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Meeting Basics

Debate

For members to decide on the action to be taken, full, open, and orderly discussion of issues is required. The following guidelines are intended to facilitate such discussion.

One speaker at a time. Once a member has been recognized, that person has "the floor" and another member may not interrupt.

A member may speak in debate twice on any debatable motion on the same day. (not something we've paid attention to, but worth considering.) Each time you may speak for up to 10 minutes.

Who gets to speak when. General rule is in order of hands raised. Exceptions:

  • Although everyone may speak twice, someone who has not yet spoken on it even once has preference over anyone who has already spoken on it.
  • Also, when the chair knows that persons seeking the floor have opposite opinions on the motion, the chair should try to alternate between speakers who favor and those who oppose a proposal that is being debated. So, if there has just been a speech in favor of the motion, someone who wants to speak against it then should, if possible, be given preference over another person wanting to support it.
    (Henry M. Robert III, et al., Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, In Brief [Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2004], 30).

Cutting off debate. Debate can be cut off by a request to "move the previous question" or to "call the question." The person wanting to make such a motion must wait to be recognized by the Chair, rather than interrupting someone else by calling out from the floor. The motion for the previous question can be ruled out of order if the motion on the floor has not received debate. On the other hand, sometimes people "move the previous question" when it is clear that debate is winding down in any case. In this circumstance, it may be better use of the group's time to let the debate take its course rather than force the additional vote on whether debate should be ended.) Moving the previous question cannot itself be debated, and it needs 2/3 majority to pass.

Role of Presiding Officer

The presiding officer has the responsibility of enforcing the rules in order that the organization may do its work in the fairest, most expedient, and impartial manner -- something like a referee in a sports contest.

Motions

Making a motion is the first step in putting an item for action before the body.

  • Only one motion (also called the "question") is considered at a time. No further motion is in order unless it directly relates to the question under consideration.
  • Subsidiary motions (related to main motion) have a specific rank, with one type taking precedence over the other (see chart below).

Making Motions: What Do I Say?


Subsidiary Motions from Lowest to Highest Rank

To Do This Motion You Say This Interrupt? 2nd? Debate? Amend Vote
Introduce business Main motion "I move that..." No Yes Yes Yes Majority
Kill main motion Postpone indefinitely "I move that the motion be postponed indefinitely." No Yes Yes No Majority
Change the wording of a motion Amend "I move to amend the motion by..." (adding, striking out, or substituting words) No Yes Yes Yes Majority
Send to committee Commit "I move that the motion be referred to..." No Yes Yes Yes Majority
Postpone to a certain time Postpone definitely "I move that the motion be postponed to..." No Yes Yes Yes Majority
Limit debate Limit debate "I move that the debate on this motion be limited to [one] speech of [two] minutes for each member." No Yes No Yes Two-thirds
End debate Previous question "I move the previous question." No Yes No No Two-thirds
Put motion aside temporarily Lay on the table "I move to lay the question on the table." (Only to be used when something else of immediate urgency has arisen) No Yes No No Majority
Make follow agenda Orders of the day "I call for the orders of the day." Yes No No No none
Register complaint Question of privilege "I rise to a question of privilege." Yes No No No None
Take break Recess "I move to recess for ..." No Yes No Yes Majority
Close meeting Adjourn "I move to adjourn." No Yes No No Majority

Incidental or Unranked Motions
(In order when they apply to business on the floor)

To Do This Motion You Say This Interrupt? 2nd? Debate? Amend Vote
To enforce rules Point of order "I rise to a point of order." Yes No No No Chair rules
Protest ruling of the Chair Appeal "I appeal the decision of the Chair." Yes Yes Varies No Majority
Request information Point of information "I rise to a point of information." Yes (if urgent) No No No Given by Chair/authority
Request parliamentary help Parliamentary inquiry "I rise to a parliamentary question." Yes (if urgent) No No No Chair rules
To separate parts of a motion Division of a question "I move that the motion be divided." No Yes No Yes Majority
Demand a verification of the vote Division Call out, "Division!" Yes No No No On demand of one member
To withdraw a motion I made Permission to withdraw "I request that my motion be withdrawn." By general consent (no objection)
To remove an improper matter from the floor Object to consideration "I object to the consideration of..." (must be made before debate had begun) Yes No No No Two-thirds
To suspend the rules Suspend the rules "I move to suspend the rules which..." No Yes No No Two-thirds, or by general consent (no objection)

Motions that Bring a Question Again before the Assembly
(No order of precedence—introduce only when nothing else pending)

To Do This You Say This Interrupt? 2nd? Debate? Amend Vote
Take matter from table "I move to take from the table. . ." No Yes No No Majority
Cancel or change previous action "I move to rescind/amend something previously adopted. . ." No Yes Yes Yes Two-thirds or majority w/ notice
Reconsider motion "I move to reconsider the vote. . ." No Yes Varies No Majority


Source: Doris P. Zimmerman, Robert's Rules in Plain English, 2nd edition (NY: HarperCollins, 2005); www.jimslaughter.com