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Tips for Testifying at a Public Hearing

Your expertise could help determine the fate of a good—or bad—bill in Olympia during the state legislative session.

Public testimony is an important part of the policymaking process. It’s one way that legislators get up to speed on the issues confronting them. As a physician, your testimony on health care policy lends gravity and expertise that can help determine whether or not a bill becomes a law.

Also? It can even be fun—if you follow these four simple rules:

Be respectful.

Save the shouting match for the next time you call your cable company. Everyone has a different style when it comes to testifying, but no one’s experience will be improved by letting their emotions get the best of them.

Be honest.

While it’s unlikely you’ll be the subject of a withering inquisition, it’s entirely possible that your testimony may spur questions from legislators. Sometimes you’ll know the answer and can provide it on the spot. But if there’s even a shred of doubt in your mind, err on the side of caution and offer to follow up with more information.

Be brief.

Brevity is the soul of wit and the single easiest way to ensure your testimony won’t be tuned out. This isn’t a hard and fast rule; some issues require context and detailed explanation. But legislators will never complain if your testimony provides the requisite information while also being to the point.

Be a resource.

Your testimony may win the day, but more likely, the issue you care about will require further negotiation. Make sure that legislators know they can call on you if questions arise in a week or a month.

At the WSMA, our advocacy team is on the ground in Olympia every day during legislative sessions, and we’re always looking for physicians who can lend their expertise in public hearings. If you have an issue you’re passionate about and are willing to testify, contact the WSMA Olympia office at wsma@wsma.org or 360.352.4848.

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