JUFJ members testifying in Annapolis in 2020
Jo, Joanna, Carol, and Toby testifying in Annapolis pre-COVID-19. Photos by Joe Magar.

Testify Orally with JUFJ at the Maryland General Assembly

Testimony procedures have not been finalized for the 2022 session. As we learn more about what it looks like to testify in 2022, we will update this page.

Thanks for being part of JUFJ’s campaigns for a more just Maryland. Giving testimony to the General Assembly is one powerful piece of our advocacy work.

Your goal is to advocate effectively as a community member aligned with particular groups and a particular position. You don’t have to be an expert! Politicians understand that when you’re connected to a group, there are tens, hundreds, or even thousands of voters in the background along with you.

If you are presenting oral testimony, it MUST be accompanied by written testimony. Click the button below to submit your written testimony to JUFJ and the General Assembly.

PREPARING TO TESTIFY

TIPS for preparing Oral Testimony:

  • You will NOT be able to simply read your written testimony. Doing so is highly discouraged. Keep your remarks concise and memorable – speak to the committee.
  • Please take time to consider what points you want to make. 
  • Make notes for the oral testimony to keep you on track during the presentation. 
  • Oral testimony may closely resemble the written testimony, be a streamlined version of it, or vary considerably. 
  • In your oral testimony, if possible, include a personal story, the more compelling the better. You want your testimony to be memorable and able to be used by legislators sharing our position.
  • PRACTICE your oral statement aloud with a timer repeatedly to become comfortable and not rushed. You may be muted by the Zoom host when your time has elapsed. You will normally have a two or three minute limit, depending on the committee. Note that the chair of the committee may further limit testimony depending on the number of people signed up. Consider creating a version that’s two/three minutes (again, depending on the committee) and another that’s one minute, just in case.
  • Please note that hearings take a long time. The tentative bill order will usually be announced at the beginning of each hearing, but not always. The order is subject to bill sponsors’ availability, the number of bills, and the number of witnesses signed up to testify, so there’s no guarantee when or what time your bill will be heard. Sometimes hearings can go very late into the evening.

FORMAT for Oral Testimony:

  • Introduction: Start by thanking the chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify, stating your name/location/affiliations, and indicating your position on the bill. (Please be aware that when a Chair steps out, the Vice Chair or even another committee member will step in for them – make sure you’re addressing the correct person.)
  • “Thank you, Chair (last name) and members of the (committee). My name is (your name). I live in (city/town) in District (your district). I am here today testifying in (support of/support with amendments/opposition to) Bill (number).” If you are testifying on behalf of an organization, also say “on behalf of (affiliations).”
  • Body: Tell your personal story – why you care about this issue, provide pertinent facts, describe the importance of the issue, make your case. We encourage you to include Jewish values as part of your testimony if it feels appropriate.
  • Closing: “I respectfully urge this committee to return a (favorable/favorable with amendments/unfavorable) report on Bill (number). Thank you for the opportunity to testify.”

Preparing to Testify

You will NOT be able to simply read your written testimony. Doing so is highly discouraged. Keep your remarks concise and memorable. 

  • Please take time to consider what points you want to make. 
  • Make notes for the oral testimony to keep you on track during the presentation. 
  • Oral testimony may closely resemble the written testimony, be a streamlined version of it, or vary considerably. 
  • In your oral testimony, if possible, include a personal story, the more compelling the better. You want your testimony to be memorable and able to be used by legislators sharing our position.
  • PRACTICE your oral statement aloud with a timer repeatedly to become comfortable and not rushed.

Testimony Format

  • Introduction: Start by thanking the chair and members of the committee for the opportunity to testify, stating your name/location/affiliations, and indicating your position on the bill.
    • “Thank you, Chair (last name) and members of the (committee). My name is (your name). I live in (city/town) in District (your district). I am here today testifying in (support of/opposition to) Bill (number).” If you are testifying on behalf of an organization, also say “on behalf of (affiliations).”
  • Body: Tell your personal story, provide pertinent facts, describe the importance of the issue, make your case. We encourage you to include Jewish values as part of your testimony if it feels appropriate.
  • Closing: Re-state your position; respectfully urge legislators to adopt your position. Say thank you.
    • “I respectfully urge a (favorable/unfavorable) report for Bill (number). Thank you for the opportunity to testify.”

At the Hearing

  • On the morning of the hearing, make sure you have received any link(s) you need to access the hearing. If you haven’t, contact Elianna or Matan.
  • Time for testimony will be strictly limited. Usually you will have 2 minutes, but sometimes you will have 3 minutes. JUFJ staff will confirm the allotted time with you as soon as we know.
  • In some committees, there will be a visible timer, and in some committees, the chair will indicate when you have run out of time. If your time is up and you are in the middle of your testimony, acknowledge that the time is up and say you are wrapping up. Usually they will allow you to finish your thought.
  • Make eye contact with legislators (as much as is feasible over Zoom) as you address the committee.
  • Convey your passion about the issue.
  • Hearings in Annapolis can take a long time! The tentative bill order will usually be announced at the beginning of each hearing, but not always. The order is subject to bill sponsors’ availability, the number of bills, and the number of witnesses signed up to testify. Sometimes hearings can go late into the evening.

At the Hearing

  • When you arrive, check in with a JUFJ staff member.
  • Time for testimony will be strictly limited. Usually you will have 2 minutes, but sometimes you will have 3 minutes. JUFJ staff will confirm the allotted time with you as soon as we know.
  • Most hearing rooms have a visible timer. In some committees, the chair will indicate when you have run out of time. If your time is up and you are in the middle of your testimony, acknowledge that the time is up and say you are wrapping up. Usually they will allow you to finish your thought.
  • Make eye contact with legislators as you address the committee.
  • Convey your passion about the issue.
  • Hearings in Annapolis can take a long time! The tentative bill order will usually be announced at the beginning of each hearing, but not always. The order is subject to bill sponsors’ availability, the number of bills, and the number of witnesses signed up to testify. Sometimes hearings can go late into the evening.

Tips and Tricks

  • Keep your testimony focused on your organization’s or your personal, unique perspective.
  • We need to make sure each testifier brings some new piece of information or perspective to the hearing. We do not want everyone to repeat the same talking points about what the bill does, over and over.
  • Experienced testifiers may opt to respond to arguments made by the opposing side, make points that seem especially pertinent in view of what has or has not been discussed during the hearing, and/or answer questions posed by legislators.
  • Bring your game face, stay true to your talking points. Legislators may ask you follow-up questions, either supportive or in opposition. If they do, simply respond calmly and reiterate the main points of your testimony.
  • It is okay if you don’t know an answer. 
    • A good response when you don’t know the answer: “I am not an expert on this issue. I would defer to the experts in our coalition on this point. We are happy to follow up after the hearing with answers to the questions you have asked.” (And be sure to follow up!)
  • Always be polite when communicating with legislators, even if they seem to be impolite to you.
    • Annapolis is a busy place! Expect legislators to talk to each other and go in and out of the room, possibly even while you are testifying. Please don’t take it personally!
  • After you testify, send an email follow-up to members of the committee who:
    • Asked questions and requested additional information
    • Were especially helpful and say thank you
    • Have a personal relationship with you
    • Seemed undecided and might need some additional urging to support our position
  • Thank you for being an important part of the advocacy process!

Tips and Tricks

  • Keep your testimony focused on your organization’s or your personal, unique perspective.
  • Because of the all-virtual legislative session, there will be a limit of 50 people testifying per bill. We need to make sure each testifier brings some new piece of information or perspective to the hearing. We do not want everyone to repeat the same talking points about what the bill does, over and over.
  • Experienced testifiers may opt to make points that seem especially pertinent in view of what has or has not been discussed during the hearing, and/or answer questions posed by legislators.
  • Bring your game face, stay true to your talking points. Legislators may ask you follow-up questions, either supportive or in opposition. If they do, simply respond calmly and reiterate the main points of your testimony.
  • It is okay if you don’t know an answer. 
    • A good response when you don’t know the answer: “I am not an expert on this issue. I would defer to the experts in our coalition on this point. We are happy to follow up after the hearing with answers to the questions you have asked.” (And be sure to follow up!)
  • Always be polite when communicating with legislators, even if they seem to be impolite to you.
    • Annapolis is a busy place! Expect legislators to talk to each other and go on and off camera, possibly even while you are testifying. Please don’t take it personally!
  • After you testify, send an email follow-up to members of the committee who:
    • Asked questions and requested additional information
    • Were especially helpful and say thank you
    • Have a personal relationship with you
    • Seemed undecided and might need some additional urging to support our position
  • Thank you for being an important part of the advocacy process!

Logistical Notes

Want to know exactly where to go, when to arrive, and how to get there? Click below for our guide to Annapolis logistics.

Have more questions about testifying in Annapolis? Contact Elianna or Matan.