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Chapter 9 - Using Incidental Motions

This chapter looks at incidental motions, those motions that concern questions of procedure related to the pending business. Incidental motions are not ranked because they are taken up immediately when made. The purpose of each motion, its restrictions (whether it needs a second, is amendable, is debatable, and so on), and the result of that incidental motion are outlined at the beginning of each section. Examples show you how to use the motion correctly.

Point of Order

The purpose of a point of order is to correct a breach in the rules when the presiding officer does not correct it, or when the presiding officer makes a breach of the rules. Point of order should not be used for minor infractions. It does not need a second, can interrupt a speaker, and is ruled upon by the chair. A point of order is made at the time of the infraction. If the infraction is of a continuing nature, members can make a point of order at any time. An infraction of a continuing nature is:

To make a point of order, the member says:

Member: I rise to a point of order.

or

Member: Point of order.

President: Please state your point.

Member: There is no longer a quorum present, and any business transacted will be null and void.

President: Your point is well taken. Since there is no longer a quorum present, this meeting is adjourned. [one rap of the gavel]

The president can rule against the point of order by stating:

President: Your point is not well taken, and the meeting will continue.

If a member does not agree with the chair's ruling, the member can appeal from the decision of the chair.

Appeal from the Decision of the Chair (Appeal)

Members make an appeal immediately after the ruling of the chair. This motion needs a second and is debatable unless it is made while an undebatable motion is pending or relates to the priority of business. The chair has the first opportunity to speak to the appeal. After members of the assembly have spoken to the appeal, the chair has the last right to speak before taking the vote. A majority vote is needed to sustain the decision of the chair.

For example, say the members are discussing a motion to send delegates to the state convention. A member makes the motion to amend by adding at the end "and to build tennis courts." The presiding officer rules the proposed amendment out of order because it is not related to the motion. The member proposing the amendment then makes the motion to appeal from the decision of the chair. He states:

Member: I appeal from the decision of the chair.

Member 2: Second.

President: It is moved and seconded to appeal from the decision of the chair. The question before the assembly is, "Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?" Is there any discussion?

If the chair wants to speak first - which he or she can do - the chair states:

President: The chair ruled that the amendment was not germane because building the tennis courts is not related to sending delegates to the convention. Is there further discussion?

Each member has the right to speak once to the appeal. After everyone who wishes to speak has spoken, the chair can again give his or her reason for the ruling. The chair then takes the vote. The correct phrasing for the vote is:

President: The question is, "Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?" All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No."

The chair announces the vote and whether the decision is sustained or not sustained.

If the members vote for the decision of the chair, business continues in accordance with the chair's ruling. In this case, the proposed amendment to add "and to build tennis courts" to the motion is not in order. The members will only consider sending delegates to the convention.

If the members vote against the decision of the chair, the proposed amendment "and to build tennis courts" is considered a valid amendment and the members will discuss and vote on the proposed amendment.

REQUESTS AND INQUIRIES

Requests and inquiries, which do not require motions, help members obtain information. One way to obtain information is to ask for parliamentary information. This request is called a parliamentary inquiry. The chair answers the inquiry. Another way to obtain information is to ask for information about the subject being discussed, which is called a point of information. Requests and inquires are always directed to, or through, the chair. For example:

Member: I rise to parliamentary inquiry.

President: Please state your inquiry.

Member: Is it appropriate to lay this business on the table so that we can take up the item on the agenda to send delegates to the state convention?

President: [gives an opinion]

The president's remark is only an opinion, not a ruling, and is not subject to an appeal. The member can follow the chair's advice or ignore it. To make a point of information, a member states:

Member: I rise to a point of information.

President: Please state your point.

Member: Do we have enough money in the treasury to send four delegates to the convention?

If the chair does not know the answer, he or she can ask someone who does.

President: Will the treasurer please answer the member's question?

Treasurer: We have allotted $1,000 to send delegates.

President: Does that answer the member's question?

Member: [answers either yes or no]

Members can make other requests besides those listed previously. For example, if a member wants to read extracts from a paper to support his or her arguments, he or she must ask permission of the assembly to do so. If no one objects, he or she can proceed to read from the written materials. However, if someone objects, the presiding officer places the request as a motion before the assembly. It takes a majority vote to grant permission to read from a paper or book. To make the request a member rises, addresses the chair, and asks:

Member: Mr. President, I request permission to read a statement. [Explain briefly what it is.]

President: Is there any objection to the member reading the statement? Hearing none, the member has the assembly's permission to proceed.

If there is an objection, the chair takes a vote:

President: All those in favor of letting the member read a statement say "Aye." Those opposed say "No". The ayes have it, and the member can proceed.

If the noes have it, the chair states:

President: The noes have it, and the member will not read from the statement.

Request for Permission to Withdraw or Modify a Motion

Before the chair states the motion, it belongs to the maker of the motion and he or she can withdraw it or modify it without the permission of the assembly. After the chair states the motion, it belongs to the assembly and the maker must ask permission to modify or withdraw it.

Note: This procedure is often misunderstood. If the chair has not stated the motion, the member can withdraw it without permission of the person who seconded it. If the member modifies the motion and the person who seconds it withdraws his or her second, someone else must second the motion.

Remember: After the chair states the motion, the motion belongs to the assembly and not to the maker of the motion. The assembly, not the person who seconded the motion, must give permission to withdraw the motion or modify it.

After a motion is seconded but not repeated by the presiding officer, the maker of the motion can quickly rise and say:

Member: Madam President, I wish to modify my motion by adding at the end "not to exceed the cost of $1,000."

or

Member: Madam President, I wish to withdraw the motion.

The president either repeats the motion in the modified version or states that the motion is withdrawn. If the person who seconds the motion withdraws his or her second from the modified form, the president can ask for a second.

Before the chair states the motion, another member can rise and ask the president if the maker of the motion will accept a change in the motion. The maker can either accept or reject the proposed change. If the maker rejects the proposed change, the member suggesting the change can propose an amendment after the motion has been placed before the assembly. If the maker accepts the change, the changed motion becomes pending. Some authorities refer to this type of change as a friendly amendment.

If the motion is under discussion and the maker of the motion wants to withdraw it, he or she must ask permission of the assembly. The member states:

Member: Mr. President, I ask permission to withdraw the motion.

This request should be handled by general consent:

President: Is there any objection to withdrawing the motion? Hearing none, the motion is withdrawn.

If there is an objection, the presiding officer puts it to a vote.

A withdrawn motion is not recorded in the minutes unless the motion has carried over from another meeting.

Request To be Excused from a Duty

When the bylaws assign certain duties to the members and a member can't fulfill the duty, he or she must make a formal request to the assembly to be excused from a duty.

If a duty is not compulsory, a member can decline the duty. For example, if the member is elected to an office or appointed to a committee, he or she can decline without having to ask the assembly.

If a member finds that she can't continue the work during her term of office or while serving on a committee, she should submit her resignation to the secretary. The chair then puts the resignation to a vote. A member can't abandon her duties until her resignation is accepted.

If a member wishes to withdraw from the organization, he should submit a letter to the secretary. If the member has paid his dues, his resignation should be accepted immediately. If a member has not paid his dues, the organization does not have to accept the withdrawal and the member may have to pay more dues. If the member refuses to pay dues, the society may expel him. If a member submits a resignation to escape charges against him, the society can refuse to accept the resignation and proceed with the trial.

Object to Consideration of a Question

The purpose of object to consideration of a question is to prevent a motion from being considered. This motion should not be used as a dilatory tactic. Only when a member feels that it would be divisive for the motion to come before the assembly should he or she make this objection. Anyone can object to consideration, including the presiding officer. This motion does not need a second and is not debatable or amendable. The chair takes a vote immediately on whether the motion should be considered. The objection must be made before any discussion begins on the motion. Sustaining the objection takes a two-thirds vote against consideration.

To make this motion, a member must rise immediately after the chair states the motion and say:

Member: Mr. President (or Madam President), I object to consideration of the question.

The chair immediately takes a vote. In taking a vote, the chair phrases his or her request this way:

President: The consideration of the question is objected to. Shall the question be considered? Those in favor of considering the question rise. [pause] Be seated. [pause] Those opposed to considering the question rise. [pause] Be seated.

If more than a third of the membership is in favor of considering the question, the chair announces the vote this way:

President: There are less than two-thirds opposed, and the objection is not sustained. The question is on the motion . . . .

If two-thirds of the membership votes against considering the question, the chair announces the vote this way:

President: There are two-thirds opposed, and the question will not be considered. Is there further business?

In putting the question to the membership, the chair states:

President: Shall the question be considered?

Those who want to prevent consideration must vote in the negative. If the members vote against considering the question, the question can be brought up again at another meeting.

Division of the Assembly

For examples of using this motion, see "Taking the Vote" in Chapter 3 and "Doubting the Result of the Vote" in Chapter 5.

Division of the Question

Sometimes a member gets carried away with what he or she proposes, and the main motion includes several things that he or she wants to do. Here's an example of such a motion:

Member: Madam President, I move that we paint the clubhouse blue, buy a new stove for the kitchen, and give the janitor a $100 bonus for spring clean-up.

This motion has three distinct parts that can stand alone:

  1. Paint the clubhouse blue.

  2. Buy a new stove for the kitchen.

  3. Give the janitor a $100 bonus for spring clean-up.

In this case, dividing the question into its three parts is in order. To do this, a member states:

Member: Madam President, I move to divide the motion into three parts. The first motion is to paint the clubhouse blue. The second motion is to buy a new stove for the kitchen. The third motion is to give the janitor a $100 bonus for spring clean-up.

This motion needs a second and is not debatable; the presiding officer immediately takes a vote. The motion can also be adopted by unanimous consent.

President: Is there any objection to dividing the motion into three parts? Hearing none, the motion is divided. The question before you is to paint the clubhouse blue. Is there any discussion?

Or, the chair can take a formal vote.

President: All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No."

The chair then announces the vote. If the noes have it, the motion is considered in its original form. If the motions are considered separately, the chair presents each one for discussion and vote.

Another way members can divide this motion is if someone only wants to consider giving the janitor a bonus as a separate question. In this case, the member phrases the division of the question this way:

Member: Madam President, I move to divide the question so that we consider giving the janitor a $100 bonus separately.

Members can divide only motions that can stand by themselves. If a series of resolutions are presented that can stand alone, one member can ask the assembly to consider a certain resolution separately, without taking a vote. This is similar to the procedure of working with a consent agenda (see Chapter 2).

Suspend the Rules

The motion suspend the rules is used primarily to take up a particular item of business out of its regular agenda order or to set aside a procedural rule or an ordinary standing rule. Here are examples of how to apply this motion:

Rules that pertain to fundamental principles of parliamentary law can't be suspended. For example, it is out of order to suspend the rule that allows the assembly to consider only one question at a time, and it is out of order to allow a non­member to vote. Rights that pertain to the absent members can't be suspended - the rule for a quorum or the requirement of previous notice if a proposal is made to amend a bylaw, for example. No one can suspend the rights of another member, such as the right to make motions, debate, and vote. This can only be done through disciplinary proceedings.

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