Basics of Parliamentary Procedure

 

  • Rules of Order are intended to facilitate working together and accomplishing purpose – not inhibit it.

 

  • The spirit of fairness and good faith is paramount

 

  • Only one matter is addressed at a time.

 

  • Only one person can speak at a time.

 

  • No one can speak for a second time until all who wish have spoken for the first time.

 

  • All members have the right to understand any question presented during a meeting, and to understand the effect of their decision.

 

  • Everybody’s vote counts.

 

  • The majority vote decides the issue.

 

  • The rights of the minority are protected at all times.

 

 

Parliamentary Procedure Vocabulary

Motion is a formal proposal made in a deliberative assembly.

Main Motion, the basis of all parliamentary procedure, provides method of bringing business before the assembly for consideration and action, can be considered only if no other business is pending.

Privileged Motions are such that, while having no relation to the pending motion, are of such urgency or importance that they are entitled to immediate consideration: relate to members, and to the organization, rather than to particular items of business.

Subsidiary Motions are those that may be applied to another motion for the purpose of modifying it, delaying action on it, or disposing of it.

Incidental Motions are related to the parliamentary situation in such a way that it must be decided before business can proceed.

Forms of Voting

A voice vote is most commonly used.

A rising vote is the normal method of voting on motions requiring a two-thirds vote for adoption. It is also used to verify a voice vote or showing of hands.

Show of Hands is an alternative to a voice vote and is usually used in small groups.

General Consent is a vote of silent agreement without a single objection.

A Ballot or Roll Call vote can be ordered by a majority. Rulings of the chair can be appealed.

Obtaining and Handling a Main Motion

When no one else has the floor, a member typically rises if it is a large group and addresses the chair: "Mr. Chairman/Madam President." 1The member pauses (before stating his or her motion) to be recognized by the chair.

1It should be noted that chairman and president are gender-neutral words. Therefore, referring to the presiding officer as Mr. Chairman/Madam Chairman or Madam President/Mr. President is acceptable. In the author's opinion it is also less cumbersome than using chairperson or chairwoman as the case may be.

How a Motion is Brought Before an Assembly

Once recognized by the chair, a member makes the motion: "I move that or to..." and sits down.

Another member of the group may choose to second the motion. "I second the motion" or "I second it." The chair will then state the motion: "It is moved and seconded that ..."

(Before a motion has been stated by the chair, it can be withdrawn or modified by the maker. After being stated by the chair, it can be withdrawn or modified only by general consent or a majority vote of the body.)

Consideration of the Motion

Once a motion has been properly presented, members of the group can debate the motion. Before speaking in debate, the member must be recongized by the chair and all remarks must be addressed to the chair. The maker of the motion has the first right to the floor if it is properly claimed.

Debate must be confined to the merits of the motion and can only be closed by order of the group (two-thirds vote) or by the chair if no one seeks the floor for further debate.

Once debate is closed, the chair asks: "Is the group ready for the question?" If no one claims the floor, the chair will proceed to take a vote by stating the motion ... and asking who are in favor by saying "Aye." Those opposed, say "No." The chair then will announce the result of the vote ... "motion adopted or motion defeated."

Helpful Advice

Become familiar with an organization's bylaws and constitution as the bylaws state which parliamentary authority rules the organization. Knowing parliamentary procedure and the rules that apply to the organization will make you an effective leader or member of the body. Always remember that parliamentary procedure is not intended to stifle problem solving or creative thinking.

 

 

Ranking Motions

  • Privileged Motions are such that, while having no relation to the pending question, are of such urgency, or important that they are entitled to immediate consideration; relate to members, and to the organization, rather than to particular items of business.
  • Subsidiary Motions are those that may be applied to another motion for the purpose of modifying it, delaying action on it, or disposing of it.
  • Main Motion is the basis of all parliamentary procedure -- provides method of bringing business before the assembly for consideration and action. Can only be introduced if no other business is pending.
  • Incidental Motions are those (1) which arise out of a pending situation; (2) which arise out of a question that has just been pending; or (3) that relate to the business of the assembly. Incidental motions usually apply to the method of transacting business rather than to the business itself. They have no rank among themselves because they are in order whenever they are incidental to the business of the assembly. Listed below are some of them which are most commonly used.
  • Motions that bring a question again before the assembly (restorative) are, as their name implied, motions which bring a question again before the assembly for its consideration

 

The order of precedence from the highest ranking to the lowest ranking is as follows:

Privileged Motions
1.         Adjourn
2.         Recess
3.         Question of privilege

Subsidiary Motions
4.         Lay on the table
5.         Previous question (end debate)
6.         Limit or extend debate
7.         Postpone to a certain time (or "postpone" definitely)
8.         Commit or refer (to committee)
9.         Amend
10.       Postpone indefinitely

 

Links:

 

Robert Rules of Order

 

Parliamentary Procedures (PDF)