How To Testify

County Council

You can submit written testimony, or register to speak before the council at the public hearing for individual pieces of legislation. Individuals are given three minutes to testify before the Council. If you are the single representative for an organization, you have 5 minutes. Either submit a copy of your written testimony in advance, or bring 7 copies for distribution at the hearing. The Council will often ask questions about your testimony, so be prepared to discuss the issue.

Register your appearance to testify: County Council Testimony Signup Form

Submit written testimony: councilmail@howardcountymd.gov 

Planning Board

The Planning Board meets the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month. Additional meetings may be added, if approved by the Board. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and conclude at 10:30 p.m. Additional inquiries may be made to the Recording Secretary (please see link above).

Besides testifying at a public hearing or meeting, citizens may submit testimony via email at planningboard@howardcountymd.gov, or fax to 410-313-3042 or by mailing it to Planning Board c/o Department of Planning and Zoning, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, MD 21043. Please be certain to include the case number with your testimony.

Board of Education

There are multiple opportunities for citizens to address the Board of Education.

Public Forum:  At the beginning of each afternoon and evening session of the regular meetings, the Board sets aside time for up to 5 citizens to bring subjects of concern, which are not on that meeting’s agenda to the Board’s attention. Public Forum may not be used to address negative personnel issues or those topics slated for formal public hearings, e.g., a specific policy, budget, or a boundary lines proposal.  Persons may pre-register during business hours during the three weeks prior to the Board meeting up to the close of business on the last working day before the Board meeting.  Each participant is limited to 3 minutes and are asked to provide 15 copies of their written testimony.  For advance registration, speakers should call the Board of Education Office at 410-313-7194.

Public Hearings: The Board encourages public participation by setting aside time during regular and special meetings when the public may provide verbal testimony on specific topics (i.e. individual policies, school calendar proposals, budget, boundary line proposals, etc.). Persons may pre-register during business hours during the three weeks prior to the hearing up to the close of business on the last working day before the hearing. While oral testimony is limited to three minutes, detailed written testimony is read and considered.  Please note that written testimony is part of the public record maintained by the Board Office and may be accessed by members of the public upon request.  Participants are asked to provide 15 written copies of their testimony before or during the hearing. For advance registration, speakers should call the Board of Education Office at 410-313-7194.

Regular Monthly Meetings:  The Board of Education generally holds its regular meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of each month beginning at 4 p.m. From time to time, citizens may wish to present an item on the Board’s agenda. To do so, a citizen should submit a written request briefly stating the nature of the presentation. Such requests should be addressed to the Chairman of the Board of Education. Final determination as to date and time will be made by the Chairman.

Letters:  The Board welcomes letters from citizens. A letter addressed to the Chairman will be copied to all members, including the Superintendent.

Phone Calls:  Board members do not have offices at the Department of Education; therefore, they may be contacted at home.  Due to the volume of calls they receive, a return call may not always be possible, but Board members have answering machines and citizens are encouraged to leave messages on them.

State Legislature

The core of the legislative process takes place in the General Assembly’s standing committees.  The four principal standing committees in the Senate and the six principal standing committees in the House consider all statewide legislation and recommend to the General Assembly which legislation should pass and which should fail.  The committee process is designed to gather input from the public on bills that legislators have introduced in the General Assembly. The public is encouraged to attend hearings and offer oral and written testimony.

The Senate’s standing committee rooms are in the Miller Senate Building.  House standing committee rooms are in the House Office Building. The Committee Meetings and Hearing Schedule, published weekly and updated frequently, lists bills to be heard before each committee. The Hearing Schedule is available on the MGA website and in printed form within the capitol complex.  Interested parties may also call Library and Information Services for committee meeting times and other pertinent information.

The weekly Hearing Schedule includes the times of each committee’s hearings.  Most hearings begin at 1:00 p.m. The Hearing Schedule also lists the bills to be heard, the number of copies of written testimony required, and the deadline for signing the witness sheet before a hearing begins. The committee chairs determine the order in which the bills will be heard, which may not be the order in which the bills are listed in the Hearing Schedule. The committee chairs may also limit testimony due to time constraints. Usually, the chair will call a bill’s sponsor as the first speaker, followed by proponents and opponents who have indicated a desire to testify. Committee hearings offer citizens one of the most effective opportunities to communicate their views and concerns about individual legislation.

When presenting testimony:

Arrive early.  Getting to a hearing early will give you the chance to sign the witness sheet and become comfortable with the surroundings. Before a hearing begins, witnesses must sign a witness sheet that is available in each committee room;

Introduce yourself.  When speaking to a committee, clearly identify yourself and the organization you represent, if any. Then clearly state your position on the bill;

Don’t be intimidated.  The General Assembly is a citizen legislature. Legislators want to hear what constituents have to say. State your case clearly and in simple terms as you would to anyone.  There are no “rights or wrongs” in testifying;

Be brief.  Make your points as concisely as possible, be prepared to limit your testimony if necessary, and try not to repeat testimony offered by previous witnesses. Provide specific information about your position. For example, legislators may want to know what has been done in other states, what the costs might be, and what groups support or oppose your position;

Be prepared to answer questions.  The best way to make your case is to provide straightforward answers to legislators’ questions. If you don’t know an answer, say so. Then, if possible, find the answer and relay it later. Generally, refrain from asking questions of committee members since public hearings are directed toward providing them with information on the legislation under consideration;  and

Provide summaries.  A concise written summary or clearly written letter is an effective way to further explain your position. Be sure to provide the required number of copies of your written material to committee staff prior to the start of the hearing.

The source of this information is at: MD Dept of Legislative Services

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
Join Now Volunteer Support