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Chapter 8 - Using Privileged Motions

This chapter addresses privileged motions, those motions that do not relate to the pending motion but that are special matters of immediate importance arising in the meeting. The chapter begins with the lowest-ranking privileged motion - call for the orders of the day - and proceeds to the highest-ranking one - fix the time to which to adjourn. The purpose of each motion, its restrictions (whether it needs a second, is amendable, and so on), and the result of that privileged motion are outlined at the beginning of each section. Examples show you how to use the motion correctly.

Call for the Orders of the Day

When the agenda isn't being followed or a motion that was made a special order is not being taken up at the right time, one member can call for the orders of the day. This motion does not require a second. It is not debatable. The chair must immediately go to the orders of the day or take a vote to set aside the orders of the day. If the chair assumes a motion to set aside the orders of the day, a two-thirds vote in the negative must adopt it. If a member moves to set aside the orders of the day, it requires a two-thirds vote in the affirmative to adopt.

Say, for example, the members are debating the motion to buy a computer. The chair either has forgotten that it's time to take up a special order or has decided to ignore it. A member calls for the orders of the day. The chair can do one of two things. The chair can stop the discussion and go to the orders of the day. Or, if the chair feels that the members are almost ready to vote on the computer and would like to set aside the orders of the day to finish the business at hand, the chair can take a vote on the motion to call for the orders of the day.

Member: I call for the orders of the day.

Chairman: The orders of the day are called for. The order of the day is the motion to give $1,000 to the Environmental Club. The question is: Will the members proceed to the orders of the day? As many as are in favor please rise. [A few members rise.] Be seated. Those opposed please rise. [Many members rise.] Be seated. There is a two-thirds vote in the negative, and we will not proceed to the orders of the day. Is there any further discussion about buying a computer and laser printer?

If the vote is less than two-thirds in the negative, the chair states:

Chairman: There is less than a two-thirds vote in the negative, and we will now proceed to the orders of the day. The question is on the motion to give $1,000 to the Environmental Club. Is there any discussion?

When this motion has been disposed, the members return to the motion to buy a computer and laser printer.

If a member wants to set aside the orders of the day, he or she can state, "I move that the time for considering the pending question be extended." This motion takes a two-thirds vote in the affirmative to adopt.

Raise a Question of Privilege

A common question of privilege deals with noise or temperature in the assembly room. There are questions of privilege concerning the assembly and questions of privilege concerning the individual. Of the two, privilege of the assembly has a higher priority. To raise a question of privilege, a member usually makes his or her statement this way:

Member: Madam President, I rise to a question of privilege concerning the assembly.

President: Please state the question.

Member: It is too hot in here. Can we have the heat turned down?

The chair then makes a ruling.

President: Is there any objection to turning down the heat? Hearing none, will Member X turn down the thermostat?

An example of a question of personal privilege is when a member can't hear the speaker.

Member: Madam President, I rise to a question of personal privilege.

President: Please state the question.

Member: I can't hear the speaker.

The chair then makes a ruling. The chair may say, "Will the speaker talk louder?" or "Will the speaker go to the microphone so all can hear?"

Another example of a motion that is considered a question of privilege is the motion to go into executive session, during which time the proceedings are kept secret.

To make a motion to go into executive session, a member states:

Member: Madam President, I rise to a question of privilege to make a motion.

President: Please state your motion.

Member: I move that we go into executive session to discuss this issue.

President: The chair rules that the question is one of privilege to be entertained immediately. Is there a second?

Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded to go into executive session. Is there any discussion?

Debate follows on whether to go into executive session; this motion is amendable. A vote is then taken. If the motion is adopted, those who are not members must leave and the meeting goes into a secret session. The minutes of this portion of the meeting can be approved only at an executive session.

Recess

To make this motion, a member says:

Member: I move to take a ____ minute recess.

Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded to take a ____ minute recess. All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No." The ayes have it, and we will take a ____ minute recess. This meeting stands in recess for ____ minutes. [one rap of the gavel]

When the recess is finished, the president calls the meeting to order with one rap of the gavel.

A recess is generally short in duration. Although it may last several hours, it is never longer than a day. Organizations do not take long recesses like the U.S. Congress. If members want to take a longer recess, they should set an adjourned meeting. (See the motion fix the time to which to adjourn, later in this chapter. Also see "Adjourned Meetings" in Chapter 16.)

Note that it is also possible to recess when no business is pending. The motion to recess when no business is pending is an incidental main motion. The difference between this motion and recess as a privileged motion is that recess as an incidental main motion is debatable and the previous use of recess is not debatable.

Adjourn

As a privileged motion (one made when other motions are pending), adjourn takes precedence over all other motions, except the motion fix the time to which to adjourn. If adopted, and before the chair announces the adjournment, members can rise to make announcements, give previous notice about a motion to be made at the next meeting, and make a motion to reconsider, to reconsider and enter on the minutes, or to fix the time to which to adjourn. If the meeting adjourns while business is pending, this business carries over to the next meeting and appears on the agenda under unfinished business and general orders. For example:

Member: I move to adjourn.

Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded that we adjourn. All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No." The ayes have it, the motion is carried, and the meeting is adjourned.

or

President: The noes have it, the motion is lost, and the meeting will not adjourn. Is there further business?

The motion to adjourn is not in order when the assembly is engaged in voting or verifying a vote, or before the chair announces the result of a vote. However, if the assembly is taking a vote by ballot, the motion to adjourn is in order after the tellers have collected all the ballots and before the results are announced.

While the motion to adjourn is pending, the following procedures are in order:

Members can also make the above motions and announcements after the vote on adjourn is adopted but before the chair adjourns the meeting.

Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn

As a privileged motion, fix the time to which to adjourn is the highest-ranking motion. An adjourned meeting is a legal continuation of the present meeting. This motion never adjourns the present meeting; it sets the time and date for another meeting. (See Chapter 16 for information about an adjourned meeting.)

When no business is pending, the motion fix the time to which to adjourn is an incidental main motion. The difference between the motion as an incidental main motion and as a privileged motion is that, as an incidental main motion, it has all the characteristics of a main motion, which includes the right to debate. To make the privileged motion, a member states:

Member: I move that when this meeting adjourns, it adjourn to meet tomorrow at 8 p.m.

Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded that when this meeting adjourns, it adjourn to meet tomorrow at 8 p.m. All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No." The ayes have it, and when this meeting adjourns, it will meet tomorrow at 8 p.m.

The chair goes back to whatever business was pending. If the noes have it, the chair states:

President: The noes have it, and the motion is lost. We won't have an adjourned meeting.

Sometimes members want to set the time for the meeting to adjourn at the beginning of the meeting. To do so, members can use the motion fix the time at which to adjourn. Students of parliamentary procedure must study carefully the difference between the following motion and the privileged motion fix the time to which to adjourn.

Fix the Time at Which to Adjourn

Because this is an incidental main motion, members make it when no other business is pending. To fix the time at which to adjourn, a member states:

Member: I move that the meeting adjourn at 9 p.m. Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded that the meeting adjourn at 9 p.m. Is there any discussion?

After the vote is taken, the chair announces the result this way if the affirmative wins:

President: The ayes have it, the motion is carried, and the meeting will adjourn at 9 p.m.

If the negative has it, the chair announces it this way:

President: The noes have it, and the motion is lost.

Even though this motion sets the time for adjournment, members can still make the motion to adjourn at any time during the meeting. If adopted, the meeting will adjourn. The purpose of the motion fix the time at which to adjourn is to avoid letting a meeting run longer than the assembly desires. For example, this motion is helpful if someone has to leave the meeting at a certain time and does not want to miss any important business. If this motion is adopted, it ensures that no further business is considered after the set adjournment time.

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