Parliamentary Procedures

With NAD Parliamentarian Mark Apodaca

Hello, my name is Mark Apodaca and I will be the parliamentarian during your COR meeting. I will also be involved with your training.  I will be there. So, if you have any questions, I will be available. I have a PowerPoint presentation and will go through that. Normally, when I give deep parliamentary training, it takes between three to five hours. Not 35, 3 to 5 hours.  I am not planning to do that today.  Today will be a very brief summary. So, let’s start.

I am introducing you to Robert’s Rules of Order (RRO).  You can see a picture of Henry Robert.  He wrote the first book in 1876.  Now we are in the 12th edition.  It was just released.  Let me give you an example.  I don’t have the 1876 book, but the 1915 version [showing the 1915 version which is a small brown book with “Robert’s Rules of Order” on it]. I also have the 12th edition [showing a much bigger white book, and showing it next to the small brown 1915 book; the newer white book appears about 4 times bigger than the small brown 1915 book]. See how the book has gotten bigger over the years as more rules were added to what it has become. I went to a conference last year in Las Vegas and met many PRP’s (professional registered parliamentarians) and RP’s (registered parliamentarians) too.  I learned that many are lawyers, professors at universities, MBA’s, and other professions such as engineers. Also, some are members of legislatures. Many are in different professions. The job of parliamentarians requires many hours of studying, preparing, researching, and discussing issues with other parliamentarians on different topics.  It is a serious profession.

My role as a parliamentarian has many responsibilities, but I will focus on a few of the most common duties. My primary role is to advise the president during the meeting on parliamentary procedure to help her handle a situation.  Secondly, as a parliamentarian, I must be neutral which means I cannot support or oppose a situation like a motion.  Third, I cannot debate.  Fourth, I make sure parliamentary procedures are followed.  Hopefully, by doing my job, we will have a smooth meeting in order.  So those are some of my responsibilities.

Dilatory tactics.  There are some people who like to take advantage of RRO and cause some issues.  One example: votes. One motion passed 95 to 5, but one member makes a motion “division” which means to vote again.  95 in favor 5 opposed (puzzled).  Another example, some want to delay time by saying point of order again and again.  Some motions are foolish.  Again that will delay the meeting. Don’t try any of those. My role as parliamentarian is that if I see any of these situations, I will advise how to handle them.

Order of authority.  When an organization is established whether it is a profit or nonprofit, they have to follow state law.  All 50 states have nonprofit state statutes.  Their laws need to be followed. Then you file articles of incorporation.  Make sure they do not conflict with the state laws.  If there is a conflict, then most state’s secretary of state will decline the articles of incorporation (AI).  If no conflict then the AI will be granted. Third are the bylaws.  Bylaws cannot conflict with the AI or state laws. If conflict, the bylaws are out of order and the conflicting part will have to be removed from the bylaws. Then you have special rules which are known as standing rules.  An example is where Robert’s Rules of Order allows an individual debate or up to 10 minutes with two turns.  The delegates may feel that is too long and want a standing rule of 1 time and 3 minutes. So the delegates pass the standing rule.  When it is passed then it is 1 time and 3 minutes.  That is above RRO or other rules of order in use. Next, you have rules of order such as RRO. Then you have standing rules which belong to headquarters.  Headquarters has their rules to follow especially from the state, federal, and so far. One example of the order of authority was when a board of an organization used VP then Zoom conferencing for their meetings.  There was a board meeting and members were allowed to observe.  During the meeting, one member objected to the board having Zoom meetings.  The reason for the objection, there were two.  One was that it was not in the bylaws and secondly, the community cannot observe the meetings.  But when we checked the state statute, it allowed videoconferencing.  So that law was above the bylaws and the law allowed it.  That was just one example.

Now we will look at the most common thing that starts business during a meeting, which is the main motion. Before you make a motion, you must be recognized by the President.  Then when the President recognizes you, you say, Madame President, I move.  Someone seconds the motion, and after the President restates the motion, which I believe you will be able to see via PowerPoint during the meeting. Then the debate starts. The person who made the motion is the first person to explain the reason to support the motion. Then the next person will explain the reason to oppose the motion.  There will be three who support the motion and three who oppose it.  After the debate, the motion is put to vote. Then the President will announce the results of the vote, and say how many were in favor and how many were opposed.

One example: I move that we buy a 12th edition of RRO for our parliamentarian.  Someone seconds the motion. The president repeats the motion, that we buy a 12th edition for our parliamentarian. Then it is opened for discussion, with three in support of the motion and three oppose, going back and forth starting with the person who made the motion.  Then after the debate, the President puts the motion to vote.  Then the President will announce the results, and say how many were in favor and how many were opposed.

Another example: I move that we purchase a 12th edition for our parliamentarian.  There is a second. The President restates the motion, purchase a 12th edition for our parliamentarian.  Then it is opened for debate, and the President asks the person who made the motion to explain the reason for supporting the motion.  The person says: I support the motion because our parliamentarian is using the 1915 version of the RRO. That is a long time ago, more than 100 years. Okay, anyone oppose the motion?  Nobody?  Okay, put to vote.  Voted and the results were in favor and passed.  Then that means the parliamentarian will get a new book.

That is just an example.

There are a number of subsidiary motions, but as I have observed, two of the most common used are refer and amend. Refer is of higher precedence than amend. But there are others which are of higher precedence.  There are 13 motions, but these two are the most common used. To refer the motion comes when the delegates feel that there needs to be more analysis of the motion’s purpose and refer it to the governance committee or the finance committee.  If voted and passed, the motion is referred and debate stops.

For amend, let’s do another example: The recent motion about buying the parliamentarian the new book, but book with spiral bound? Or paper back? Or hard copy? Which?  So you can make an amendment to the motion during the debate. A motion was made to purchase the parliamentarian a 12th edition. During the debate, someone makes an amendment to buy a hard copy, and not a paperback, not with a spiral.  Then there is a second and debate begins on the amendment, which means people have to come up and say why they support the amendment or why they oppose the amendment.  Then there is a vote on the amendment.  If it passes then the new main motion will be to purchase a hard copy of RRO for the parliamentarian.  That is an example of an amendment. If you read RRO you will find that about 30 pages cover the “amend” motion.

Incidental motions.  There are several versions of this but there are three which are the most common used.  They should be used when you are debating the motion.  Not going off to discuss something else.  Stay within what is being debated.  Let’s look at the first one.

  1. Point of order.  You may use it if you feel the president or chair is not following the rules.
  2. Parliamentary inquiry. Helps the delegates receive parliamentary help.  If you are not sure that you are allowed to make a motion, or are not sure if it is appropriate.  You may ask the President.
  3. Request for information.  Must be factual and related to the motion.  

Now I am going to give you some examples:

Point of Order:

  • Member:  Madame President, I rise to a point of order.
  • President: what is your point?
  • Member: I understand the motion, and that there is a first amendment then a second amendment but third amendment?  There is no third.
  • President: your point is well taken and the third amendment is ruled out of order.

Parliamentary inquiry:

You feel that we need more time to look into the issue while being debated, and want to know how you can make a motion to postpone the debate to another time.

  • Member: I rise to a parliamentary question.
  • President: what is your question?
  • Member:  is it in order to move that question of constructing a building be postponed to the next meeting?

The president will answer your parliamentary inquiry and the parliamentarian will work with her if she needs advice.  This will help you decide if you want to make the motion or let it go.

Request for Information:

The last one is request for information.  Remember that it must be factual and related to the motion. Not going off to something else.  An example: The organization wants to buy a building so during the debate of the motion, you feel you need more information, you raise your hand for the president to recognize you.  This motion used to be called “point of information” but is now called request for information.

What is your request?

The debate is about buying a building.  Does our budget allow for it?  Do we have the money?  Suppose we use the money for purchase of the building, what will be the financial impact?

The president can call the CFO or treasurer to answer your question and give you the information.

Those are the three most common incidental motions that I have seen take place. 

So I will be at your training and if there are any questions regarding parliamentary procedures, I will work with the President.  I look forward to working with you and wish you a successful COR meeting in October.