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Robert's Rules of Order (Excerpts)
HIGHLIGHTS OF "ROBERT'S RULES in Plain English" - Written by Doris P. Zimmerman - Published in 1997 by Harper Collins Publishers.
You might be asking the question, "Why is 'Robert's Rules of Order' part of the content on our Family web site? What is the importance of it on our web site?" When our family reunions were smaller, we did not need this type of structure in our family business meeting. However, as the number of our family members increased, we found a need to use it as a means to allow everyone to participate and also to add some additional order during our meetings.
Any Family member who has attended a few of our Family business meetings understands and has a deeper appreciation for how helpful Roberts Rules of Order (Robert's Rules) can be in terms of guiding the family past some subjects that are troublesome, at best. This web page is only going to attempt to summarize the highlights of Robert's Rules because because it would make this page too lengthy to do otherwise.
It's very important that a significant number of our Family members know Robert's Rules so that everyone will be operating with the same ground rules. Consequently, everyone will be able to better understand each other and know how to interact with one another on any given issue.
We do not have to establish procedures for conducting the business of our family meetings. Those procedures have already been established. In 1876, General Henry M. Robert developed the document entitled, "Robert's Rules" which later evolved to "Robert's Rules of Order."
BACKGROUND on author of "Robert's Rules in Plain English", MS. ZIMMERMAN, taken from the Book jacket:
"Doris P. Zimmerman is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians and the American Institute of Parliamentarians, and founder and president of Parliamentary Consultants, Inc."
Ms. Zimmerman is not the only expert on Parliamentary Procedure, however, her credentials are sufficient enough to be considered as "an expert" for the purpose of running our Family business meeting. And, if any Family member wants to use the writings of another registered Parliamentarian who they feel is more qualified than Ms. Zimmerman, they are encouraged to present their alternative choice to the Family for a discussion and a vote.
Everyone does not need to agree that Robert's Rules is the best option or the only option, but at least it's a well-known, common reference point.
Highlights from the Book:
Robert's Rules says, with respect to the Chairperson, "The degree of formality he uses in presiding will depend on the size of the group and the amount of agreement in the group. A small group in close agreement needs less strict adherence to procedural rules than one in which sharp differences of opinion and warring cliques exist." (p.15) So, every Family member should recognize that the Chairperson is being guided by this basic principle when he/she begins to apply Robert's Rules to every meeting. Family members can reduce the need for strict adherence to all of Robert's Rules based on their interactions with one another.
>> WHEN IS IT NECESSARY TO HAVE A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY?
"A two-thirds majority vote is necessary whenever you are LIMITING or TAKING AWAY THE RIGHTS of members or whenever you are changing something that has already been decided." (reference page 10)
The language in the above quote is KEY to understanding and resolving sensitive, conflict situations in the immediate future and for many generations thereafter.
An example in the Book, on page 10, says...If someone wants to cut off discussion of any topic that is on the floor, the procedure is as follows:
1. A member must make a motion for "THE PREVIOUS QUESTION" OR more simply, "THE QUESTION."
2. This motion must be seconded by another member.
3. This motion is NOT DEBATABLE. Once seconded, A VOTE MUST BE TAKEN ON THE MOTION BEFORE ANY OTHER BUSINESS CAN BE DISCUSSED.
4. In order for the motion to carry (win the vote), two-thirds of the members present must vote in favor of the motion. See p.64.
5. If a two-thirds vote is NOT OBTAINED, the motion is DEFEATED and the group is then free to go back to discussing whatever topic was on the floor when the motion was made.
>> MAIN MOTIONS AND SECONDARY MOTIONS
"Motions are the tools used to introduce business in a meeting. No business can be introduced without a motion."
"A MAIN MOTION is defined as a proposal that certain action be taken or an opinion be expressed by the group."
"A SECONDARY MOTION is one which can be made while the main motion is on the floor and BEFORE it has been decided."
"SUBSIDIARY MOTIONS relate directly to the motion on the floor. They may change the words, send it to a committee, delay it, etc. They are designed to expedite business by disposing of the pending motion other than by adopting or rejecting it."
Just for informational purposes but NOT operational purposes, one needs to understand that there are different types of subsidiary motions and there is a rank and order amongst these Motions. However, it's probably a little too complicated to require everyone to fully understand the names of all of these subsidiary motions and how they are ranked in terms of importance. See page 49 for a diagram of the rank and order of subsidiary motions. So, for the purposes of our family, it will probably be more efficient and less confusing, to everyone, to basically recognize main motions and subsidiary motions. (without assigning rank to the subsidiary motions). We can discuss the best way to handle this issue during our Family meeting.
>> SOME RULES FOR A MAIN MOTION (p.41)
1. "Cannot interrupt a member who has been assigned the floor."
2. "Require a second, unless the motion is from a committee."
3. "Can be debated; can be amended."
4. "Require a MAJORITY VOTE."
5. "The maker of a motion has first right to speak to it."
6. "A member can modify his own motion before (or after) it is stated by the Chair."
>> SOME RULES FOR A SUBSIDIARY MOTION (p.48)
1. A motion for the "PREVIOUS QUESTION" OR ("THE QUESTION") - This is a motion THAT CALLS FOR AN IMMEDIATE VOTE ON A GIVEN MOTION ON THE FLOOR. "... takes precedence over all the motions that are lower on the ladder..."Previous Question" has the highest rank and is decided first." It requires a TWO-THIRDS VOTE TO WIN. (p. 64)
Note: A motion for "Previous question can be ruled out of order if the motion is debatable and has not received debate." On the bottom of page 1, there is language that is tied into this statement. It says that a "Previous Question" motion, AFTER DISCUSSION, is not debatable. Therefore, that statement is consistent with what is being stated here.
2. The "LIMIT DEBATE" motion - A motion can be made to LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF TIME that each speaker may have to discuss the main motion or subsidiary motion. This motion must be seconded. This motion is not debatable. An example of this motion would be to limit each person TO HAVE ONE (1) SPEECH WITH A MAXIMUM OF TWO (2) MINUTES.
REMEMBER THAT IT REQUIRES THAT TWO-THIRDS OF THE MEMBERS VOTE IN FAVOR OF THIS MOTION IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE ADOPTED. AFTER EVERYONE WHO WISHES TO SPEAK HAS SPOKEN, A VOTE MUST BE TAKEN ON THE ISSUE BEING DISCUSSED. (page 64)
3. The "RECONSIDER" motion - "Roberts says that, within limits, members have the right to rethink a situation if they feel their decision has been made too quickly or without enough information." One (1) of the most commonly used RESTORATIVE MOTIONS is "RECONSIDER." (p. 82)
RECONSIDER - "Reconsider is the motion which allows a group to reconsider the vote on a motion." "...it allows a question already decided to be brought up again."
Special Rules apply to the Reconsider Motion:
a) "The motion can only be made by someone who voted on the prevailing (winning) side."
b) "It must be made on the same day that the vote to be reconsidered was taken."
c) "It may be debated and it opens up the motion to which it is applied to debate."
d) "It must be seconded. However, it is not debated and voted on until the business on the floor is completed."
e) "It requires only a majority vote to win."
4. The "RESCIND" motion - "Rescind is the motion to quash or nullify a previously adopted motion. It may strike out an entire motion, resolution, by-law, etc." (pages 80-81)
Special Rules apply to the RESCIND Motion:
a) "Rescind is NOT in order when any action has already been taken as a result of the vote, such as any kind of contract when the other party has been notified."
b) The Book is silent as to whether this motion is debatable or not. However, each Family can vote and decide whether they will allow this motion to be debatable or not. The recommendation of this writer is to allow this motion to be debatable based on the precedent established in the special rules for the "Reconsider" motion stated in the above discussion.
c) "It must be seconded. However, it is not debated and voted on until the business on the floor is completed."
d) "It requires a two-thirds vote unless notice has been given at the previous meeting, either verbally or in writing. If notice has been given, the motion requires only a majority vote." (to win)
5. The "POSTPONE" motion - A motion can be made to POSTPONE a vote on the debated subject until the next meeting. It requires a MAJORITY VOTE in order for this motion to be adopted.
6. The "APPEAL" motion - A motion can be made to APPEAL the decision of the Chairperson. Rules that apply to the Appeal Motion: (p.75)
a) The motion must be seconded.
b) "It is debatable, but the debate has limits. No member is allowed to speak more than once, except the Chair, who speaks first in defense of the ruling and may again speak at the end, immediately before the vote."
c) "A majority vote is required to reverse the ruling of the Chair."
So, WHAT CAN ONE LEARN FROM THE ABOVE RULES THAT WILL HELP US RUN OUR MEETINGS BETTER?
Well, in the future, if a Family member feels that a discussion is dragging along or a conflict is developing, he or she has at least six (6) major Parliamentary options available to them to address this situation:
1st option - Make a motion for the "Question"... an immediate vote on the subject being discussed.
2ND option - Make a motion to "LIMIT DEBATE".... Limit each speaker to ONE (1) speech and also the amount of time that each speaker has to present his/her views on the subject.
3RD option - Make a motion to "POSTPONE" voting on the subject until the next meeting.
4th option - Make a motion to "Reconsider" a vote that has already been taken at that particular meeting.
5th option - Make a motion to "Rescind" a vote that has already been taken. Caution here...please re-visit the above rules that apply when one wants to use this option.
6th option - Make a motion to "Appeal" the decision of the Chairperson.
ADDITIONAL TIDBITS OF INFORMATION
>> SOME OF THE PRIVILEGED MOTIONS
1. A motion to adjourn - It takes a majority vote to win.
2. A motion to recess - It takes a majority vote to win.
>> A Quorum - "A quorum is the number of members who must be present to legally transact business. The number is usually stated in the bylaws. In a committee or a small board, the quorum is the majority of its members. The purpose of the quorum is to prevent an unrepresentative group from taking action in the name of the organization. (p.8)
>> Can the Chairperson vote on motions? (p.93)
Yes, the Chairperson does have the right to vote as a member. Robert's Rules adds the following statements to give an overall picture of the issue:
1. "While the Chair has a right to vote as a member, I recommend that he not vote unless the vote is by ballot."
2. "The Chair is not compelled to break a tie."
3. "When a tie occurs, half of the group is opposed to the motion. If the issue is a divisive one, perhaps it is best for it to be defeated. Time heals and the same question may always be introduced at a future meeting."
>> The appropriate time for announcements & adjournment:
Announcements come at the conclusion of the business meeting agenda items.
A motion for adjournment follows any announcements made and all known business has been conducted.
Every Family member needs to recognize that he/she should only exercise the above Parliamentarian options when necessary to conduct the business of our Family and keep the meeting moving along smoothly. Robert's Rules state, "Debate must be directed to motions and not motives, principles and not personalities."
Finally, on this subject, Robert's Rules state, "Parliamentary procedure should be used to help and not hinder decision making. The assembly meets to transact business, not to have members exploit their knowledge of parliamentary law."
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