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Conducting Parliamentary Business

Business is brought before the organization by the motion of a member or by presentation or communications to the group.

Introduction of Business

There are many other cases in the ordinary routine of business where the formality of a motion is dispensed with, but should any member object, a regular motion becomes necessary, or the chair may put to the question without waiting for a motion. 


Before any subject can be debated, a motion must be made and seconded (with certain exceptions). However, before a motion can be made, the member making the motion must obtain the floor. 

Basic Main Motions

Original Main Motion
This motion brings new business before the organization; such a motion can be made only while no other motion is pending. A main motion is out of order when another speaker has the floor (it takes precedence to nothing and yields to all Privileged, Incidental, and Subsidiary motions). It must be seconded; it is debatable and amendable, and it may be brought back for further consideration after it has been voted on. A main motion requires a majority vote, except in special cases stipulated by the Constitution (i.e. impeachment of an officer).

Take from the Table
When anything that has been tabled is wanted to be brought up again for consideration. If it succeeds, debate immediately resumes on the motion that had been tabled. A motion to take from the table is in order only when its sponsor has the floor; it must be seconded and is neither debatable nor amendable. It requires a majority vote to bring the tabled matter before the Senate again.

This motion provides the organization with the power to change an action ordered by a previous vote or by decision of the chair. It is in order only when its sponsor has the floor; it must be seconded and is debatable and amendable, provided the amendment applies to the wording of the motion that rescinds, not the action being rescinded. It is a main motion without any privilege, and therefore, can only be introduced when there is nothing else before the organization. Votes cannot be rescinded after something as been done as a result of a vote that the Senate cannot undo; or where it is in the nature of a contract and the other party is informed of the face; or where a resignation has been acted upon, or one has been elected to or expelled from membership of that office.

When a main motion is of such length or importance that it is in writing. It is always a main motion. 

Seconding the Motion
With the exception of those listed below, every motion should be seconded. This is to prevent time being consumed in considering a question that only one person favors.

Exceptions: Question of Privilege, Questions of Order, Objection to the Consideration of a Question, Call for the Orders of the Day, Call for the Division of a Question, Call for the Division of the Assembly, Call Up Motion to Reconsider, Filling Blanks, Nominations, Leave to Withdraw a Motion, and Inquiries of any kind.

Stating the Question
When a motion has been made and seconded, it is the duty of the chair, unless the motion has been ruled out of order, to immediately state the question.


After a question has been stated, it is before the group for consideration and action. In the debate, each member has the right to speak twice on the same question on the same day (except on an appeal) but cannot make a second speech on the same question as long as any member who has not spoken on that question desires the floor. Debate is limited to the merits of the immediately pending question. This is the time when a secondary motion will be used.

Subsidiary and Privileged Secondary Motions

These are motions that control the flow of debate and the subject matter being debated. They take precedence over any main motion currently on the floor. They are listed in increasing rank; that is, each of these motions may be introduced only when any of the motions listed before it is pending.

Postpone Indefinitely
This motion exiles whatever is being considered at the moment for the duration of the meeting. It is used to quickly remove a badly chosen, poorly worded, or unethical main motion. It is out of order to postpone indefinitely when another secondary motion is under consideration or another speaker has the floor. It must be seconded. It is debatable but not amendable and requires a simple majority vote. (It really is a rejection of a main motion, not a postponement.)

Amend a Main Motion
This is the most common secondary motion and is used to modify the wording of any pending motion on the floor. It must be related to the subject at hand (no new subject matter may be introduced). It can come in the following forms:

  • Insertion
  • Deletion
  • Substitute

Amendments can be applied to main motions, to primary motions, and to secondary motions unless stated otherwise. The speaker must have the floor to propose an amendment, and the motion to amend must be seconded and is debatable (except the following motions: motions to limit or extend debate, motions relating to voting, and motions relating to nominations). Debate is confined to the substance of the amendment, not to the substance of what is being amended unless it applies to the substance of the amendment. An amendment requires a simple majority, even in cases where the question being amended requires a 2/3 vote.

An amendment to anything previous adopted (i.e. a change in the constitution) is considered a main motion and is treated in the same manner as a motion to rescind. It typically requires a 2/3 vote unless otherwise documented.

Commit to Refer
This dispatches a question to a select committee that is put in charge of investigating the merits of the proposal and reporting back to the organization. If an amendment is pending on a question, a motion to commit refers both to the amendment and the motion itself for the committee’s consideration. The speaker must have the floor to commit; it must be seconded and debatable. It may be amended to specify the composition of the committee to which it is referred. It requires a simple majority vote to pass.

Calling to Question
This motion closes all debate immediately on the current motion and brings it to a vote. If it passes, it supersedes any previous motion to limit or extend debate. It may be qualified by its sponsor to apply to all pending questions. The speaker must have the floor to initiate a calling of the question; it must be seconded and is neither debatable nor amendable. Majority vote is required.

Lay on the Table (Table)
This motion temporarily sets aside the consideration of any pending business in such a way that there is no specified time for bringing up the matter again. Consideration may be resumed by the will of the majority. Any amendments pending with the business are also tabled. The speaker must have the floor to request the pending matter be tabled; it must be seconded and is neither debatable nor amendable. Majority vote is required.

A member may at any time raise a point of personal privilege to make a motion related to the rights and privileges of the organization, members, or guests. It was designed to provide the means to make a main motion even when another motion is pending.

A point of personal privilege is a powerful motion and should not be abused. Its most common use is to inform the organization of a problematic situation and to request aid from the membership. In its most formal use, a non-procedural motion is put forward, debated, voted on, and if passed, acted upon.

The motion is in order when the speaker has not been recognized even if another person has the floor, if the urgency of the situation warrants. The chair, which decides only whether or not the point of personal privilege is to be admitted before the organization, rules on it. The subsequent motion made in the point of personal privilege is treated as a main motion – it must be seconded, debated, and passed by the majority.

Incidental Secondary Motions

These motions deal with parliamentary procedures of the organization’s meetings. They may be applied at any time, subject to limitations imposed by the motions themselves. There is no hierarchy among them and each applies, even when a privileged motion is pending.

Point of Order and Appeal
The motion applies when a member feels that the parliamentary rules of the organization – Robert’s Rules and/or the Constitution – have been violated. This motion is in order when the sponsor does not have the floor, even when it interrupts another speaker. It does not need a second and is neither amendable nor debatable. It is ruled upon by the Parliamentarian, unless s/he is in doubt and asks for a vote. The Parliamentarians rules may be appealed.

Any member of organization may challenge the Parliamentarian’s ruling on a procedural point by immediately calling for an appeal of his/her decision. If any new main motion is initiated following a questioned ruling, the ruling is no longer subject to appeal. A motion to appeal is in order when its sponsor does not have the floor; it must be seconded and is debatable but not amendable. Debate is limited to one contribution per speaker, except for the Parliamentarian, who has no such limits. A simple majority is required.

Suspend the Rules
The motion is required to suspend any of the organization’s regular rules for the purpose of accomplishing a task that could not be otherwise performed under the guidelines imposed by parliamentary law. It cannot be used to suspend the constitution unless the clause suspended provides for its own suspension.

It can be made whenever there is no business pending or whenever the proposed suspension of the rules applies directly to the pending question. Its sponsor must have the floor, and it must be seconded and is neither debatable nor amendable. It requires a simple majority vote, except in cases of the constitution where it takes a 2/3 vote (this is because the constitution can only be amended by a 2/3 vote).

Objection to the Consideration of a Motion
When the main motion is so offensive that it would be strongly undesirable for the motion to even come up for debate, a member may object to its consideration. It is in order, even when the objector doesn’t have the floor, as long as debate on the motion has not yet begun. It doesn’t require a second and is neither debatable nor amendable. A majority vote is required.

Requests: Point of Inquiry, Point of Information, or Withdraw
A member or a guest may, at any time, as the Parliamentarian for information on a matter of parliamentary procedure or on some factual matter currently before the organization.

            Point of Inquiry – used for questions of procedure

            Point of Information – used for questions of fact

Each of these questions may be raised even when the speaker doesn’t have the floor. The answers are provided or solicited at the discretion of the chair.

Withdrawal – the sponsor of the motion may, at any time, move for its withdrawal from further consideration (killing it).

This motion only takes effect by unanimous consent, since once a question enters into debate, it becomes the entire organization, not the individual sponsor.

Any time during a meeting that a member on the prevailing side of a vote feels that his/her vote was cast incorrectly or without the benefit of all available information, s/he may move to reconsider a vote, assuming the motion being reconsidered allows it. A successful reconsideration opens up debate again on the motion and calls for a subsequent vote in light of the new information brought about in the debate.

This motion can be made at any time during the same meeting. It must be seconded and is debatable if the original motion being reconsidered was debatable. It is not amendable and requires a majority of the vote. Basically, it makes the previous vote invalid and brings the matter up for further consideration.

Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote
When debate appears to have closed, the chair will ask if there is any more debate. He then proceeds to call for the vote, asking for affirmative, negative, and abstaining votes.