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Testifying on an Issue in Austin 


All committee business must be conducted in open meetings. Although House rules do not require a committee to hear public testimony on a bill referred to it, committees almost always solicit testimony on bills of outstanding importance. Senate rules require a public hearing before a committee may report out a bill.

Before the Hearing You Should

  • Find out when and where your bill will be heard.
  • Plan your testimony. It is customary to have written copies of your comments available to distribute to members of the committee.

At the Hearing You Should

  • Be present at the start of the hearing. All persons present usually get a chance to speak, but sometimes this is not possible. If you do not get a chance to testify, your position on the bill will be entered into the record, and you can always submit a written copy of your testimony.
  • Sign the testimony card (usually on a table at the rear of the hearing room). Give the bill number, whether you favor or oppose the bill, and your name. You may turn the card into a staffer at the front of the hearing room at any time (even during testimony).
  • Wait your turn. The chair announces the beginning of the hearing on a particular bill. The clerk will read the bill. The first speaker is usually the bill’s sponsor. The chair then asks for testimony, which is ordered according to her/his discretion.
  • Plan on following the custom (although it is not absolutely necessary) of beginning your remarks by addressing the chair and committee members, giving your name and address and why you are there. For example: "Mr. or Madam Chair, and members of the committee, my name is Jane Q. Public from Austin."
  • Be brief and to the point: try to keep you comments under 5 minutes. Most hearings are somewhat informal, so a conversational tone is best.
  • Expect some questions and comments from committee members.

Logistics


In most hearing rooms, the committee members sit behind a desk on an elevated platform that faces a desk with a microphone reserved for public testimony. The public may view the hearing and come and go as they please. You can track the committee process online at the Texas House and Senate Web pages.


Testifying at the State Board of Education (SBOE)


The most powerful way to advocate for accurate textbooks is to testify at one of the public hearings generally held in July and September of adoption years. The hearings are the primary venue for the news media to witness the levels of grassroots and expert support or opposition to a particular measure.

Before the Hearing You Should

  • Register to testify. Go to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Web site to view the sign-up form. E-mail or fax the form to TEA.
  • Read the relevant sections of the proposed books. SBOE members regularly ask witnesses if they have read a textbook. You can check out a textbook at any of the TEA Regional Service Centers. To find the Regional Service Center nearest you, please visit the TEA website.

At the Hearing You Should

  • Wait your turn. There will be an ordered list of those signed up for public testimony available at the door. A TEA staff member will announce the next speaker.
  • Prepare a written copy of your statement and bring 25 copies. When you are called to the podium to testify, a TEA staffer will take your copies and distribute them to the Board and to the press table.
  • Be succinct. The Board observes a strict three minute time limit for each testimony. A warning bell will ring two minutes into your testimony. Keep talking until the three minute bell rings, complete your thought and thank the Board.
  • Be prepared for follow-up questions from individual board members.

Logistics


The SBOE holds public textbook hearings in Room 1-104 of the William B. Travis Building, which is located just north of the Capitol at 1701 North Congress Avenue in Austin. There is ample public parking across the street at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum.

In the hearing room, the 15 SBOE members sit facing each other with a podium off to the side for public testimony. The public may view the hearing and come and go as they please.