June 26, 2018

Hearings galore!

By Hailey Watlington

Part of our work here has been to attend hearings that might be of interest to AVMA’s agenda or things that they want to keep an eye on further down the road. I was (naively) surprised to find out that these hearings are almost always open to the public! Sometimes you have to get there a little early to get in line, as there are a limited number of seats for the audience, but I’ve found hearings to be a really interesting experience.

Hearings are mostly set up the same way: there is a committee or a subcommittee made up of members from both sides of the aisle. There are more members on the committee from whatever side is the majority party (currently, Republicans). There is a chairman or chairwoman (also a member of the majority party) who sits centrally, then the ranking member, who is the most senior member of the committee from the minority party, sits next to them. They usually have their counsel (i.e. lawyers) sitting next to them. It took me a while to figure out who everyone was! The witnesses are the subject matter experts who are testifying to whatever the subject of the hearing is (for example, I sat through a hearing on Federal Regulations and Farmers and the witnesses were farmers and agribusiness professionals from the Midwest). The hearing usually begins with the chairman or chairwoman giving opening remarks, then the ranking member gives opening remarks, and then the witnesses give their opening remarks. I personally really enjoy the witnesses’ opening remarks – they are usually very passionate about the subject, and it gives you an idea of the issues they find important and what they want to discuss during the hearing. Some hearings can get a little bit contentious, but for the most part, it is obvious the committee is doing their best to work together to come to a solution for whatever the issue is.

We have been able to attend a variety of hearings, including farming, small business, budget markups, tax, education, and more! It’s been a great opportunity to see the discussion behind the legislation.