Leadership Notes #27 – More on Motions

(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)

[Toward the end of September, the National Association of Parliamentarians will be holding their National Convention. At this event, the new edition (11th) of “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised” will be released. In honor of that, for this month, we will be focusing on parliamentary procedure. This is the second of the ‘motions’ sub-series]

When speaking of motions, there are some other things to be aware of. There are, in fact, 23 different motions. Do you need to memorize them all? No. In fact for most people and most situations, you need to be familiar with only a handful or so. We will cover the most useful of these in the next 2 Notes.

First off, every motion has certain characteristics. It’s important to be familiar with these characteristics. It can be difficult to memorize the characteristics of every motion, but thankfully there are various charts and cheat sheets you can get and use during your meetings.

The characteristics are:

1. Precedence
2. Application
3. If in order when another has the floor
4. Seconded
5. Debatable
6. Amendable
7. Vote needed
8. Reconsidered

What do these mean?

1. Precedence. For some motions (a dozen of them), there is an order of precedence. Thus, if a motion is being considered, you can put forth a motion of a higher precedence, without waiting for that motion to be finished. Main motions (those motions that bring forth new business to be considered, which was the main focus of the previous Note) have the lowest precedence. Some motions have no precedence, btw.

2. Application. What is the purpose of this motion? This is important, because some motions have somewhat confusing names and some motions seem to have identical purposes. You need to be sure you are using the right motion for the right reasons.

3. As noted, when someone has the floor, you have to wait your turn to make a motion. HOWEVER, there are some motions that you can use even if another member has the floor.

4. Does the motion require a second? Some don’t.

5. Can the motion be debated (discussed)? Some don’t allow it.

6. Can the motion be amended (changed)? Some can’t.

7. What kind of vote is needed to pass the motion? Most motions need only a majority vote. Certain motions require a 2/3 vote (these are motions that affects member’s “parliamentary rights” of debate). Some motions don’t need a vote. (refer to the Note on voting for more on this)

8. Can you reconsider the vote on a motion? Some allow it, some don’t

In addition, motions are put into one of several groups: Main Motions, Subsidiary motions, Privileged Motions, Incidental Motions, “Bring Back” Motions.

What are these groups?

Main motions bring new business before the group as motions or resolutions.

Subsidiary motions are motions that apply to the main motion, by changing them, setting them aside, and the like.

Privileged motions are important because they have precedence over other motions and are not debatable. All deal with the business of running the meeting.

Incidental motions are related to the main motion, but in such a way that they need to be dealt with NOW.

“Bring Back” motions are a motions that bring back issues for consideration to the group. These can be motions that were set aside and the like.

As noted, one need not memorize motions, but you need to be familiar with them, and using various charts during your meeting can help. Here are some resources for these charts.

You can download several free charts at Jim Slaughter’s website (http://www.jimslaughter.com/articles.htm). He has a great chart of the parliamentary motions, and two others that are useful are “Preside Like a Pro” and “Presiding Phrases”, which can help the person chairing a meeting to move things along.

The National Association of Parliamentarians (www.parliamentarians.org) has several items for sale in their store that are useful. They have several plastic cards with basic information on them, such as handling a motion, chair’s guide, vote calculator, ranking motions, and subsidiary motions. Their basic information leaflet is one I get by the 100 and pass out at seminars I do. This one has it all in one place.