Nebraskans are the “second house” of our legislature — we’re encouraged to participate in the lawmaking process by advocating to our state senators. As part of our Unicameral 101 series, read our tips on lobbying and testifying in front of committees.
Citizen Lobbying Best Practices: The Five Commandments
1. Be honest and truthful.
Lobbying is about building a relationship of trust between the lobbyist and the senator and senator’s staff. This is especially true with an unpaid lobbyist whose only value to the senator is the accurate and trustworthy information the lobbyist brings to the senator.
2. Be respectful and positive.
Even if you disagree with a senator about an issue or a legislative bill, it is important to maintain a good working relationship with the senator. You may agree with each other on the next issue.
3. Be brief and helpful.
The senators are incredibly busy and they have hundreds of bills to consider. State exactly what you want of the senator and why you want it. Offer factual, useful information that will help the senator make a decision in your favor. Always follow through if the senator asks for your help.
4. Use your own words.
The senators do not have time for redundancy. They do not read mass communication such as blanket emails. They are much more receptive to people who take the time to write and articulate individual thoughts and offer personal stories.
5. Say thank you.
Make a telephone call to the senator’s office to say thank you. Send an email to say thank you. Leave a note on the senator’s desk to say thank you. Write a letter to say thank you. The senators appreciate knowing their hard work is recognized and valued.
Tips for Testifying in Public Hearings
- You will be limited to 3 to 5 minutes of speaking time, depending upon the committee, to state your case. Write your testimony in advance and practice your oral statements in advance to assure you can meet the testimony time limit.
- One way to get more time to present your case is to attach supporting documents to your written testimony. Attach graphs, photos, citations, or other evidence that supports your testimony and position. Any documents attached to your testimony will be entered into the record.
- Bring written copies of your testimony (around 10 copies) to the hearing for the senators.
- Make eye contact, speak clearly, sit up straight, look confident.
- Unless you are part of a planned sequence of testifiers, these public hearings are cattle calls. People shuffle forward in a sort of dance to determine who will be the next speaker. When the issue draws a lot of public attention and there are many speakers it is best to be one of the first speakers, so don’t be timid. Jump up, do the dance, and head to the table.
- If previous speakers have already made your points, when it is your turn to speak just state your name and that you are in agreement with previous speakers who also support/oppose the bill. This process will get your name on the record as a testifier while avoiding redundancy.