We often encounter folks in our training sessions who don’t want to bother with the picky little details of Robert’s Rules. They feel that good will and common sense ought to carry them through most meetings.
Then a situation arises where the “picky little rules” have a very large impact. What would you do in the following circumstances?
You propose a course of action to your planning commission, and the chair says, “We’re not going to consider that.”
You make a motion at your city council meeting, but when the mayor repeats it in order for discussion to begin, she changes your words.
The chair of your board says, “All in favor?” and upon hearing some replies says, “Well, it’s unanimous!” before you can vote against the idea.
Help is at hand! Robert’s Rules of Order gives specific responses to each of these situations. Perhaps you already know the right thing to do, but if you’d like to refresh your knowledge, read below to learn the answers.
During this week of Thanksgiving we at Jurassic Parliament are very grateful for the structure and efficiency that Robert’s Rules have brought to our meetings—and for all of our enthusiastic readers who value order and respect, and are committed to creating the right conditions for them to occur.
Ann G. Macfarlane, Professional Registered Parliamentarian
Answer 1: All members have the right to make motions, and the chair does not have the right to deny them. You say, “I appeal from the decision of the chair.” If another member seconds your appeal, the planning commission as a whole will decide whether to consider your proposal.
Answer 2: The chair is obligated to state your motion as you phrased it. You say, “Point of order” and correct the mayor. Note that you have to do this right away, or it will be too late.
Answer 3: The chair must call for the negative or the vote isn’t legitimate. This principle goes back to 1564. You say, “Point of order – please call for the negative” and the chair, we hope gracefully, does so.