Friday, January 9, 2009

Public Service Announcement

One of these days I'm going to get my notes together and work on a Parliamentary Procedure Primer. I know it looks a little intimidating to see people in a meeting zipping through motions and wishing you knew what to say to make your point, or even wishing you knew what was going on. So in the interest of helping myself study by teaching others, here's a little cheat sheet on parliamentary terms.

Main Motion - The initial topic being discussed. Imagine a series of stepping stones on a path. This is step one. (I move we hold a car wash fundraiser.)

Postpone Indefinitely - Kill (for the remainder of the term) the motion at hand. Once postponed indefinitely this topic is DEAD. (I move to postpone the motion indefinitely.) If this motion fails, you can keep going.

Amendment - Proposal to tweak that main motion. (I move to strike the words "car wash" and insert the word "carnival.")

Secondary Amendment - Further tweaking the tweaking of the motion. (I move to insert the words "and bake sale" after "carnival.)

Commit or Refer - Send the motion to a committee to report back to the body. (I move to refer the question to the fundraising committee.) This puts the original question AND the amendments (or anything else attached to that motion)in the hands of the committee.

Postpone to a Certain Time - Put the discussion off for a while, until a certain hour or until after a certain event has occurred. (I move to postpone the question until after lunch.)

Limit Debate or Extend Limits of Debate - agree to change the existing rules regarding debate. (I move we allow twenty minutes for debate on this motion rather than the usual ten minutes allowed.)

Call the (Previous) Question - cut to the chase, get to the vote. When the question is called, debate is through and the motion goes to a vote. Remember, this is only the most recent motion unless otherwise specified. If the question on an amendment only is called, this forces the vote on the amendment. Then you still have to step back down to the original motion. (I call the previous question [with all adhering motions.])

(Lay on the) Table - NOT a motion killer, despite its popular use as such (remember, that's Postpone Indefinitely.) Instead this motion "lays on the (secretary's) table" the motion until the body decides to pick it up again. There are rules for how long it can lay there, but just remember, it doesn't kill a motion; instead it schedules it to be picked up as Old Business in the next meeting. If it isn't taken up then, it "falls to the floor." (I move to table the motion.)

Recess - a move to take a break for a specified time. (I move we recess for fifteen minutes while the speaker is setting up his equipment.)

Adjourn - pack up and go home, you're done. This is the end, and all business is done that the body wants to conduct. One warning: if you're in a convention, don't leave until it's adjourned SINE DIE (without day). That means the convention body is totally excused, and nobody can reopen the convention to discuss more business - the body is terminated. (I move to adjourn.)

Those are most of the important motions in order of rank, lowest to highest.

Some others to remember are:

Point of Information - I need something clarified.

Point of Order - I don't think something is being done correctly - please rule on that objection.

Division of the House - I don't trust the voice vote, we need to repeat the vote by having members stand to vote.

Hopefully that helped clarify what some of the motions mean, and how to use them. Follow along in the next meeting you attend and see if it helps, then let me know!

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