The New Hampshire legislature is accepting public testimony only remotely on bills in 2021. No traditional hearings; no mornings spent standing in the hall of the LOB. While this prevents the face-to-face communication we’re used to at hearings, it could allow more people to promote pro-life bills by signing in online and/or participating in hearings via Zoom videoconference.
Does this matter? You bet it does. At a recent hearing in the House Education Committee, the chairman announced that about 3800 people had registered an opinion on a particular bill, by signing in electronically (the equivalent of the customary blue sheets, for those familiar with House procedure) or registering to testify online (the equivalent of pink cards). Of those 3800, about 3200 were opposed to the bill in question.
Numbers count, and they’ll make impressions on legislators. Imagine if three thousand pro-life Granite Staters were to weigh in on a life-issue bill.
All of the information below is from The New Hampshire General Court website, a great resource for anyone interested in civic engagement.
The Platform: Zoom
House and Senate hearings are being held on the Zoom videoconference platform. Each week’s House and Senate calendar will provide the log-in information for each hearing, and you can also check for a bill’s docket on the General Court site to get the same details. (I’ll report on this blog the information for hearings on bills I follow.)
There is a phone-in option for hearings, and that number is included with the Zoom information.
Signing In: Easy and Quick
You can register your opinion on a bill without providing testimony. It’s an important step to take, as was underscored by the number of sign-ins on the education bill cited above.
The link to sign in on a House bill: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/committees/remotetestimony/default.aspx
The link to sign in on a Senate bill: http://gencourt.state.nh.us/remotecommittee/senate.aspx
When can you sign in on a bill?
You can sign in to register your opinion as soon as a bill’s hearing is scheduled. The earlier you sign in, the better. That way the committee will have an idea of what to expect in terms of public participation. If you wait until the day of the hearing, try to sign in no later than 30 minutes before the hearing.
What do you need to know?
To sign in on a bill, you’ll need to know the bill number, the date of its hearing, and the committee that’s hearing the bill.
There will be a drop-down menu on the sign-in form that will let you describe your role (most likely, Member of the Public).
You will indicate on the form whom you’re representing: yourself, an agency, a group, etc.
You will indicate your position on the bill: support, oppose, or neutral.
At the bottom of the sign-in form, you can indicate if you wish to testify and how much time you think you’ll need. Check this off only if you plan to give oral testimony during the online hearing.
Testifying to a committee
Signing up to testify aloud includes all the sign-in steps above, plus indicating at the bottom of the form that you want to testify. You will then need to log in to the Zoom hearing at the appropriate time. Be prepared to wait. The presiding House or Senate member will call on you when it’s your turn to speak.
Some hearings may have to be “continued,” meaning a second session would be held another day to accommodate the number of people wanting to speak.
Best practices are the same via Zoom as in a live hearing. Be brief, clear, and courteous. Committees hate repetition, but it’s OK to express your agreement with someone who has testified ahead of you if that person made a point very well.
What about written testimony?
You can send written testimony to the committee, even if you don’t testify aloud. Email it to the committee address, available on that handy General Court website.
Hearings on YouTube
Video of some hearings is streamed live on the House and Senate YouTube channels. That’s for viewing only; the YouTube option doesn’t provide for two-way communication with a committee.