Legislative Hearing FAQs

Tuesday June 13, 2017, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation will host a public hearing on An Act to reduce traffic fatalities (S.1905/H.2877), an omnibus traffic safety bill with critical components to support bicyclist and pedestrian safety. This is a chance for citizens to weigh in on legislation. There are two options:

  1. Testify in person at the hearing
  2. Submit written testimony

With many bills to be considered in the hearing there is understandably procedures and protocol. With many interested in providing testimony or comment on these bills, MassBike wants to offer answers to these frequently asked questions:

Joint Committee on Transportation
Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA
Hearing Room A-1 (Building Map)

WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? Tuesday, June 13, 2:00pm-5:00pm

HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE? This link will provide a list of the lawmakers who serve on the committee: Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation

You can see the list of bills that will be heard on 6/13 by clicking here.

WHO CAN SPEAK? Any interested citizen can sign up to testify in regards to bills that are listed for that hearing. Each individual must arrive prior to the hearing to sign up to speak. MassBike representatives will be on site at the check-in table to answer any questions. Typically, legislators will come testify in support of their own bills and they get to testify before the general public (i.e. they are “taken out of order.”)

IS THERE WI-FI? Yes. You are welcome to connect via the State House’s free wi-fi, but courtesy dictates that all sound turned off.

CAN I BRING MY CELLPHONE? Yes, but please keep it silenced and do not answer any calls. Photos are allowed.

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST? The hearings will start at 2:00pm and continue until 4:00pm and could run later, if necessary. Beverages are allowed but please refrain from eating. If you plan on testifying, please arrive a few minutes early to sign in as a speaker or notify MassBike at least one day in advance so we can sign you up to testify in support of S.1905/H.2877.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR? We suggest business casual attire or more formal, although the hearing rooms can get quite warm, so a suit may be uncomfortable. We recommend removing any bicycle gear such as helmets, mirrors, and reflective outer garments before testifying.

HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO SPEAK? Each speaker is allotted three minutes to testify, however panels are typically limited to 10 minutes total, which can result in less than 3 minutes per person if it is a panel of 4 or more. We recommend preparing notes to refer to, but not reading as if from a script. It is good to make eye contact with the committee while you testify. There will be a lot of testimony, keep it short, focused and to the point. Committee members do not want to hear the same points said over and over, so if someone before you already said things you were planning on saying, mention that you agree with earlier points made about xyz by such and such person/organization and spend most of your time on things that have not already been said.

HOW DO I GET THERE? The State House is on Beacon Hill in downtown Boston. If taking mass transit, get off at Park Street. Click here for a map. The golden dome up the hill is atop the State House. Proceed to the Joseph Hooker Entrance or the Ashburton Park entrance. Staff can guide you to the hearing room. For those on bicycle, there are racks by both entrances. Vehicular parking is extremely limited and area garages are quite expensive.

WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR WRITTEN COMMENT? Send in your written comment as soon as possible. Written comment on any of the bills in question should be submitted, at the latest, by end of day on Tuesday June 13, but some late comments may be accepted.

IS THIS MY ONLY CHANCE TO COMMENT? No. But the audience and process will change. The bills may be altered or merged with other similar bills or not put forward for consideration. If this committee reports favorably on any bill it moves on in the process of becoming a law. Hereafter the comments you make have less to do with those making the bill and more to do with those simply voting on the bill.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE HEARING? If a bill is reported favorably by this committee it is sent on to the Ways and Means Committee in both the Senate and the House to determine if the state has the means to enact such a law. Thereafter the bill would go to a general vote, at which point your input with your local lawmakers becomes even more important.

CAN I PROVIDE WRITTEN TESTIMONY? Yes. Even if you testify in person, we recommend submitting written testimony. Typically the written testimony is more formal and less conversational. E-mails should be sent to the committee chairs, copying your Representative and Senator, as well as the bill’s lead sponsors. Find out if your legislators are co-sponsors of the bill.

If speaking on behalf of an organization, written testimony on letterhead is recommended. We are especially seeking support from local advocacy groups, law enforcement professionals, municipal officials, elected officials, educational institutions, healthcare providers and every stakeholder in making the Massachusetts streetscape a safer place to live and work.

See below for sample testimony.

Other questions? Email us at [email protected]

Recommended e-mail subject: Testimony in support of An Act to reduce traffic fatalities S1905/H2877

Senator Thomas McGee, Transportation Senate Chair [email protected]
Representative William Straus, Transportation House Chair [email protected]

Dear Senator McGee, Representative Straus, and members of the Joint Committee on Transportation,

I am writing to urge a favorable report for An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, (S1905 - Brownsberger, H2877 - Hecht and Rogers).

A comprehensive piece of legislation, this bill aims to create safer streets for all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians and passengers of motor vehicles. Serious injury and deaths continue with troubling frequency on our streets.

[Tell your own story here! Why is this bill important to you?]

About the Bill
This bill includes the following provisions:
-Requires a safe passing distance around vulnerable road users.
-Prohibits usage of mobile devices, except those in hands-free mode, while operating a motor vehicle.
-Requires state owned and state contracted trucks to be equipped with sideguards and convex and crossover mirrors.
-Lowers the default speed limit on state highways in thickly settled or business districts from 30mph to 25mph, mirroring new legislation allowing cities and towns to do the same on locally-controlled roads.
-Requires bicyclists to use both a rear red light and red reflector when riding at night.
-Creates local option for cities and towns to operate a limited amount of automatic road safety cameras that would enforce speed and red-light violations while protecting privacy. Revenue generated would supplement Chapter 90 funds.
-Updates and modernizes traffic rules for bicyclists.

Thank you for your consideration, and I urge a favorable report for this bill.

[full name
Street address
city/town, state, zip
email: ]