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Chair rearranging the order of a meeting

Guest Mike

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Our by-laws have a section headed "Order of Business" with no explanatory text, but an ordered list, thusly:

  1. Roll Call
  2. Approval of the Minutes
  3. Officers Reports
  4. Old Business
  5. New Business

Our member's meeting Chair wants occasionally to do things in a different order - by allowing an item of 'new business' immediately after the roll call - as an example.

I gather I can't ask the forum for interpretation of our by-laws, but do RONR normally grant the meeting Chair the power to re-arrange the agenda? ('on-the-fly')

And, go on, please tell me if that by-law appears to prevent such a re-arranging?


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The assembly can change the order of business, bylaw notwithstanding. That's because a bylaw specifying the order of business is 'in the nature of a rule of order', and a bylaw of that particular type can be suspended (as opposed to most bylaws, which cannot be suspended). See RONR (11th ed.) pp. 363-364 for information on Taking Up Business Out of Its Proper Order.

Note, however, that changing the order of business is something the assembly can do; it is not up to the chair to do so unilaterally.

'The chair himself cannot depart from the prescribed order of business, which only the assembly can do by at least a two-thirds vote.' (p. 364 ll. 1-3)

In many situations the assembly might agree to depart from the customary order by unaminous consent (i.e. no formal vote is taken). So, it really depends how the chair in your assembly is presenting the change of order to the members. He can't decree anything against the will of the assembly; however, he can suggest a change of order, and look around and inquire if that's OK with the other members.

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Our by-laws have a section headed "Order of Business" . . .

At some point you might want to consider deleting that from your bylaws. A "Standard Order of Business" (minus the roll call) is already contained within RONR (which we'll assume has been properly adopted as your parliamentary authority). Further, the term "old business" is no longer in favor, having been replaced by "unfinished business".

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