Some fundamental questions on meeting  procedure

As established by Alice Sturgis in her publication
Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure

1.  What is Parliamentary Procedure?

It is the safeguard that protects individuals and  groups in their exercise of the rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to unite in organizations.
2.  What is the purpose of Parliamentary Procedure?
It is to facilitate the transaction of business and to promote cooperation and harmony.
3.  What is the foundation of Parliamentary Procedure?
These procedures are based upon principles, rules and usages which have developed from actual court decisions established upon  reason, logic, common sense and long observance.
4.  When should these procedures be used?
Courts have held that all groups must follow parliamentary rules when conducting business.
5.  Why use Sturgis?
She has attempted to simplify much that is considered needless, confusing and outmoded; her procedures are clear and relatively simple!
6.  Is this procedure a means to an end or an end in itself?
The standard code is definitely a means to an end. Court interpretations make it clear that the intent and overall good faith of the group are more important than any particular detail of procedures.
7.  Who should be familiar with these procedures?
All members have equal rights, privileges and obligations. Thus all members should be familiar with these procedures and insist upon their proper utilization!
8.  What are some of the basic fundamentals?
a. Only one main motion may be considered at a time.
b. Majority vote decides unless it infringes upon individual rights, then a 2/3 vote may be
c. Every member has a right to know the meaning of a motion and what effect it  may have
    before voting.
d. It is not acceptable to capriciously close debate on a motion.
e. To vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right.
9.  What is a quorum?
Quorum is defined as the number of members in good standing who must be present to transact business. If not specifically defined in an organization’s bylaws, a quorum is considered to be a majority.
10.  May a motion already voted on be changed?
Yes, the organization is allowed to change its mind on any passed action.
        a. May be “reconsidered” at the same meeting
        b. May “rescind” at a subsequent meeting
        c. May make an entirely new main motion
11.  How may a main motion be amended?
a. Any amendment must be germane to the main motion.
b. A proposed amendment to the main motion is called a primary amendment.
c. A primary motion may be amended (i.e., an amendment to an amendment); this is called
    a secondary amendment.
d. A secondary amendment (an amendment to the amendment) must be voted on before any
    other amendment is in order.
e. If the secondary amendment fails, another secondary amendment is in order.
f. If the secondary amendment passes, the primary amendment must be voted upon as
g. If the primary amendment fails, the original main motion is voted upon.
h. If the primary amendment passes, the original main motion is then voted upon as
Note: This is not as complicated as it sounds. Just proceed slowly and carefully and have the secretary record all proposals so that they may be sorted through appropriately.
12.  What purpose is served by moving to “table” a main motion?
Passage of this motion simply puts off  consideration of the motion until later in the current meeting or at a subsequent meeting or not at all (i.e., the main motion is killed).
13.  What does “call the question” mean?
This is usually an attempt to close debate. The appropriate motion to bring about an immediate vote is a motion to “close debate” which requires a 2/3 vote.
14.  What is a point of order?
The purpose of a “point of order” is to call to the attention of the assembly/presiding officer a violation of the rules, an omission, a mistake, or an error in procedure.

15.  What does it mean to abstain when a vote has been called?

To abstain means to relinquish one’s vote. The right to vote is an obligation of membership; abstentions should not be encouraged.
Sturgis, Alice. (1988). Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, McGraw-Hill, Inc.
Compiled by Jim Drummond

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