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Five Robert’s Rules of Order Your Board May Not Be Following

March 3, 2014
by Jacque Porte
IQM2 Sales & Marketing

In 1876, Brig. Gen. Henry Martyn Robert (born in Robertville, oddly enough) published the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, now known as Robert’s Rules of Order, containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly. He wrote the manual in response to his poor performance in leading a church meeting that erupted into disorder, and immediately resolved that he would learn about parliamentary procedure before attending another meeting. As he learned more, however, Robert discovered that members from different areas of the country had very different views on how public meetings should be run.

So, like many enterprising Americans, Robert set out to draft a new manual on the subject. Here are a few of Robert’s rules you may wish to consider before your next public meeting:

No member can speak twice to the same issue until everyone else wishing to speak has spoken to it once. Often overlooked but very important to ensuring that all members have the chance to address the issue at hand.

Debate cannot begin until the Chair has stated the motion or resolution and asked "are you ready for the question?" This rule is sometimes overlooked by board members or citizens who anticipate the item before the full title is read into the record, but is necessary to ensure those present know what is being discussed.

Before the motion is stated by the Chair (the question) members may suggest modification of the motion; the mover can modify as he pleases, or even withdraw the motion without consent of the seconder; if mover modifies, the seconder can withdraw the second. Vote on an alternative second motion cannot commence until the first motion is withdrawn.

All remarks must be directed to the Chair. Remarks must be courteous in language and deportment - avoid all personalities, never allude to others by name or to motives. This can become especially important when discussing controversial topics.

Point of... A privileged motion is a motion in parliamentary procedure that is granted precedence over ordinary business because it concerns matters of great importance or urgency. Members may motion to raise a question to points of Privilege (pertaining to noise, personal comfort, etc.), Information (generally applies to information desired from the speaker), or Orders of the Day (a call to adhere to the agenda) as differentiated from a Point of Order (an infraction of the rules or improper decorum in speaking).

Above all, remember to avoid “undue strictness.” Robert's Rules provides for constructive and democratic meetings, to help, not hinder, the business of the assembly. Take care to ensure "undue strictness" be allowed to intimidate members or limit full participation. The rules should act as a guide to facilitate discussion, rather than restrictions that limit participation.

You can find the entire Robert’s Rules of Order online.

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