of bills from the Bill and Journal Room.
However, if the bill has been amended, the printed bill may not
include the amendments.
Hearings Before North Dakota Legislative Committees Are
Generally Informal and Few Rules Need Be Observed!
Before the Hearing You Should...
- Find out when and where your bill will be heard. Be on time
for the hearing. Usually, once a hearing is closed on a
particular bill, no further testimony is heard.
- Plan your testimony. It is not necessary, but it is helpful,
to have written copies of your comments available.
- See if other persons will be testifying on your bill. If so,
try to coordinate your testimony before the hearing to avoid
- Contact the Secretary of State's office if you are going to
testify on behalf of anyone but yourself, to see if you must
register as a lobbyist.
At the Hearing You Should...
- Be present at the start of the hearing. All persons present
usually get a chance to speak, but sometimes, because of large
turnouts, it is not possible to give everyone a chance to speak.
If you do not get a chance to testify, your presence may be
acknowledged and you might be asked if you favor or oppose the
bill. And, you can always submit written testimony.
- Sign the witness sheet at the lectern. Give the bill number,
whether you favor or oppose the bill, your name, your lobbyist
registration number if you have one, and who you represent
if other than yourself.
- Wait your turn. The chairman announces the beginning of the
hearing on a particular bill. The clerk will read the bill. The
first speaker is usually the bill's sponsor. The chairman then
asks for testimony, first from proponents and then opponents.
- Plan on following the custom (although it is not absolutely
necessary) of beginning your remarks by addressing the chairman
and committee members, giving your name and address, and why you
are there. For example: "Mr. or Madam Chairman, and members of
the committee, my name is John Q. Public from Edwinton. I'm in
favor of this bill because, etc."
- Be brief. Do not repeat what others have said. The hearings
are informal, so be conversational. Avoid being too technical. Avoid using
acronyms or technical references unless you first explain what they mean.
- Do not be nervous, or worried about doing something wrong.
There are no "rights and wrongs" about testifying. Legislators
are just your friends and neighbors who want to hear what you
have to say.
- Expect some questions and comments from committee members.
These questions are not designed to embarrass you, but merely to
provide additional information.
- Avoid any clapping, cheering, booing, or other
After the Hearing...
- Some committees vote right after a hearing. Others wait
until the end of the meeting. Some postpone voting until
- All committee action is public, so you can stay to listen
to committee debate and its vote, even though the public comment
portion of the hearing is over.
- One or two days later you can check with the committee clerk, your legislator, or the Legislative Information Kiosk to find out how the committee voted on your bill.
You have a right to testify on any bill before
a legislative committee. Legislators want to hear what you
have to say.
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Copyright © 2013, Lawrence R. Klemin
January 7, 2013