Questions and Answers

(Difficulty Level - 5)
Question: A committee member arrives at a regular committee meeting (operating under RONR 1990) at which all members will be present. Before the meeting begins, the member overhears that a motion will be made to reconsider an item adopted at the previous meeting. At the previous meeting, the committee member voted for adoption of the underlying motion (and does not want to discuss the matter again). What action can the committee member take to dramatically increase the chance that the motion to Reconsider will fail?

Answer: The committee member can choose not to attend the meeting (thereby changing the vote required to pass the motion to reconsider from a majority to two-thirds). The motion to reconsider has different characteristics when made in a standing or special committee. For one, the motion to reconsider can be made and taken up regardless of the time that has elapsed since the vote was taken. In addition, "unless all the members of the committee who voted with the prevailing side are present or have been notified that the reconsideration will be moved, it requires a two-thirds vote to adopt the motion to Reconsider." RONR 1990, p. 324. (Based on "An Obscure Principle" by Jim Lochrie, Parliamentary Journal, January 1993)

(Difficulty Level - 2)
Question: A motion has been debated and amended several times at the monthly meeting of a voluntary association. A member then rises and states: "I make a friendly amendment that the motion be amended to add 'and Assistant Treasurer' after the word 'Treasurer.' This should clear up the confusion about the motion, and I am certain there will be no opposition from the maker of the original motion." The maker of the motion immediately stands and states, "I accept the friendly amendment."

The parliamentary authority is RONR 1990. Is the proposed amendment adopted?

Answer: RONR 1990 does not recognize the phrase "friendly amendment" (nor do any of the other major parliamentary authorities, for that matter). As used in some societies, a friendly amendment is a proposed change which becomes part of a motion simply by its acceptance by the maker of the original motion. Widespread use of friendly amendments violates fairness principles of parliamentary procedure in that it takes rights away from the majority and places control in the hands of two members--the proposer of the amendment and the maker of the original motion.

RONR 1990 provides as follows: "Until the chair states the question, the maker has the right to modify his motion as he pleases, or to withdraw it entirely. After the question has been stated by the chair, the motion becomes the property of the assembly, and then its maker can do neither of these things without the assembly's consent; but while the motion is pending the assembly can change the wording of the motion by the process of amendment before acting upon it. RONR 1990, p. 39.

As to the brainteaser, it is not appropriate to simply adopt the amendment with only the involvement of the two members. The proper procedure would be for the presiding officer to ask if there is any objection by anyone to the amendment. If not, the proposed amendment can be adopted by unanimous consent. If any member objects to the proposed amendment, the chair should ask for a second and process the motion as any other formal amendment.

(Difficulty level = 2)
Question: The Chairman of a board is having difficulty arranging a time that all members can discuss a matter. As a result, the chair obtains the personal approval of the proposed action by telephone from every member of the board.

According to RONR, is the action proper? If not, what should be done to make the proposal an official act of the board?

Answer: RONR 1990 § 48 (p. 476-77) "The personal approval of a proposed action obtained separately by telephone or individual interview, even from every member of a board, is not the approval of the board, . . . . If action on such a basis is necessary in an emergency, it must be ratified at the next regular board meeting in order to become an official act of the board."

(Difficulty level = 3)
Question: The President-Elect of an organization has upset numerous members with recent statements about what he will do as President. According to RONR, can the assembly now elect someone other than the President-Elect to the office of President?

Answer: RONR § 46 (p. 448) "Once a person has been elected president-elect, the assembly cannot alter its decision regarding the succession of that person to the presidency, unless he vacates office during his term as president-elect, or unless ground arises for deposing him from that office."

(Difficulty level = 2)
Question: According to RONR, under what circumstances can a non-member of a society be removed from a meeting?

Answer: "Nonmembers . . . can be excluded at any time from part or all of a meeting . . . . Such exclusion can be effected by a ruling of the chair in cases of disorder, or by the adoption of a rule on the subject, or by an appropriate motion as the need arises--a motion of the latter nature being a question of privilege. A motion to exclude all nonmembers (except absolutely necessary staff, if any) is often referred to as a motion to 'go into executive session.'" (RONR § 60 (p. 639))

(Difficulty level = 4)
Question: According to RONR, what are the three situations in which a main motion requires greater than a majority vote?

Answer: (1) If the bylaws require more than a majority vote; (2) if the motion would have the effect of suspending a rule of order or a parliamentary right of members; or (3) if the motion would have the effect of changing something already adopted. (RONR § 10 (p. 100-101))

(Difficulty level = 4)
Question: What is the distinction between a "President-Elect" and a "President Elect," according to Demeter's Manual?

Answer: "A president-elect (with hyphen) is the organization's newly elected president who has not yet been formally installed in office. A president elect (no hyphen) is an officer chosen at the previous election, and is the organization's pre-elected next president." Demeter, p. 255.

(Difficulty level = 2)
Question: According to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990 Edition), what is the difference between "stating the question" and "putting the question"?

Answer: By "stating the question," the chair formally places a motion before the assembly by stating "the exact motion and indicat[ing] that it is open to debate (and certain other parliamentary processes . . .) in the manner . . . appropriate to the case." By "putting the question," the chair puts the motion to a vote. RONR 1990 § 4 (p. 31-44)

(Difficulty level = 3)
Question: A close voice vote has been taken, and a member then calls for a division. Another member is then recognized by the presiding officer and moves to adjourn. Is the motion in order according to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990 Edition)?

Answer: No. The motion to adjourn "[t]akes precedence over all motions except the privileged motion to Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn; but it is not in order while the assembly is engaged in voting or verifying a vote, or before the result of a vote has been announced by the chair, except that, in case of a vote taken by ballot, a motion to Adjourn is in order after the ballots have been collected by the tellers and before the result has been announced." RONR 1990 § 4 (p. 31-44)

(Difficulty level = 2)
Question: The Chairman of an organization operating under Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990 Edition) relinquishes the chair in order to speak on a controversial motion. After further debate, the motion is postponed until next month's meeting. When the motion comes back on for discussion the following month, should the Chairman preside?

Answer: No. Whether at the same meeting or another one, a presiding officer who has spoken to a motion should not return to the chair until the matter is resolved. "The presiding officer who relinquished the chair then should not return to it until the pending main question has been disposed of, since he has shown himself to be a partisan as far as that particular matter is concerned." RONR 1990 § 42 (p. 390)

(Difficulty level = 3)
Question: If there is no specific rule on the subject, can the chairman of a meeting exclude nonmembers from the meeting if the nonmembers are causing no disruption, according to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (1990 Edition)?

Answer: No. "Nonmembers . . . can be excluded at any time from part or all of a meeting of a society, or from all of its meetings. Such exclusion can be effected by a ruling of the chair in cases of disorder, or by the adoption of a rule on the subject, or by an appropriate motion as the need arises--a motion of the latter nature being a question of privilege. A motion to exclude all nonmembers (except absolutely necessary staff, if any) is often referred to as a motion to "go into executive session." RONR 1990 § 60 (p. 639)