Testimony 101: A Hawaii Student’s Guide to Participation in Government


Amy Perruso (@repperruso on Instagram) is one representative who shares social media updates on bills that may be of interest to constituents.

Within their junior year, many students take the Participation in Democracy course, yet these students may not know how to employ these skills outside of the classroom. 

Sharing testimony during the legislative session is one way that just about any citizen can advocate for themselves. A testimony is a statement that a person can make in support of or against a specific bill or policy. You can provide either spoken (in-person) or written testimony, which can be done through the Hawaii state legislature’s website

Starting off, an essential step is creating an account on capitol.hawaii.gov:

1. Go to “Register” (located on the top right of the page).

2. Fill out all the required fields and agree to the terms of the privacy statement. 

To find bills that you are interested in, one place to look would be the social media accounts of local legislators, as well as local news media such as KHON2 or Hawaii News Now. These sources provide some information regarding what bills entail, their importance, and their progress . As for more specific bills, you can look at the aforementioned legislature website:

Instructions: Laws & Research → Reports and Lists → House Bills Introduced OR Senate Bills Introduced.

On your keyboard, type Control or Command + F and type in keywords for issues you are passionate about such as “education.” Topics to consider may involve the following:

  • Environmental issues and regulations
  • Abortion & reproductive healthcare
  • LGBTQ+ rights and gender-affirming healthcare
  • And more!

In case you may be unsure of how to phrase your testimony, here is a general format to follow:

[Insert greeting] Chair _____, Vice Chair ____, and members of the committee,

My name is ______ _______ and I am _________. I am submitting testimony in support of / against ________ and urge you to pass / veto [bill].

[Insert experiences and reasoning]

Questions to consider:

  • Why does it matter to you that this bill is passed or not passed? 
  • How does it affect you or members of your community?
  • What short or long-term impacts would Hawaii experience if this bill is passed?
  • Are there any previously established laws or precedents that support or go against your perspective? 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony,

[First name] [Last name] 

Below is an example of testimony I submitted on a bill related to student press freedom last year:

To submit your completed testimonies, go to Participate → Submit Testimony and follow the instructions listed there. 

As for finding out when hearings occur for your bills, check Events → Upcoming Hearings. On the Upcoming Hearings page, you can look for hearings based on either the date or time that they occur or the measure/bill that you are concerned about. To keep track of these hearings, go to Participate → Hearing Notification, where you can subscribe to notifications related to the committee or measure/bill. 

Even after all this, you may wonder: why should you testify? Student voice is important and legislators value your perspective. Moreover, for people testifying in person, legislators acknowledge that you are taking time out of your busy school schedule to participate. Submitting testimony can be any student’s first step to advocate for issues that matter to them.