This Friday morning at 9 am, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs will consider the “bathroom bills” — SB 3 and SB 91 — in a public hearing. The two bills are effectively the same and both bad news for Austin’s tech sector.
This hearing will be public not just in the sense that you’ll be able to watch it online or at the Capitol, but also because you’ll have the opportunity to testify in person and speak directly to the Senators who control the bills’ fate. Or, if you’re not interested in speaking, you can still formally register your position on the bills or drop off written testimony.
This guide will provide you with a quick, digestible overview on how to testify. It was written by David Edmonson (executive director of Austin Tech Alliance who spent a dozen years working in the Texas Senate) and leans heavily on the excellent infographic from Austin’s own Rep. Donna Howard.
Step one: show up
You can’t testify in person if you’re not at the Capitol.
If you’re driving, a visitor parking garage is available at 12th and Trinity, and some street parking may be available in the area, too — but no guarantees.
Head inside at any of the four entrances of the Capitol and ask the friendly folks who assist you at the metal detectors how to get to the Capitol Extension. The Extension is a huge underground section of the Capitol on the north side of the property, and it can easily be accessed via stairs or elevator.
Go to the hearing room, which is E1.036 — see page three of this map (pdf).
Step two: register
Witness registration opens at 8 am, and you’ll need to decide if you plan to speak (aka oral testimony) or just register your position.
If you want to speak: witness registration for oral testimony will close at 12 pm. To sign up to testify, go to the witness registration table located outside E1.036 and fill out a paper witness registration card.
If you don’t want to speak: to register a position or provide written testimony only, you may do so at any point during the hearing. Simply find an electronic registration kiosk near the hearing and fill out your information. The kiosk will give you the option of registering support or opposition without providing oral testimony. If you want to drop off written testimony as well, do so at the witness registration table located outside E1.036, but be sure to bring 15 copies and include your name on each.
Step three: testify!
Be prepared to wait — possibly for a few hours — but eventually your name will be called, and it’ll be your turn. You’ll only have two minutes to testify, so make sure any remarks you prepare can be squeezed in to that time frame. The chair of the committee will cut you off if you go over.
Not sure what to say? ATA’s tech community letter will give you some ideas.
Other tips on testifying:
- Don’t read: reading from a piece of paper is not as effective as speaking directly from your heart.
- Be personal: talk about how the bathroom bills will affect you, your loved ones, or your business. Tell your story.
- Be respectful: as frustrated as you may be that they’re considering these bills, being rude is a quick way for elected officials to ignore the substance of your message and instead focus on the delivery.
Reach out to Austin Tech Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get back to you right away.