Thank you for being brave and engaged in our local democracy. If you’ve made it here, it means you’re informed about your local politics, know your legislative cycle, and most importantly, are ready to take action.
Testifying on a bill at the Capitol is an excellent opportunity to influence the legislative process. It’s the best way to ensure your position on a bill is heard by lawmakers face to face.
After a state representative or senator files a bill, it’s assigned to a committee and must be heard by the committee before it can advance. In these committee hearings, legislators invite subject matter experts and members of the public to share their positions, perspectives, and expertise. These testimonies are considered as lawmakers decide what actions to take on that day: they can vote to advance the bill, amend it, or leave it pending.
It’s important to understand: Whatever lawmakers decide to do with the bill on that day, your testimony can also make an impact outside the chamber. Committees must hear public testimony, but they’re not the only ones listening!
Your testimony can reach undecided legislators and community members who have a stake in the bill but can’t testify themselves. Your testimony could even get covered in news articles or make the rounds on social media. Because your voice matters.
We’re always looking for progressive Texans who want to take their advocacy to the next level by testifying. It not only makes a difference, but it’s also an opportunity for you to build your advocacy community by connecting with other like-minded people and organizations. We understand that testifying at the Capitol can be intimidating, especially for first-timers, so we’re breaking down the process for you.
Preparing your testimony
Testimony is typically limited to two minutes. Two minutes can go quickly, especially when you’re in the spotlight, so it’s important to plan your testimony beforehand and time it. You can use the guide below as a starting point.
Roadmap to the components of a great testimony
- Introduce yourself – Who are you? What district or city are you from? What role do you play in your community? (Parent, educator, student, lifelong resident, etc.)
- State your stance on the bill – Are you against or in support?
- Expand – Why is this bill important to you and your community? How would it affect you and your community, whether positively or negatively? This is the section to focus on your personal story and experiences, if you can.
- The ask – Do you want the committee to support or oppose the bill? Recap the “why” if time allows.
- Closing – Thank the committee members for their time.
How to register to testify
In order to provide oral testimony, you must register as a witness on the day of the committee hearing. Registration typically opens 30 minutes to an hour before a hearing starts, and ends as soon as the hearing is over.
You have to be physically on the Capitol grounds to register — there’s no way to do it remotely. Once you’re at the Capitol, you can either use one of the Witness Registration kiosks located outside the committee hearing room. or you can register from your own device (laptop or tablet only; phones won’t work) while on the “Public-Capitol” wifi. Get detailed instructions on the House Witness Registration webpage.
Tips for the day of your testimony
What to wear:
There’s no official dress code at the Capitol. Legislators typically wear business attire. You too can wear business attire for whatever makes you feel most confident!
Austin traffic can be rough, especially at rush hour, so be sure to account for that. For parking, the Capitol Visitors Garage is free for the first two hours and $1 for each half hour after that. The maximum daily charge is $12. But keep in mind that it does fill up on days of high interest. There are also metered spots all around the Capitol complex.
Don’t want to deal with parking? Take public transportation!
Be prepared to wait…
Hearing days can be long, especially for high-profile bills. It could be hours before you’re called to testify. We’ve already seen hearings go through midnight this session. Bring water, snacks, your phone/laptop charger, or a book — anything you might want or need for a long day at the Capitol. You can grab food and drinks at the Capitol Grill on level 1 of the Extension, but as a tip: it’s only open from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. After that, you’re on your own.
… but also, be ready to testify at a moment’s notice.
Each committee makes its own rules for what order they’ll hear bills and call witnesses. So stay alert and ready!
Bring extra copies of your testimony:
If for some reason you have to leave before you’re called, don’t worry. Testifying is a big ask, and sometimes things come up. You can always submit paper copies of your testimony to the committee clerk. It’ll still be read and considered. However, you must bring 20 copies of your testimony and include any supporting documents.
This is our state, and we will continue to show up, rally, and advocate for the issues that matter to us.
Testifying at the Capitol in support or against a bill is a powerful and direct way to influence the legislative process and advocate for all of our freedoms. Interested? Let us know! We’ll be in touch with opportunities as they come up.
Want to learn more? Check out our guide on how to register to testify.