Stop fretting. It isn’t really that hard.
First, a little history
Parliamentary procedure rules have been around a very long time. In fact, for centuries. Parliamentary procedure originated in the English Parliaments centuries ago and arrived in America along with the settlers who arrived by ship from England. The truth is they needed some rules that could be followed because, upon arrival on American soil, “they were the government.” They needed to have some way to hold meetings in a fair, orderly and sensible manner. Someone asked, “How do they do it in England?” Unfortunately not all of the settler’s remembered the same rules.
It took a few years but eventually, in 1876, a guy by the name of Henry M. Robert decided it was time to “not just have some rules” but to have a “uniform set of rules,” and Roberts Rules of Order were written.
Secondly, why have rules
Have you sat through a meeting where no one adhered to any rules of order? I suspect that we all have. In that meeting, was anything really accomplished? Did everyone have a fair and equal chance to offer their opinions? Could you follow what was happening? Most people would answer all three of these questions with a resounding “NO!
Third, the agenda
A well-run meeting starts with a proper agenda. Agenda’s should follow a logical format, be written but still adapted to the needs of the meeting and meeting attendees. For example, if your organization doesn’t have any committees, it makes no sense to include an agenda item for “committee reports.” One format for the agenda might be:
• Call to Order
• Review and Approval of the Minutes
• Officer’s Reports
• Committee Reports
• Unfinished or “Old” Business
• New Business
Fourth, the discussion – and those dreaded motions
Motions really aren’t a big deal! In their simplest form, motions are just a way to start the discussion. The purpose of a motion is to open a discussion on a topic with a certain perspective on that topic. Lots of people say, “I make a motion that…” Although that works, it is more correct to say, “I move that…” followed by what your proposal is. Something like, “I move that we approve the minutes of the (month – day-year) board of directors meeting, as presented.” Sure motions can get far more complex than that, but don’t make them harder than they need to be. Keep your motion tidy. Motions should be short and to the point. If you don’t, others won’t understand what you are proposing and, your motion will die because no one will second it.
And, although it isn’t universally true, the vast majority of motions require a second. A second (you can’t second your own motion) is simply another person’s support in favor of your proposal; “motion.”
Once the motion has been made and a second obtained, it is time to open the proposal (motion) for discussion. Everyone present who wishes to do so should have a chance to present their view on the motion: to debate the issue. Don’t attack the other person in the debate. Remember, in a democratic society, they have a right to their opinion. You should hear them out and allow others to “weigh in on the issue.” In the end, the dust will settle and the Chair will call for the vote and the motion will either pass or fail.
There are various types of motions and each has their unique purpose.
• Main Motions – Opens topics for discussion
• Subsidiary Motions – Are attempts to change or amend a main motion
• Privileged Motions – This type of motion is to consider a matter that is “special” and unrelated to the main motion.
• Incidental Motions – A motion that is made to consider or question a procedure.
Fifth, motion “rules of the road”
• A motion should be germane to the topic of the discussion. Don’t waste your and other people’s time with a frivolous or unrelated motion.
• A second is required for nearly all types of motions and its purpose is to determine whether or not there is at least some additional support for the proposal. No one wants to waste time discussing a proposal that only a single person is in favor of.
• It isn’t unusual for a motion to be amended. This occurs when part of a group supports the concept but has a slightly different idea about some of the specifics. In order to gather adequate support to secure enough votes to pass, motions are sometimes amended.
• Check your association’s governing documents, but normally only a simple majority is required in order to pass (approve) the motion. In some cases, a 2/3rds majority, or a different amount is required in order to pass a motion.
• The purpose behind most types of motions is to open the debate on the proposal; however, certain types of motions – subsidiary, privileged. or incidental – are not debatable.
• If you are part of the “winning side” of a motion vote, after the votes are counted, you can make a motion to reconsider the motion allowing others a chance to change their mind on the issue.
Sixth, voting on a motion
There are five general methods of voting on a motion.
• Voice Vote – Simplest and fastest method and generally used for issues that have strong support.
• Show of Hands Vote– Slightly more time consuming and sometimes required by the organization’s rules.
• Roll Call Vote – Generally more common in formal organizations such as in a town council. Usually faster than a ballot vote but more time consuming than a voice or show of hands vote. In this method, each person’s vote is given with either “yes,” “no,” or “present” in a roll call fashion, one person at a time. A “present” vote means that the person casting the vote is choosing not to vote either way on the motion. These people are only “present” when the vote was taken and were neither for or against the motion.
• Ballot Vote – The most time consuming type of voting and used a) when the organization’s rules require a ballot vote or b) when the vote needs to be conducted without each voting member disclosing, to otherd, how they voted.
• General Consent Vote – This type of vote is the fastest method of voting and is used when it is apparent to the Chair that voting members uniformly or nearly uniformly are in favor. In this type of vote, the Chair states, “If there are no objections…” then listens for someone to object. If no one objects, the motion passes. If one or more persons “object” a more formal voting procedure must be held.
Seventh, handy motions to keep the meeting moving
A wise meeting Chair will monitor the progress that is being made on the agenda items and if it becomes apparent that an issue will require more time than what is available in this meeting, he or she could request a “motion to lay a matter on the table” or a “motion to postpone the motion indefinitely.”
A motion to lay a matter on the table is generally used to “set aside” a matter when something more urgent needs to be considered. Later, if time allows, members can make a motion to “take from the table” a previously set aside motion and reconsider the issue.
A motion to postpone the motion indefinitely is a way of disposing of a matter without taking a vote. It is sometimes used when no one really wants to be known for voting “for” or “against” an issue or when it is apparent that there is no support for a specific proposal.
Remember, the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act, (“CCIOA”), lists nine policies which all homeowners associations must have. One of these nine policies is a “Conduct of Meetings Policy.” Become familiar with it.
Lastly, always remember to be courteous, to be fair, to follow Robert’s Rules (unless your association has adopted something else) and be a good listener. When you do, meetings can run smoothly and achieve more in much less time.
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