Attending A Public Hearing Or MeetingWhether at the city, state or federal level, the legislative and regulatory process usually includes an opportunity for public involvement. Sometimes the law requires agencies to release new regulations in proposal form, and then calls for a period of time for citizens to give their opinions in writing, at hearings, or during public meetings organized for that purpose.
Hearings are slightly more formal than public meetings, and often require submitting a summary of your comments for the record and scheduling your testimony. Public meetings usually are arranged so that speaking is done from the floor, without regard to scheduling. Generally, comments do not have to be submitted in advance, and the general protocol is less structured.
At the local or state level, there may be any number of open public meetings or hearings, depending upon the issue. At the federal level, government agencies may organize between one and a dozen public hearings in cities throughout the United States.
A hearing or public meeting can be an extremely frustrating experience, both for citizen participants and government officials. What is intended to be a beneficial exchange between the government and those governed can quickly turn into a fiasco. Anyone who has attended a meeting that got out of hand, or where one person dominated the floor, is well aware of this problem.