How to Testify Effectively before the DC Council

As a resident of DC, your experiences with government services such as public schools, garbage collection, and financial support—positive or negative—can help inform policymakers’ decisions about the funding we collectively raise from taxes and fees and how we spend those dollars. Testifying at DC Council hearings is one way to share those experiences. For example, if you want to make sure children’s behavioral health is supported in school, you could testify at a hearing with the DC Council Committee on Health about funding to place clinicians in schools. Some individuals will share research when they testify, while others will share their lived experiences. Any way you choose to share your ideas can be impactful. 

From March 21 through April 7, 2022, DC Council is holding budget oversight hearings on the Mayor’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget. Members of the public can testify at these hearings to offer feedback on which programs and services you want Council to invest in and by how much. Right now, residents must continue to testify at hearings virtually. See here for the full hearing schedule and below for some guidance on how to testify. 

Before you testify: 

  • Once you identify the right hearing on the Council calendar, you need to sign up to testify with the relevant committee. You can find their contact information by clicking on the event.
  • Review any instructions that the committee may have been sent to you about how to testify. 
  • Write your testimony. Knowing what you want to say ahead of time can help calm your nerves and ensure you don’t forget an important point you want to make. There’s no need to memorize your testimony, you can read directly from the written version you will submit. 
  • Submit your testimony in writing to the relevant committee— the appropriate email is listed in the hearing’s event. You are permitted to testify without submitting written testimony, but it is highly encouraged to submit so Councilmembers can refer to the record. Some committees also list a phone number in the hearing event so you may submit your testimony by voicemail. 
  • Test your computer’s visuals and sound, and make sure your device is fully charged. 

During your testimony: 

  • People are called to give their testimony in panels. The committee usually sends information about the panels and the order in which you will be speaking ahead of time. While you wait, be sure to keep your microphone on mute and feel free to turn our video off. 
  • Begin your testimony by thanking the members of the committee for being there. 
  • Introduce yourself. 
  • Clearly state the purpose of your testimony. 
  • Try not to talk too quickly, you want to make sure your points are being heard.
  • Before you end, make sure to restate what action you would like the Council to take. 
  • End by thanking the members of the committee for their time and offering to answer any questions. 

After you testify: 

  • Once you finish your testimony, mute your microphone and you may turn your video off. 
  • Wait until the rest of your panel has finished their testimonies, and then you might be asked questions by councilmembers 
  • If you do not know an answer to a councilmember’s question—no need to worry! Let them know that you are unsure, and you can choose to follow up with them later. 
  • When the hearing is over, take a breath and congratulate yourself! Testifying in front of the Council can be intimidating, but your experiences and recommendations for improving DC are incredibly valuable and should be heard.  

To learn more about the DC Budget process and how to get involved, read our Resident’s Guide to the DC Budget.  

Keep up with DCFPI’s budget analysis and advocacy on our Budget Resources page.