American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Preparing for Committee Hearings

After a bill is assigned to a committee, it will be debated during a hearing. At that time, many other bills will also be heard, so testimony must be clear, concise, and to the point. More extensive information can be submitted in written form during the hearing (or when testimony is presented), but the oral presentation should be short (unless the chairman is willing to allow a longer time). The State Affairs Team at the College can help prepare talking points, testimony, background information, or even help brief you before the hearing.

Remember

  • Don’t forget when testifying that you are both the expert AND the constituent.
  • Be prepared to take questions from the committee; anticipate both friendly and unfriendly questions.
  • Stand your ground, don’t stray from your point, or allow yourself to become emotional.

It is important that all members of the legislative committee be contacted before the hearing with a formal letter of support and any informational materials (preferably, those that will be submitted during the hearing as part of the testimony). Fellows living in a committee member’s district should be encouraged to call and write their legislator in support of the bill.

In some cases, a committee chair or committee member will request that an informational hearing be held on a particular piece of legislation (usually between legislative sessions or during a recess). No vote will be taken by the committee at that time, and often this type of hearing can last one hour or more, providing plenty of time for proponents and opponents to make their case. Planning for an informational hearing is more extensive as presenters of testimony can go into greater detail, and “experts” can be brought in to explain an issue or procedure. Such a hearing is an excellent opportunity to use colorful charts, graphs, and handouts.

Enlisting Support of the Governor’s Office

Contact with the health care staff in the Governor’s office to inform them of the issue can lead to support from the Governor. That is especially helpful if the Governor’s party is the majority party in the state legislature, and may be useful in getting the bill out of committee for action by the full House/Assembly or Senate.

Hiring a Lobbyist

While it is possible to be successful in passing legislation without one, having your own lobbyist can make a world of difference. This individual is well connected with legislators, understands the process inside and out, and is familiar with various legislative strategies. However, a lobbyist can be costly, so a clear budget must be in mind before the chapter hires one. Also, determine whether the chapter’s tax status permits the hiring of a lobbyist. The chapter may be prevented from using tax-deductible dues dollars and might have to approve a special assessment of the Fellowship.