Tips for your Testimony in the Maryland General Assembly

We welcome you, your friends, your family, and all 2nd Amendment and self-defense rights supporters to testify before the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. As current or potential gun owners, it's in everyone's interest to keep an eye on what our lawmakers are doing. We all know the effect atrocious gun laws have on us and the best way to prepare for what may be on the horizon is to read the bills and act!


Committee hearings set the tone for how a bill may (or may not) progress. Your voice is urgently needed here as bills are more easily amended or sometimes squashed because of hearing testimony. Testimony stays as a part of each bill for all time and committee members do remember how these hearings go. Some lawmakers have a vision of gun owners not based in reality. Educate them. Help them understand. Your words and input may very well make or break a given bill.

All current gun-related legislation is being tracked on our website with URL, tinyurl.com/guntracker. You can read the entire text of a bill, who introduced it, our position and testimony, and current bill status. Audio/Video streams and recordings are available for committee hearings there as well.

The Legislative Process

The Maryland General Assembly meets for 90 days each year from January thru April and is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Delegates comprised of 47 Senators and 141 Delegates, respectively. Bills are introduced into each chamber for their First Reading and then referred to the committee that reflects the area of law or policy affected by the bill.
 
 
The committees hear public testimony on the bills, can amend them, and eventually vote on the bills before them. The committee heads (Chairs) have tremendous power because they can decide whether or not to bring a given bill to a vote at all. If a bill is voted favorably out of committee, it goes to the floor of the corresponding chamber for reading and vote. The chamber may further amend the bill. If it passes that second vote, it's on for its Third Reading, where no more amendments may be offered. When a bill passes one chamber, it goes to the opposite where the process begins all over again in that chamber's committees. Both chambers must agree to language in a bill for it to pass and be sent to the Governor's desk for consideration. You can read a more in-depth guide from the Department of Legislative Services HERE.
 
BillFlowChartfromMGA
 

Getting to Annapolis
When coming down to Annapolis, pay attention to traffic and try to arrive early. I-97 can be finicky and parking availability is limited. Carpool with some friends if you can. Organize with your fellow supporters on social media and in forums. The more voices, the better!

The Legislative Complex Addresses:
House Office Building
6 Bladen St
Annapolis, MD 21401

Miller Senate Office Building
11 Bladen St
Annapolis, MD 21401

Paid parking is available in garages and a short walk away in downtown Annapolis, or at the nearby Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. It is truly in your best interest to arrive early as the parking garages fill quickly. You can take a bus from the stadium into downtown for $2 cash (have exact change!). The Calvert Street Garage is free to use after 6pm. More information on the State Shuttle can be found HERE.

Masks are currently required to be worn at all times within the Legislative Complex. To enter, you also need to pass through a security checkpoint with an x-ray machine to screen any bags and a metal detector. DO NOT FORGET to remove and secure anything you couldn't take on a plane or into a courtroom long before getting to these buildings. You’ll also need to present a photo ID to the security staff when getting screened and wear the guest sticker you're provided. Make sure to keep it on throughout your stay.

These days can be quite long, so plan accordingly.

Visiting the Committees

If you require a Sign Language Interpreter, you may request one HERE
For more information on Accessibility at the Maryland General Assembly click HERE

Currently, there are different protocols for testifying in the House and Senate, but submitting testimony and signing up requires a MyMGA account to participate. As of this writing, all testimony in House committees is done via Zoom. Testimony in the Senate is in-person, but written testimony can (and should) still be submitted (this guidance document is available HERE). All committee hearings will be available to watch live on YouTube and also among the various committees' own YouTube pages (we've broken the links out to many of them toward the bottom of the Bill Tracker's page). Most, but not all, gun-related bills are introduced into the Judiciary committees of each chamber. In the House, there's the House Judiciary Committee (JUD) and in the Senate, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (JPR). Currently, JUD is Chaired by Delegate Luke Clippinger (D) and Vice-Chaired by Delegate David Moon (D)Senator William Smith (D) Chairs the JPR and Senator Jeff Waldstreicher (D) serves as the Vice-Chair. Sometimes gun-related bills find their way into other committees. You can see all of those HERE by toggling between the Senate/House tabs on the left side of the page. Each committee has its own rules for the submission of testimony and whoever is chairing each committee decides the procedures for what bills are called, the order they're called in, when and who may testify, for how long, and any other conditions they deem necessary. These rules may change, so it's best to defer directly to the committee's site for reference on the procedures for this:

House Judiciary Witness Guidelines
Senate Judicial Proceedings Witness Guidelines

JPR guidelines 2 14 on                                                                                      Senate JPR's guidelines for testimony after 2/14

To sign-up to testify on a bill, you must first make a MyMGA account. You will be asked to provide identifying information and a confirmation will be sent to your provided email address (Note: ONLY enter an organization in the last field if you've been given express permission and instruction by that organization to speak on its behalf. No one speaks on behalf of Maryland Shall Issue except for the President or anyone the President specifically authorizes). Do understand that any submitted testimony is public record and searchable online.

The signup window for Senate bills is only available one business day ahead of a bill's hearing between the hours of 4 pm and until 10 am on the day of the hearing.

The signup window for House bills is only available two business days ahead of a bill's hearing between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. If a bill is scheduled to be heard on Monday or Tuesday, signup is available on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Once you've signed in, navigate to Witness Signup which you can get to by clicking the MyMGA logo in the top right of the webpage. Select the bill or bills you'd like to testify on and whether you are speaking, submitting written testimony, or you can (and we encourage you to!) select "Both." The committee does not have to let you speak, as the Chairs have wide discretion over how the hearing proceeds, but your written testimony and stance will always be with the bill file.

BillSignup

Leave the Organization field blank unless you are speaking on behalf of an organization (again, only MSI's President or others authorized may speak on behalf of MSI). Select your position (Favorable, Favorable with Amendments, Informational Only, or Unfavorable). Then select which kind of testimony you're providing (again, doing both is preferred). If you'd like to simply state your position on a bill, you may just select your position and then select "None" in the testimony box. If submitting written testimony, you will need to upload a .pdf. Take your time here and be deliberate with your choices. Review your choices before clicking the Save button toward the top of the chart.

Written Testimony
Written testimony is the only method this year to be sure that your input is given for or against a bill. You're also not limited by time like you are when speaking and are free to be as descriptive as you please. All written testimony should include your name, address, contact info, and clearly state your position: Support, Oppose, or Informational Only. Likewise, you can ask the Committee for a favorable or unfavorable report. Testimony must be submitted in PDF format via the MyMGA Witness Signup page.

Oral Testimony
All oral testimony is being presented via Zoom in the House and in-person only in the Senate.

All participants speaking virtually must have a camera and microphone available from the device you're using Zoom from. You will be contacted via email before the hearing to let you know whether or not you've been selected to testify. You are NOT guaranteed an opportunity to speak before the committee in virtual hearings. The Chairs have discretion over how many witnesses there are and who's chosen. As stated, each committee has its own rules for how testimony will play out.

Generally (but not always), a bill or series of bills will be announced to be spoken on. The sponsor of the bill (Senator or Delegate) will describe the bill and testify on why it’s needed. They may bring up their own panel of witnesses they’ve selected to speak in support of the bill. Once they’ve finished, the chair of the committee may call upon a few pre-selected participants, and others among the public may be chosen. Though you might not be picked, be prepared in case you are. The witness will be given a set time to testify (usually only a minute or two) on the bill or bills before them. Reading directly what you’ve submitted as written testimony is generally frowned upon -- don't do this. Instead here are some tips to help you along: 

  • Remember that whether you like it or not, you're an ambassador for the supporters of the 2nd Amendment and self-defense rights supporters sitting behind you and the rest of us. Disparaging remarks might feel good, but they don't help. Do everyone proud!
  • Briefly introduce yourself and where you're from.
  • Respectfully speak your mind.
  • Drive home how the bill personally affects you.
  • Use your personal experiences and expertise to advocate from positions of strength. 
  • Avoid unnecessary redundancy. Make or further a point that has not been stated yet by someone else.
  • Be sincere and concise.
  • Dress and present yourself appropriately.
  • Always remain civil.

This is very much like live TV, so dress yourself (and your background if speaking virtually) for the part. Committee members may ask questions of you, so be ready to think on your feet. When the committee is finished hearing you, they’ll call the next name and so on. If you’re called upon and someone has already covered your points, it doesn’t hurt to simply say “Support” or “Oppose” and cede your time (the Chair likes that). Even a cheeky "Ditto!" can do.

Other bills may be heard before the gun-related bills come up, so be prepared to wait for a potentially long time to speak. These hearings can last quite a while and sometimes very late into the evening (and sometimes longer!).

We have a running playlist over at our YouTube Channel of testimony so you can get a feel for what to expect.




Wrapping Up

As always, you can reach out to Maryland Shall Issue from our website, social media, or at  for any other questions and help you may need. Joining MSI will ensure that you are kept up-to-date on the happenings in Annapolis and help us to protect, promote, and restore the self-defense rights of Marylanders. Again, you can follow all of the bills this session by bookmarking and checking tinyurl.com/guntracker.


Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Maryland Shall Issue®, Inc.
9613 Harford Rd
Ste C #1015
Baltimore, MD 21234-2150

Phone:  410-849-9197
Email: 
Web:   www.marylandshallissue.org