STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
John Bogliano remembers quite well how ill-equipped he was the first time he spoke in front of the Maryland Legislature on a bill being pushed through by state leaders.
“The first time I testified, I was shaking so bad,” he said. “I didn’t even know you could submit written testimony. I could barely read notes on my card.”
Bogliano, who now lives in Llano, wants to help Highland Lakes residents voice their opinions to Texas legislators. He helped organize the “Learn to Testify” seminar on Nov. 12. It will cover tracking, reading, and understanding bills; navigating a committee hearing; preparing and delivering effective testimony; interacting with legislators; and the most important things people cannot fail to do while advocating for their issues.
The free program is 6 p.m. Monday at the Llano County Library, 102 E. Haynie St., and open to the public. The library will be closed, but the main doors will be unlocked for the program.
The 86th Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 8-May 27, 2019. During this busy 140-day session, state leaders pack in as much as they can, so knowing the ins and outs of testifying could dramatically help your cause.
Rachel Malone, the Texas director of Gun Owners of America and a longtime grassroots activist, will lead the seminar.
“Committee hearings are the one time for each issue that the legislature actually invites the entire state of Texas to show up and give their opinion on public record,” Malone said. “Very few people know about this, so those who show up have significant impact on legislation. The legislators listen because they know the amount of effort it takes to follow the process and actually show up for a hearing. I think the legislators should be listening to their constituents, not lobbyists. So I think the best thing I can do as a lobbyist is to help constituents speak up when it matters.”
The seminar will also cover basic things such as knowing where to park, the layout of the capitol, and other steps for those new to testifying.
“This training can be put toward anything you’re passionate about,” Bogliano said. “This tells you how you can effectively advocate. You go down to testify before a committee, your voice is powerful.”
Most people have no more than three minutes to tell legislators their position on a bill, Bogliano said. Knowing how to use that short amount of time wisely is imperative, he added.
Some people might believe they couldn’t possibly know as much about a topic as an elected official, but that’s not necessarily true, Bogliano said.
“If it’s something you’re passionate about and hold it deep in your heart,” he said, “you know more than the people sitting on the committee. Who is better prepared to tell what you know about a subject than you?”
Testifying is like anything else, he said. The more that people do it, the easier it becomes.
“If you go back and do it a second time, you start recognizing others in the crowd,” he said. “You see others who care about the same issues, too. You start to build a local network from people seeking the same change as you. How valuable are friends to help you in a cause you care about? It’s priceless. The closest friends I have I made in the halls of the legislature.”
Bogliano said he knows “it’s a real pain” to go Austin and spend all day at the capitol just to have two minutes to “say your mind.”
“But it’s something each citizen needs to do at least once,” he said. “Looking face to face or standing at the podium across from (lawmakers) – it’s a chance to get our views directly in front of them.”
Go to llano-library-system.net and click on the calendar for more information.