Talking to the Nevada Legislature
The Toastmasters organization claims public speaking is the most universal phobia on the planet. Mouths dry up, knees knock, hands shake, voices squeak. It’s almost time for the Nevada State Legislature to begin, and it’s important to know that everyone has the right to testify before a legislative committee about proposed bills and laws. Here are 12 tips for speaking before legislators.
1. People don’t have to be lobbyists to speak before the legislature. Nevada has an open meeting legislative process, and folks can attend any or all committee meetings. Public testimony is allowed at most hearings.
2. Find out when and where the bill will be heard. Go to www.leg.state.nv.us or call the Legislative Message Center at (800) 978-2878, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
3. Get copies of everything beforehand and thoroughly study all relative information. Copies of bills, resolutions and journals can be picked up in the Public Bill Room on the first floor of the Legislative Building, Room 1201, or by calling (775) 684-1387.
4. Be on time. Sign in upon arrival and indicate on the sign-in sheet an intention to testify. One small but important detail, make sure to print so it’s easy to read.
5. Arrive with copies of the testimony for the committee members, so they can read it later. Spoken comments should just be the highlights of the testimony to save time—no one is allowed to speak for hours.
6. Be patient. The bill’s sponsor will be allowed to speak first and then testimony will be heard in the order on the sign-in sheet.
7. Begin by addressing the chair and the committee members and then give your name. For example: Madam Chair, members of the (actual name of the committee) Committee, my name is John Longwinded from Reno, Nev. I am representing myself, and I am/am not in favor of this bill because …
8. Be courteous and brief. Try not to repeat testimony that someone else already provided, and remember to hit salient points. Leave the history to the written statement.
9. Be prepared to answer questions, but don’t worry if you don’t have an answer. Just say you don’t know.
10. Demonstrations, applause or addressing the committee members or witnesses from the audience are prohibited.
11. Committee members will come and go during these meetings. Don’t take offense. Members might have another meeting to attend.
12. Don’t expect any action to be taken right away. If the chair doesn’t announce a date for a vote or for further meetings, first go to the internet and search for that bill. If that doesn’t help, check back with committee staff or the Legislative Message Center at (800) 995-9080 or (800) 978-2878 toll free, or direct at (775) 684-6789 for locals.