The Committee Hearing stage is a critical point in the legislative process. We have had identical bills (A4028 and S2506) introduced in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate for a few months now and have been working to prepare for our hearings in the Education Committee in both houses where they each were referred.
I was very concerned this fall when I learned about how little advanced notice we might get before our hearings. It’s possible that in three days, we would need to mobilize everyone we hope will testify and make arrangements to be at the State House ourselves. When we attended the symposium at Kent State (State Legislation Protecting Student Press Freedom: New Voices on the Move) on November 18, I learned this wasn’t all that uncommon. I also learned about how to best prepare for these hearings, so when notification of a hearing date comes, we can be as ready as possible.
Based on that, we came up with these 12 Steps to Prepare for Our Hearing:
- Reach out to George White of the New Jersey Press Association and see if they have a lobbyist like Rebecca Snyder of the MDDCPA, or if they can support us in other ways.
- Reach out to every college publication and the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association. There is also a CMA Listserv we might try to get someone to post a message to that may be effective in connecting with New Jersey college journalists.
- Continue to reach out to civic education groups to build our coalition and build on momentum for a focus on civic education and media literacy in schools
- Check in with our sponsors and let them know what we are planning.
- Get students and advisers to contact their legislators especially ones on the education committee
- Reach out to opposition groups – NJ School Board Association, and New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and New Jersey Association of School Administrators. Use any contacts we have in this organizations.
- Mobilize advisers and students and see if they can reach out to parent organizations
- Make a plan for who we want to testify at committee hearings, reach out to them, and ask for short written testimony we can read if they can’t make it. Can we get stories of censorship from Bill Gurden, John Woodnik, Adelina or Kylie? Reach out to all advisers and students through FB groups to ask for censorship or intimidation/retaliation stories?
- Once advisers and students from the districts of ed committee members have contacted their legislators, check in with the legislator’s offices to see if we have their support.
- When we know we have enough support, get bill scheduled for an education committee hearing by reaching out to chairs and members of the committee. Get sponsors to request that it be scheduled.
- Reach out to leaders of senate and assembly to get their support.
- Contact the Chiefs of Staff of all of our sponsors and find out how we can get as much notice of the hearing as possible.