Basic Parliamentary Procedure

Purpose

  • Allows organizations to transact business efficiently
  • Protects individual rights
  • Maintains order
  • Preserves a spirit of harmony
  • Helps the organization accomplish its goals

Basic Principles

  • Know your bylaws – Each officer should have a current copy of the Bylaws of the organization and should learn what is in them. The bylaws are the roadmap of an organization and can never be “suspended” in a meeting.
  • Establish a quorum – A quorum is the number of people who must be present to take a legal action on business matters. This should be stipulated in the bylaws and should be a number (not a percentage).
  • All members have rights – These include the right ot make motions, debate, and vote. A two-thirds vote is needed to deprive members of basic rights, such as closing or limiting debate and closing nominations. No member may be forced to vote; silence gives consent. Most motions require a majority for passage. A majority is one more than half that are present. Motions previously adopted need a 2/3 vote to amend (i.e. amending an adopted budget).
  • Motions (Debate, Decorum, Order) – Only one main motion may be considered at a time and only one person may speak at a time. Anyone wishing to speak must be recognized by the chair. The proper wording for a motion is “I move…” The seconder of the motion does not have to be recognized. Without a second, the motion dies. After the motion has been made and seconded, the chair restates the motion. Discussion can then begin. The maker of the motion should speak to the motion first. The chair should allow everyone to speak if they wish before calling on someone who has already spoken. All remarks are addressed to the chair and should not become an exchange between two members. All discussions should be germane to the motion.
  • Amendments – The purpose of an amendment is to change a motion already under consideration. This is used to change wording of a main motion already under consideration. Amendments should be treated just as a main motion by adding, deleting or changing words. Amendments are treated as main motions, requiring a second and a full debate on the amendment. Discussion and voting occur on the amendment before discussing and voting can occur on the original motion.
  • Closing debate – a member who wishes to end debate may interrupt discussion and say “I move the previous question”. This motion requires a second and must receive a 2/3 vote as it is an infringement on individual rights. There is no debate on the previous question call. If it passess, the chair then states, “The previous question has been called. All in favor of the motion to….” and takes the vote on the main motion.
  • Unanimous Consent – enables a motion to be adopted or some action to be taken without the necessity of having the chair state the question on a motion and put the motion to vote. It permits taking action without the formality of a motion being made at all. The chair simply asks the assembly if there is any objection to taking the desired action, and if no member objects, the chair declares that action has been agreed to. (Silence is consent – if a member objects to this action, they need to state “I object”).
  • Nominating Committees – The process should be state in your bylaws. The president is not a member of the nominating committee. It is every member’s right to be nominated, including those on the nominating committee, as well as having the opportunity to nominate others from the floor during the election. After the nominating committee report is presented, nominations from the floor must be called for.
  • IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A BOARD THAT ONCE THE ACTION IS TAKEN ON A MOTION, THE ENTIRE GROUP SHOULD SUPPORT IT.

Robert’s Rules of Order – Newly Revised – In Brief is a great resources and can be ordered from the National Association of Parliamentarians

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