Parliamentary law has evolved as a set of procedures that protect the individual and the group in their exercise of the rights of free speech, free assembly, and the freedom to unite in organizations for the achievement of a common aim. It is based on common sense and courtesy and allows you to conduct your organization’s business in an orderly and timely fashion.
The following basic rules of procedure should be followed:
Parlimentary Procedure Basics
- Only one subject may claim the attention of the assembly at a given time.
- Each proposition presented for consideration is entitled to full and free debate.
- Every member has rights equal to every other member.
- The will of the majority must be carried out, and the rights of the minority must be preserved.
- The personality and desires of each member should be merged into the larger unit of the organization.
Order of Business
It is customary for every group to adopt a standard order of business for meetings. When no rule has been adopted, the following is the order:
- Call to order
- Reading and approval of minutes
- Reports from officers and standing committees
- Reports from special committees
- Unfinished business
- New business
Making a Motion
The proper way for an individual to propose that the group take a certain action is by “making a motion.” The following is the process for handling a motion:
- A member rises and addresses the presiding officer for recognition.
- The member is recognized.
- The member proposes a motion by saying “I move that…”
- Another member must second the motion or presiding officer asks, “Is there a second?”
- The presiding officer states the motion to the assembly.
- The assembly can now discuss or debate the motion. Only one person at a time may speak. He/she must first be recognized by the presiding officer. Preference should be given to:
- The person who proposed the motion.
- A member who has not spoken yet to the motion.
- A member who seldom speaks as opposed to one who frequently addresses the assembly.
- The presiding officer should try to alternate the debate between those favoring and those opposing the motion.
- Discussion must be confined to the question that is at hand. While a main motion is pending no other main motions may be introduced. Privileged, subsidiary, and incidental motions are permitted in order of rank.
- Debate is closed when no members seek floor or when previous question is moved, seconded, and voted.
- The presiding officer takes the vote on the motion. Voting can be done by voice, show of hands, or balloting. Types of votes:
- Voice Vote: most often used
- Rising Vote: members stand to be counted
- Show of Hand: used in smaller groups instead of voice or rising votes if no member objects
- General Consent: members vote by remaining silent when asked for objections
- Ballot of Roll Call: must be done when majority orders it
- The presiding officer announces the result of the vote.
- The floor is now open and another motion can be proposed.
Amending a Motion
The purpose of the motion TO AMEND is to modify a motion that has already been presented in such a manner that it will be more satisfactory to the members.
- By Addition or Asserstion: To add something to the motion which it did not contain.
- By Eliminating or Striking Out: To subtract or eliminate something from a motion that was originally part of it.
- By Substitution: This method is a combination of the first two methods, since in amending by substitution something is stricken and something is inserted in its place. The substitution portion may consist of a work, a phrase, a clause, or an entirely new motion.
The most important principle to understand in connection with any form of the motion TO AMEND is that an amendment “may be in disagreement, but it must be relevant.”
An amendment may be opposed to the actual intent of the original motion and, in fact, nullify it; but if it relates to the same subject matter, it is relevant.
Types of Amendments
- Amendment of the First Rank: An amendment to a motion.
- Amendment of the Second Rank: An amendment to the amendment. (The amendment to the amendment must modify and relate directly to the amendment and NOT to the main motion; otherwise it is OUT OF ORDER).
No amendment beyond that of second rank if possible:
It is never in order to propose more that one amendment of each rank at one time. If one desires to amend two separate and unrelated parts of a motion, this must be done by two amendments of the first rank; and one must be voted upon before the other is proposed. It is possible, however, to have a motion, one amendment to the motion (amendment of the first rank), and one amendment to the amendment (amendment of the second rank) before the assembly at once. Until the amendment of the second rank has been voted upon, no other amendment of the second rank is in order. Until the amendment of the first rank has been voted upon, no other amendment of the first rank can be proposed.
Order of Voting on Amendments
- Amendments are voted upon in inverse order; that is, the one of second rank is disposed of first.
- Discussion is held and the vote taken upon the amendment to the amendment (amendment of the second rank).
- Discussion is called for, and the vote is taken upon the amendment to the motion (amendment of the first rank).
- When the vote on this has been taken, discussion upon the original or main motion as amended is opened, and when completed, a vote is taken upon it.
What Minutes Should Include
- The kind of meeting being held: regular, special, adjourned
- The name of your organization
- The time, date, and place of the meeting
- The name of the secretary and presiding officer serving at that meeting
- For small gatherings, the names of all members present and a list of those absent. For large gatherings, the number present and the number absent
- Approval of the previous minutes and any corrections
- Summaries of reports (separate paragraph for each)
- Exact final wordings of all main motions with the names of movers
- The results of votes on main motions – when votes are counted or taken by ballot, the numbers of votes on both sides are usually included
- Motions that have been tabled or postponed
- Points of order raised and appeals made with the chair’s ruling on each
- The time of adjournment
- The signature of the acting secretary