notes from parliamentary procedure: tool of leadership by King Broadrick

examples of bad things that ppl have done w/r/t mtngs or parliamentary procedure:

(1) "Mr chairman, this discussion is a waste of time. I move we lay it on the table and refer it to a committee for further study" (2) a bylaw that allows officers to make a policy which can be overturned only by a 2/3 vote of the entire membership. (3) at a conference, a standing rule that requires a 2/3 vote just so that a member can be recognized to speak from the floor (4) after a ten-minute speech by a guest speaker proposing various things but not as specific motion(s), a member is recognized and saya, "mr. chairman, i move what he said" (5) a committee of 8 ppl and a chair convenes with 1 person absent, and 1 person leaves in the middle. a vote is taken, and falls 3 for, 2 against, 1 abstaining. the chair claims that the abstain is like a negative vote and therefore the vote is as if it is tied and therefore the chair gets to vote (and the chair votes against). (6) a motion is made and seconded that a parliamentary body go on record as supporting candidate A. during debate a motion is made to amend the motion by stribing the word "supporting" and inserting the word "opposing". (7) "in a collegiate sorority chapter meeting a motion is made concerning visitation hours. During discussion a minor amendment is offered, seconded, and passed. immediately following approval of the amended motion by voice vote which appeared to be unanimous, a recess is called as previously planned for a social hour featuring a visit by the dean of students and his wife. when the business mtng is resumed, a member asks for the floor and is recognized. she argues theat the action on visitation is illegal and should be rescinded b/c the motion was not seconded when first proposed, and she had no opportunity to question the action b/c everyone was in such a hurry to start the social hour."

"considered independently, each of these examples raises a separate technical principle, or nicety, of correct parliamentary procedure...considered in the aggregate, however, all share she common characteristic of impracticality in the circumstances...the principals in each undertook thoughtless and impractical action."

  1. 1,#4,#6 "impractical...b/c they could not be acted on directly and affirmatively w/o further deliberation and action by the assembly. At best, the consequence...was a waste of worst...obscurity and diffusion of the consesus and will of their...organizations"
  2. 2,#3 "more serious...b/c they tend to negate the first principles of parliamentary procedure: freedom of discussion and decision by the majority". if #3 is adopted, the "conference would probably turn out to be long and tedious, with a marked tendency toward acrimony" re #7: the reason for seconds is that "the time of the whole assembly should not be taken for a matter which is of interest for only one member". in this case, since the motion was passed unanimously, there's no reason to go back to it

"third principle of parliamentary procedure: protection of minority rights"

Broadrick also recommends not taking the procedure too literally, and remembering the context of "ordinary logical and psychological processes of group deliberation in a democratic society. If a proposed procedure for conducting business or a proposal for action by an assembly is thoughtless and impractical -- if it does not make sense on its own merits -- no parliamentary miracle or sleight of hand can transform it into a state of intellectual precision and emotional acceptability..."

"Get Prepared"

"Nothing is more destructive of your refutation for sound thought, of your credibility and influence, than the failure to prepare carefully for an impending discussion."

"...on the other hand, a reputation for doing your homework, for having the facts, for making careful inferences from the facs, for recognizing and controlling your own biases, for making informed and articulate statements of your views -- in short, a reputation for knowledge, judgement, and precise language -- will generate the credibility and influence on which leadership depends...there is... no substitute for knowing what you are talking about through basic reseach and analysis, through reflective projection of the implications and consequences of a proposed action, and through thoughtful consideration of alternative modes of action."

"read, talk,listen, write"

" propositional language. The nonpropositional words, phrases, and topical headings of a subject will likely become so familiar to you through research and preparation that they become a king of linguistic shorthand you unconsciously use in thinking about the subject. They will not suffice; they will not be nearly good enough when you are faced with making a full and clear statement of your views to others.... reading makes the informed man, writing the ready man"

seven principals: "full and fair discussion [ex: 2/3 to close debate], debatability and amendability of motions [examples of reasoning w/r/t debatability and amendability rules; "motion to limit debate is not debatable b/c to debate it defeats the purpose of the motion], orderly discussion [one person at a time, one topic at a time], the privilage of interruption [interruption allowed iff the purpose of the motion cannot be accomplished unless it is immediate -- or, as i would put it, to prevent backtracking], majority rule, the protection of the minority [ex. 2/3 req'd to amend constitution, suspend rules, close debate], fruitful use of time"

making a main motion:

example of motivation behind precedences: motion to table outranks motion to postpone definitely b/c motion to table "suspends business temporarily for reasons of some urgency in the nature of emergency, and the motion to postpone definitely schedules discussion of a proposal to coincide with other relevant work of the assembly, for example, a committee report"

example of motivation behind precedences (this is a real-life example according to Broadrick): " let us suppose, for example, that a meeting of a college faculty has been called to order by the dean, serving as presiding officer as specified by the bylaws. as called for in the agenda, which follows a traditional form used for several years -- and a copy of which is in the hands of each faculty member present -- the following events take place:

Minutes of the previous meeting are approved by adopting the report of the Committee on Minutes.

Under the heading of Dean's Remarks, the dean reports briefly on matters of interest to the faculty, including his reasons for optimism that in the next fescal year money will be available for salary increases.

Under the heading of Standing Committee Reports, the dean asks for the report of the Committee on Governance, and the chairman of that committee gives notice that at the next meeting a report of his committee will propose certain revisions of the bylaws.

The dean asks for the report of the Committee on Educational Policy. Member A, chairman of the committee, is recognized and takes the floor; he reminds the assembly that copies of the report were mailed earlier to each member as required by the bylaws and that extra copies are available at the secretary's desk.

As chairman of the committee, Member A then moves adoption of the report, which calls for immediate discontinuance of the practice of granting college credit for ROTC courses. The dean remarks that a second is assumed since it is a standing committee report. Member A speaks for about eight minutes in support of the proposal and resumes his seat.

Up to this point, to all appearances, the transaction of business by the assembly has been orderly and harmonious. Then the dean says the floor is open for discussion on the committee report, and all hell quietly breaks loose, logically and psychologically, as follows:

Member B agrees with the proposal but wants to amend it to allow limited credit for ROTC courses. Several members agree.

Member C thinks it is a very bad proposal, and wants to know whether it is in order, since the college is a land-grant institution, and passage of the motion would appear to violate what he calls "our contract with the federal government," and some agree.

Member D notices that the committee report does not discuss the legal implications which concern Member C and believes the report should be referred back to the committee for further study.

Member E enthusiatically supports the proposal and believes a majority of the faculty support it; he would like for discussion to be terminated, debate closed, and an immediate vote taken, so he can get to the library. Several join him in support of the proposal.

Member F is appalled that the topic has come up, because he is convinced that public discussion of the proposal will jepordize research grants which the college has applied for.

Member G, chairman of the standing Committee on Courses and Curricula, believes discussion of the proposal will run to great length because of emotional intensity and wide diversity of opinion; he wants to table the proposal and then bring up his committee's favorable report of a new curriculum, which if approved by the faculty must be sent to the Board of Trustees for final approval before the end of the semester. Several members agree.

Member H, a member of the Committee on Educational Policy, is strongly opposed to the proposal; he wants to submit a minority report and propose its adoption as a substitute for the majority report.

Member I belives the proposal is premature and thinks it ought to be postponed until a study is completed by an ad hoc college committee on military affairs. "

secondary motions


in order of lowest priority to highest:

motion to postpone indefinitely: "may be used to dispose of a main motion on which a direct vote might be embarrassing to the assembly or to test the relative strength of contending views on a main motion... In twenty-five years of attending meetings of all kinds, this writer has never seen it used in a public meeting other than college classes."

amend: "a very practicle standard which members might well adopt would be: do not propose an amendment of any complexity unless you have written it out; if time is needed to write it out, use the privileged motion to request a short recess."

refer; why it outranks amend: "its use is more practicle and timely, on the rationale that it is both wiser and a better use of time to refer than to try by the amendment process to perfect..."

"To prevent abuse of the motion to refer, the presiding officer should firmly refuse to accept motions made for clearly dilatory purposes..."

motion to postpone to a definite time: "...charge is sometimes made that the motion is used for dilatory purposes, but a firm presiding officer and responsible members can prevent its abuse. In addition, the basic purpose of the motion [to "connect discussion of the motion with some other relevant activity of the assembly"] provides a presiding officer with even clearer grounds for ruling the motion dilatory if that is the case." take care not to confuse with motion to table.