Speaking Before a Legislative Committee


You should plan your comments before speaking to a legislative committee. This does not mean you need to write your comments down and read them to the committee. It simply means you should at least organize your thoughts in your head before you appear before the committee. To give your statements the most impact and show respect for the committee members' busy schedules, you must make your comments concise and straightforward.

If you are part of a group, make sure that each member of your group does not say the same thing to the committee. Instead, select a member of several members of the group to speak for the group. Each member you select addresses a different point. Be aware that the chairman may limit the number of speakers and the time that each speaker may talk.

As you prepare, think of questions that the committee members may ask you.


Before the committee hearing starts, fill out a "speaker slip" (see the attached sample). Speaker slips are available on the table outside the hearing room. This slip tells the chairman that you want to speak during the hearing. After you complete the form, give it to a Page. The Page will deliver it to the chairman for you.

When the committee reaches the agenda item that interests you, the chairman and other committee members may discuss the item before they call on speakers from the audience. The chairman will then call on people who submitted speaker slips. When the chairman calls your name, walk to the podium and adjust the microphone to suit you.

When you speak to a legislative committee you must "go through the chair." This means you must first address the committee by saying, "Mr./Madam Chairman, committee members." This shows that you respect the chairman's authority.

The legislature records its committee hearings so you must first identify yourself for the record. Tell the committee your name and what group you represent. Remember to go through the chair. For example, a speaker would start by saying, "Madam Chairman, committee members, my name is Amber Smith. I represent Disneyland." After introducing yourself, you may give the committee your comments.

If a member interrupts you with a question he should go through the chair to ask the question and you must go through the chair to respond to the question. You must continue going through the chair on every question. For example:

Amber Smith:" . . .are too low and should be . . ."

Member Gonzales (interrupting): "Madam Chairman, Ms. Smith, so you feel the taxes are too low?"

Chairmen: "Ms. Smith."

Amber Smith "Madam Chairman, Representative Gonzales, yes. We feel the taxes are too low."

Chairmen: "Mr. Gonzales."

Member Gonzales: "Madam Chairman, Ms. Smith, would you be satisfied if we raised your taxes by 2%?"

Chairman: "Ms. Smith."

Amber Smith: "Madam Chairman, Representative Gonzales, we will not be satisfied with anything less than a 5% tax increase.

When you finish speaking to the committee, say that you will be happy to answer any questions. If anyone has questions, answer them by going through the chair. If not, thank the committee and return to your seat.

Modified instructions for speaking to the legislative committee during the Project Citizen State Competition

Each class will be assigned to a hearing room for the entire competition. At the start of the round, a panel of judges (legislators and members of the community) will enter the room and take their seats toward the front of the room (at a raised dais). The chair will call the agenda item (your research project) and the group to be heard. Those students should take their seats at either front tables where there are microphones located or speak from the front row seats where the audience is located. The chair and members of the committee will introduce themselves and than the students should introduce themselves individually and identify which school they represent.

The chair will then ask the group to begin their testimony on their area of the Research Project. Students have four minutes to give their prepared testimony. Students may use notes or note cards and every student should participate during the testimony phase. A timer will be on hand and will give the unit a one minute warning using flash.

At the end of the four minutes, the timer will call time. If a student is in the middle of a sentence, the judges will allow the student to complete his or her comment. Following the four minutes of prepared testimony, the judges will begin six minutes of follow-up questions. The questions may or may not be directed toward a particular student, so all students should be prepared to respond to the question.

Students should follow the steps outlined above when responding to a question posed by the chair by recognizing the chair and begin their response with "Mr./Madam Chairman". If another member of the committee, for example, Representative Gonzales asks a question, a student should respond by saying "Mr./Madam Chairman, Representative Gonzales" and proceed to answer the question. This closely simulates an authentic legislative hearing.

During the six minute follow-up period, students "MAY NOT" use notes or cards to respond. Again, the timer will flash a one minute warning card. At the end of the round, the chair and the other members of the committee will give approximately five minutes of feedback to the students.