First Nevada Unit Parliamentary Moment February 21st, 2019
Subject: Making a Motion
We all have experienced, as parliamentary procedure enthusiasts, the feeling deep in the pit of our stomachs crying in pain when we hear a botched attempt at making a motion. At every meeting from a loosely formed social club to our own N.A.P. meetings at all levels.
It becomes necessary to review the basics to insure the meetings run quickly and smoothly, with business getting done properly and chitchat reserved for after the meeting or during breaks.
What is a Main Motion?
A motion is used to bring business before a membership body; this needs to be done, and seconded, prior to any discussion on the subject. The exception would be when a committee delivers a report and could be followed by a motion by the committee to follow or adopt their recommendations.
This should be second nature, at least for us, but think back to all the meetings we attend. How many times have members or even board members “obtained the floor” only to bellyache or speak about a great idea, but with no direction as to what they want the body to act on?
If you are the chair of such a meeting you should assist the member in either forming a motion or saving it for after the meeting.
Examples: “Is the member making a motion for the club to write a letter expressing our disagreement with County switching from Roberts Rules of Order to Masons?” “Is the member making a motion for the club to offer free student membership to the local club for high school students?” “Is the member making a motion? No? Well please take your seat as we are in the business potion of the meeting.”
If you are a member you might “obtain the floor” for a parliamentary inquiry and ask a question of the chair that will assist them.
Examples: Member-“Chair? I have a parliamentary inquiry.”
Chair-“What is your question?”
Member-“Shouldn’t the member make a motion, prior to moving to discussion?” “I don’t know the direction of this discussion without a motion and am unable to participate well without that direction.”
Chair-“Your point is well taken; the member will make a motion prior to further discussion.”
A correctly formed motion should be clear and it is helpful for the motion maker to even write the motion down if it is full of specific details.
Examples: “I move that we buy 10 copies of Roberts Rules of Order NR to give to the Washoe County School District “We the People” program.”
“I move that we buy, with club funds not to exceed $200.00, 10 copies of Roberts Rules of Order NR, to be given to Washoe County School District “We the People” program prior to the Summer Break on June 10th.”
Discussion regarding the motion should switch between the Pros and Cons after the “motion maker” gets first rights to speak. If the Chair hears a couple of Pros and believes everyone will be Pro it is appropriate to pause debate to inquire if there are any Cons, if there are Cons, debate should continue. If there are no Cons it is appropriate for the Chair to attempt to move for a vote.
Example: “It appears the body is in favor of this motion, without objection lets move to the vote.” (The chair should pause and then move to the vote unless a member objects, if a member objects then discussion must continue.)
When taking the vote the Chair (or Secretary) repeats the motion on the floor that will be voted on. In some cases this is an opportunity for the Chair to inject a tiny bite of information by explaining the consequences of the motion.
Example: “The motion we are voting on is “Shall the club will buy, with club funds not to exceed $200.00, 10 copies of Roberts Rules of Order NR, to be given to Washoe County School District “We the People” program prior to the Summer Break on June 10th.” If the body passes this motion the Treasurer will order from N.A.P. 10 copies of Roberts Rules of Order NR to be shipped to the President, who will deliver them to John Doe for the use of the students in the program. This action will take our clubs account down to $17.00 and we have our website bill coming due on May 10th. The President will be assigning members to the fundraising committee to raise the needed funds prior to the May deadline. All in favor of the motion say Aye” (yes or whatever your club uses), “All apposed Nay” (no, etc), “any abstentions?”
As you can see from the above example, the Chair, by laying out the consequences prior to the vote could change minds, while remaining impartial.
After the vote has been taken it is the job of the Chair to announce the results in a manner that assists the Secretary in recording the important facts.
Example: “The motion passed (or passed unanimously) The Treasurer will order the books to be delivered to the Chairs house, The Chair will deliver them to the program director, and the Chair is appointing John Smith, Fred Jones, Sally Forth, and Debbie Downs to the Fundraising Committee to report fundraising plans and progress to the body at the next meeting. The report will be under Unfinished Business.”
(If the motion failed it is reported as such and the chair moves on to the next order of business.)
As you can see the Chair handled as much of the business related to the motion during the results report assisting the Secretary in including it in the minutes accurately, which will assist everyone in tracking who is responsible for what.
In conclusion, the Chair is responsible for assisting/training members in making a correctly formed motion and keeping the membership moving the business forward. All of this can be done without embarrassing the member or flat out rejecting an incorrect motion. The more a Chair practices using this method, even on the easy motions the better the members will become at following Parliamentary Procedures in the future.