There are times during the course of the legislative session that we ask our members to contact their legislators and educate them on the ways a bill could impact the way your company operates in Maine. Our Grassroots Action Network has been instrumental in the passage and defeat of many bills during the past four years. With the involvement of active members, we are increasing the volume of the voice of Maine business and affecting real public policy outcomes to help your business thrive and grow.
Legislative Joint Standing Committees
Connect to the State of Maine website to see who serves on the various committees. Email links to legislators and committee clerk contact information is also available.
Click here to access the Legislative Joint Standing Committees page.
Click here to access the Legislative Joint Standing Committees page.
Contact Your Legislators
Connect to the State of Maine website to see who serves your home or business' district.
Contact Your Representatives | Contact Your Senators
Contact Your Representatives | Contact Your Senators
Tips for Testifying
Testifying before a committee is a very effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative matter. It is an opportunity to influence public policy and make your views part of the public record. Below are some important guidelines to follow when presenting your views on a bill before your lawmakers.
Things to remember:
- Always bring 20 copies of your testimony with you and hand them to the clerk who will distribute the copies to all the committee members.
- Get to the hearing early. Be patient if delayed.
- Deliver your testimony; don't just read from the text.
- Keep your comments short and concise (3 minutes maximum) and try not to ramble.
- Be pleasant, interesting, and energetic.
- Include visual aids such as charts and graphs to emphasize your position.
- Consider this opportunity a privilege, not a chore.
- Practice breathing and relaxing.
- Don't be intimidated. It is acceptable to disagree, but do not get cornered into an argument with the committee or the opposition. Avoid being confrontational or using foul language.
- If you don't know the answer to a follow-up question, "I don't know" is an appropriate answer, rather than risking your credibility or getting maneuvered into saying something contradictory.
- Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Writing your testimony:
- Identify yourself (name, title, company) and the number of people you specifically represent, their general interests, and their contributions to the economy.
- Simply state your position on the issue, and then summarize the main reasons for your position. Give specific examples about the proposal's impact on your business.
- Try to say something positive in your BRIEF remarks. For example, talk about ways you have communicated with your employees on safety issues or talk about reforms that enabled you to grow your business – either through investing in capital equipment and/or hiring additional employees.
- Conclude by summarizing the importance of the issue to your company.
- Thank the committee for the opportunity to testify and for considering the issue and your position in its deliberations. Simply end your remarks by saying, "Thank you for your time. I'd be happy to answer any questions."
- If there is a question, you cannot answer during the hearing, offer to find out and follow up with your lawmaker promptly.
After the hearing, be sure to write a letter of thanks to all the committee members present. Summarize your main points, ask for support of your position, and offer to answer any questions. Also provide any additional information requested at the hearing.
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce's Advocacy staff is here to work with you to coordinate and formulate testimony. If you would like to get involved in making the voice of business heard at the Statehouse, we want to hear from you. You can let us know if you are available to testify on a specific issue or if you would be willing to come to the Statehouse and show your support by attending a public hearing. Both methods are very important to our legislative success. Email email@example.com and sign up to testify today.
Why you should participate
The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is highly respected as Maine's leading business advocate at the Statehouse and before the state's regulatory agencies. With that said, there will never be a stronger voice in the Statehouse than yours. It is our responsibility to not only speak on your behalf but also to provide you opportunities to speak for yourself on the crucial issues facing Maine businesses.
Now that doesn't mean you'll be testifying every day. It means that we will ask you to appear before legislative committees periodically throughout the session, to weigh in on the debates that are most critical to your ability to do business in Maine. We will continue to work in your best interests. However, it remains very important that legislators hear directly from constituents.
Public Hearing Process
Participation in democracy through the public hearing process provides opportunity to directly influence a bill's outcome.
The public hearing process is almost always a well-ordered and polite exercise in participatory democracy. It is your opportunity to tell lawmakers face-to-face how a proposed bill will affect you.
The public hearing process marks a critical point in the life of a bill, a point at which you can directly influence its outcome. It offers the best opportunity the general public has to meet with legislators as a group and debate the merits of legislation.
Virtually all bills go through a screening process before they are considered by the full legislature. Most follow the same path from inception to enactment. Once drafted, legislation is referred to one of the legislature's joint standing committees. The committee to which the bill is assigned then schedules a public hearing. When a bill has been scheduled for public hearing, interested parties begin to formulate their positions – if they have not done so already. The Maine State Chamber frequently runs articles in IMPACT on particular bills of interest, and communicates with a broad array of Maine Chamber members to determine business community positions. If the bill concerns matters in which you hold expertise, this is the point at which Maine Chamber staff may ask you to testify – or at which you might decide you want to testify. Usually, in the several days prior to the public hearing, individuals and groups with a related interest confer to determine what type of testimony will be offered with respect to the bill. The day of a public hearing is always a busy one. A legislative committee may schedule between three and 10 bills for hearing on a given day. The atmosphere and tone of the hearings remind some of a town meeting.
Speaking in turn…
Generally speaking, the sponsor of a bill – a senator or representative – will take the podium first to present the proposed legislation. Next, the committee chairperson will give co-sponsors of the bill an opportunity to speak. The sponsor's and co-sponsor's remarks should be listened to carefully. They may discuss the reasons the bill was introduced in the first place, their level of commitment to its passage, and in what areas additional ideas or amendments would be helpful – or welcome. Once the sponsors are done speaking, the committee will ask for testimony in support of the bill. There is no predetermined order as to who testifies first – not even a formal method of assigning the order of speakers. Sometimes supporters (or opponents) of a bill will establish an informal "batting order" among themselves to better structure testimony. For example, the Maine Chamber often steps up first to sound the major themes and lay the groundwork for testimony to be given by our members and others. After everyone supporting the bill has testified, opponents of the bill get their chance to speak. Again, no set order of testimony is required. Finally, a third category of testimony, called "neither for nor against," is often heard. The committee then receives input from people who have concerns about the bill but are not ready to take a definitive position on it. In many cases, the committee will allot time for testimony from proponents, opponents, and neutrals.
Tips on testifying…
The prospect of presenting testimony to a legislative committee may seem intimidating the first time. It is, in fact, fairly easy – if you've done your homework. Presentations should be short and to the point. The most impressive and influential testimony is always concise and well supported by facts – even illustrations. Legislators appreciate a quick and clean presentation. They also rely heavily upon information the public can bring to the hearing process, especially information which is otherwise unavailable to them. For this reason, testimony from personal experience, as that experience relates specifically to the impact of the legislation, is invaluable. Testimony is ineffective if the speaker is repetitive, takes too long in his/her presentation, or if the speaker's position is unsupported by fact and/or experience. Probably the least effective testimony involves discussions or broad political or ideological positions. Keep in mind that legislators like to base their decisions upon solid ground. If you are preparing testimony, legislators want to hear exactly why that bill would benefit you or specifically how the bill would hurt you.
Questions from the committee…
Time permitting, questions from committee members almost inevitably follow good testimony. Sometimes these questions can be pointed and difficult. If this happens during your testimony, don't get ruffled and don't be afraid to stop and think for a moment in order to answer the question properly. Second, never guess at the answer. If you don't know the answer, say so. A frank admission that you don't have information requested by a legislator will go much farther in raising your credibility before the committee than an answer that is only half right, or that is totally wrong. Besides, you can provide follow-up information to the legislators at a later date – and do so as soon as possible. Third, and this is very important, do not concede your case unintentionally. Some committee members will ask questions that take the form of a statement, followed by "don't you agree with that?" or some other leading phrase which could be contradictory to your testimony. Should that happen, don't be afraid to disagree with legislators. You are there to give your opinion frankly and honestly. Everyone should respect that. Fourth, try not to take aggressive questions personally. Legislators have an obligation to probe all sides of the issue. Your balanced response may help turn a doubter into a supporter. Finally, attempt to keep your testimony consistent with other people who are on your side. Committees appreciate having your comments in writing as well (20 copies will be enough for each committee member and their staff).
One good follow-up idea for anyone who testifies at a public hearing is to talk to legislators immediately after the hearing, or in the next few days, to reinforce the points made in testimony. Telephone calls and letters are also good ways to bring home the main points of your testimony. Once the public hearing has concluded, the committee will schedule a work session to discuss the legislation among committee members. These are open to the public, but differ substantially in how one may participate.
The Maine Chamber works with many of its members on a regular basis to coordinate and formulate testimony. If you have concerns about specific pieces of legislation and would like to testify at a public hearing – but haven't testified in Augusta recently or at all – you may want to seek advice and assistance from Maine Chamber staff. Feel free to call us at (207) 623-4568 or fax us at (207) 622-7723.
Legislative Work Sessions
Work Sessions provide opportunity to offer input into amendments and outcomes.
If you have a special interest in a bill, don't overlook the importance of the work session in the legislative process. The final version of a bill generally results from the deliberations and decisions of the committee during the work session.
From inception to enactment, most bills follow the same course. They are drafted and referred to one of 20 joint standing committees. The committee to which the bill is assigned schedules a public hearing, during which sponsors and any other interested parties, both opponents and proponents, have an opportunity to speak.
The committee then schedules a work session, during which the committee discusses the bill in detail, among themselves, and takes some formal action which either kills the bill in committee or moves the bill along to the full Legislature for action by the House and Senate.
This is not a public hearing — but it is open to the public. While the work session is primarily for the benefit of committee members themselves, there is usually an opportunity for input from other interested parties, including other legislators, government officials, lobbyists and the general public.
The primary purpose of the work session is to allow committee members the opportunity to thoroughly discuss bills, draft amendments, review amendments proposed by others, and to vote on their final recommendation to the Legislature.
Before speaking, however, those who are not committee members must be recognized by the chair of the committee. This courtesy is usually extended. If you are unsure whether or not you will be recognized, however, you may want to indicate your interest in speaking to a committee member before the work session begins.
It is our experience that members of the committee appreciate the information and opinions offered by the public. Generally speaking, this is not the time to be political. This is the time to offer helpful, constructive information which will assist the committee in its decision making process.
Often committee members have questions about a bill which only those attending the work session can — or get a chance to — answer. If a bill directly affects you or your business, your attendance at a work session may be critical.
The work session provides a unique opportunity for interested parties to interact with committee members in an informal setting, and it provides an opportunity to offer the committee amendments you'd like to have considered.
To assure that your suggestions receive the attention they should, present your proposals to committee members in advance of the work session — or at least make a member of the committee aware of your intention to suggest a change. It is always a good idea to have at least one member of the committee who understands and supports your position.
Work sessions are scheduled by the committee chairs and are not required to be advertised in advance, as are public hearings — so it is sometimes a challenge to know just when a bill will be considered. Some committees publish their work session schedules in advance; others do not.
Notification can range from 10 days to 10 minutes. Occasionally, bills come up unexpectedly — and that is one reason Maine Chamber staff are in such regular attendance at these sessions. If you are unsure about a work session schedule on a bill of interest to you, call either the committee clerk or the Maine Chamber.
In the case of important legislation, the committee work session is often the most critical phase of the process. If you cannot attend yourself, but have information you feel is important to communicate, contact the Maine Chamber lobbyist prior to the work session.