How to Testify

The Ohio Township Association suggests that township officials contact the state organization and let us know what legislation you are interested in testifying on and in which committee it is pending.

Committees in the Ohio House and Senate are paperless. All committees require witnesses to submit a witness form and testimony 24 hours in advance of the committee hearing. The sooner you turn in a slip, the better chance you have of testifying earlier. The OTA can assist you in making sure the testimony is submitted in a timely fashion and to the correct office.

When preparing your testimony, brevity is the soul of wit — keep it a reasonable length. Have the OTA and others review your testimony to make sure it makes sound arguments for your position. If you have compelling counterarguments to those opposing your position, explain them briefly in your testimony.

Make sure it’s clear in your testimony what your position on the bill is (for, against, just an interested party). Give actual examples from your township about how the bill would impact you and your community. Know the OTA’s position on the bill you’re testifying on.

If your local legislator is on the committee, talk to them in advance of testifying. If they are not on the committee, make certain they know you’re coming and inquire about their position on the legislation you’re testifying on.

Other Suggestions and Comments

  • Dress in business attire.
  • Try and park in the underground Statehouse Parking Garage (accessible from S. Third Street, E. State Street or E. Broad Street) or one of the many parking garages/lots in the downtown Columbus area.
  • The Ohio Statehouse has metal detectors and you will be required to go through them. You will also need your ID, as it is required to get into the building.
  • Know where the committee hearing will take place and make sure to arrive at least 10 minutes early to the start of the committee hearing.
  • Be prepared to wait, as some hearings can be lengthy.

Legislative Committee Protocols

  • When called to testify, don’t feel as if you have to read your testimony word for word. The committee will have access to your testimony via their tablets. Additionally, due to the large number of bills a committee usually hears and the number of committees that meet simultaneously, be prepared to summarize — rather than read — your testimony to the committee.
  • Always address the chair of the committee first when speaking. For example, “Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify.”
  • Always address the chair first even when answering another member’s question. For example, “Mr. Chairman, Representative Smith, the answer is . . . ”
  • Do not interrupt and do not engage in an argument with committee members or other witnesses. You don’t have to agree with legislators on the committee, but disagree in a respectful way.
  • Do not question the personal motives of legislators, other witnesses or anyone else while testifying.
  • Following your testimony, the chair of the committee will ask if committee members have questions for you. When asked a question, listen carefully. If you don’t understand the question, say so politely. If you don’t know the answer, say so and if you can get information later to answer the question, say you can do that. Make certain you follow through on that promise. Keep your answers concise and to the point. Always tell the truth.
  • Before sitting down, thank the committee chair for the opportunity to testify.

If multiple township officials are testifying from your township, the chair of the committee may ask that only one person testify and summarize the position of all. Prior to the hearing, designate one spokesperson in case this request is made.

For more information, contact Heidi Fought, OTA director of governmental affairs, at 614-863-0045 or fought@ohiotownships.org.