How to Take Action
How Can I Express My Support For or Opposition to State Legislation?
There are many bills introduced in the state Legislature each session in which Catholics have an interest. Some have asked how they can express their support for or opposition to particular legislation. The following are some guidelines:
The bills introduced in the Legislature can be found on the website for the New Hampshire General Court: http://gencourt.state.nh.us. If you know the bill number, use the search tool and insert the bill number to find the bill text, the status of the bill, and the hearing schedule. You can also identify the sponsors of the bill from this web address.
Contact Your Representatives
You can obtain the contact information for your legislator through the following website: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/wml.aspx.
Many of the legislators list e-mail addresses, but brief telephone calls or messages can be more effective than e-mail messages.
Testify at a Hearing
Generally, public hearings take place in the State House or the Legislative Office Building (the building directly behind the State House) in Concord.
At hearings before House Committees, the following procedures apply:
If you wish to testify in favor of a bill, fill out a pink card and hand it to the clerk of the committee or to a member of the committee to hand to the clerk. The pink card will ask for your name, address, bill number on which you are testifying, whether you support or oppose the bill, the length of time you wish to speak, and if you have written testimony. The Chair of the committee will call your name when it is your turn to address the committee. You must complete a separate pink card for each bill on which you wish to testify. You should plan to speak for no more than 5 minutes.
If you do not desire to speak but want to express your support or opposition to a bill, you should sign in on the separate sheet that will be located on the hearing table or at a table on the side or in the back of the room. The sheet will ask for your name, address, phone number, and whether you support or oppose the bill.
If you wish to write down testimony and read it to the committee or simply submit it, you should bring a sufficient number of copies of your testimony for all committee members and the clerk. House committees are large and often have 20 or more members.
After you testify, the Chair will ask Committee Members if they have questions for you.
At the hearings before Senate Committees, the following procedures apply:
With respect to Senate Committee hearings, the procedure is similar. Senate Committees generally have a sign in sheet on which you can register your support or opposition of a bill and indicate whether you intend to testify. Senate Committees are smaller, so if you have written testimony you plan to submit, bringing 7 copies will be sufficient.
Tips on Testifying at Committee Hearings
Try to be at the hearing room ahead of time (15 minutes or so) in the event that the hearing location has been changed.
When your name is called, rise, and introduce yourself. The chairperson should be addressed as “Mr. Chairman” or “Madame Chairman.”
The most effective testimony is personal but short and to the point.
Give a specific example or two of how this bill impacts you or someone you care about. State facts and personal experiences that you think apply to the situation.
Be polite, respectful, frank, open, sincere, and straightforward.
If you do not know the answer to a question, do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
Communicating With Your Legislator
In-person meetings and phone calls are the most effective methods of communicating with a legislator. Elected officials also have said they pay attention when constituents send letters, notes, and cards. E-mail is the least effective way to reach out to your legislator because of the volume of electronic communications elected officials receive during the legislative session.
It is most effective to communicate with your own legislator or legislators with whom you have a personal connection.
If you write a letter, it can be very effective, particularly if it is not a “form letter.”
Address your letter to a state legislator to: The Honorable John Doe, Home address or c/o State House, Concord, NH 03301
The salutation is:
For Senators – Dear Senator Doe
For Representatives – Dear Mr./Ms. Doe
Type or write legibly. Be certain your name and address appear on both the envelope and the letter.
State your purpose within the first paragraph. Identify the bill by number if possible and by its place in the legislative process. Stick to one piece of legislation per communication.
Elaborate in the text of the letter, but be brief and polite. Make your points clear and concise. Do not demand support; ask for it.
State how the bill will impact you personally, someone you care about, great numbers of people, or the state/county budget. If you have data, include it. If you have a story, you should share it. Personal stories of how legislation will impact a constituent are compelling.
Time your letter to reach your legislator when he or she can respond, when the bill is in committee, or when the bill is scheduled for floor debate.
Learn More About Pending Bills and Catholic Social Teaching
Subscribe to Catholic Citizenship News, the e-mail newsletter published by the Diocese of Manchester, to stay informed on current issues of concern to Catholics in New Hampshire.
Get informed on the issues. Review our website, start here.
Watch a video explaining Call to Family, Community, and Participation (by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services)
Pray for Elected Officials and Those Affected by Their Work The prayer below is one example of a prayer calling to mind our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and American citizens. Visit the USCCB website for prayer and reflection resources, including intercessory prayers and music suggestions
Gracious and loving God, let your Spirit be with us (me) today.
Hear our (my) prayers, and increase in us (me) the will to follow your Son, Jesus.
Help us (me) to draw on the resources of our (my) faith as we (I) use the opportunities of our democracy to shape a society more respectful of the life, dignity, and rights of the human person, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We (I) ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.