5-Step Testimony: Make Your Story Matter

Skyline High School students Fabiola Torres and Kierra Jones testify for SB 2039 to educate against human trafficking.

We talk a lot about testifying in the Texas legislature as a way to share your story for change. But what does that even mean? Testifying… that’s like what we see those professional, suited attorneys doing on Law and Order, right?

Actually, it just means sharing your story. And anyone, yes even you — especially you — can do it! You don’t need to be a pro-lobbyist to have a life story and a desire to help others. We’ll teach you below in 5 simple steps how 3 minutes of your life can change many lives by supporting, or obstructing, the passing of a state law.

Step 1

Know where you’re going.

The Texas State Capitol is a big, beautiful building but can be confusing and intimidating. If you plan to testify for a bill being heard in a committee, look up the meeting room by committee or by date and use this handy map to find it.

Not sure which committee might be hearing the bill you’re interested in? Head to Texas Legislature Online, create an account, search for the bill number (e.g. SB2039), and click “Add to Alert List” — you’ll get an email update each time the bill moves, or only for certain actions you choose!

Step 2

Register your support or opposition, and designate what type of testimony you plan to give.

This is the only slightly confusing step, as the Senate and House have different registration processes — and they can vary by committee.

The Texas House of Representatives uses an electronic registration system which you can access via kiosks throughout the capitol.

Rebecca Alonso, an Ann Richards School student, registers support for a bill for the first time.

The Texas State Senate uses a mixed system of electronic and paper registration cards. Not sure which will be used for your bill? Best to call the Committee Clerk for the committee hearing the bill to ask them (find who that is under Committee Membership).

*You can simply register support or opposition to a bill (takes 5 minutes max!), or choose to sign up for oral testimony, written testimony or both.

Step 3

Visit the bill’s author or sponsor for talking points.

You know your story best, and it will be super valuable as you testify. If you’re not sure how to best relate it to supporting or blocking what the bill hopes to accomplish, visit the bill’s author or sponsors’ office and they’ll be happy to help you frame your testimony!

A legislative staffer provides talking points for one of our student advocates hoping to testify.

Step 4

Share your story!

Not every legislator can be an expert on every topic they’re expected to fight for as they represent their constituents. That’s where you come in. Telling your story of personal experience with the topic a bill is discussing is the best way to help them understand whether or not this piece of legislation is worthwhile.

Depending on the committee, you’ll have either 2 or 3 minutes to share your story in support or against a bill. Too nervous to speak? Submit a written letter of support. Ready to give the legislators a piece of your mind? Don’t forget to bring along a written copy too.

Austin High School student Ashley Kahn testifies in support of SB2039 in the 85th legislative session.

Most important tip: don’t forget to relate your story to the bill at hand, and end with a clear ask for them to pass — or pass over — that bill!

Step 5

Celebrate!

Ann Richards School students reflect on a job well done after successfully driving a committee to a unanimous vote.

Your voice made a difference! Whether or not the bill progresses (or dies) as you hoped, your words have entered the state’s record and the legislators’ mental banks and will never be forgotten. They’ll affect future bills, hearts and minds for years to come. So pat yourself on the back, and BE back! Our state relies on #ChangeMakers like you.

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