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Order of Discussion


Guest Frank Huffman

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Guest Frank Huffman

My reading of Roberts Rules seems to indicate that discussion of an issue can take place only after a motion has been made. Other members of my club argue that an agenda item, once introduced by the chairman, can be discussed in general terms before a specific motion is made; discussion is then limited to the specific motion. Which is right? Can discussion occur before a motion is made?

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Can discussion occur before a motion is made?

It can at meetings of "small" boards (when not more than about a dozen members are present and where the rules are "relaxed"). Otherwise, no. And, if nomenclature matters, "debate" is preferable to "discussion".

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RONR, 11th ed., page 34, lines 7-9: "Under parliamentary procedure, strictly speaking, discussion of any subject is permitted only with reference to a pending motion." The remainder of page 34 and the top of page 35 continue with a discussion of some exceptions, which should be rare. One of the most common exceptions was noted by Edgar, for committees and small boards.

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What if a call for discussion was missed after a motion and second. It was not caught and voting commenced?

Then it's too late now to complain. If the motion was adopted, it can often be rescinded (or otherwise amended). If the motion was defeated it can simply be made again ("renewed").

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Is there a rule in which to go by? Point of order? Is there anything that could cause the suspension of the vote in order to change ones vote or call for an entirely new vote?

You can immediately raise a point of order if the chair proceeds to a vote without permitting debate (on a debatable motion). You have the right to change your vote before the result is announced. Afterward, you may change your vote only with the unanimous consent of the assembly. If you believe the vote has been conducted improperly, a point of order may be raised immediately after the result is announced.

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If it is well-taken, then the chair proceeds to correct the error. If not, you have the option of appealing the decision (with a second if not in a small board), which will put the matter to majority vote.

Though it should be noted that even if the chair rules the point of order well-taken, the decision can still be appealed (though not, of course, by the member who raised the point of order).

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Though it should be noted that even if the chair rules the point of order well-taken, the decision can still be appealed (though not, of course, by the member who raised the point of order).

While doing so would raise quite a few eyebrows I don't see why the member raising the Point of Order couldn't Appeal the ruling if he changed his mind as to the wisdom of ruling the Point Well Taken. For example, say that a Point of Order was raised that the election for a particular Board member held a year ago is null and void based on a p. 251 violation. Just as the Chair is ruling the Point Well Taken the member realizes that the Board in the past year has had several controversial measures passed by a single vote which would be subject to a p. 251(d) Point of Orders because the vote of a nonmember who is not eligible to vote could have affected the outcome of the vote. I could see the member not wanting to have that can of worms opened then deciding to Appeal the ruling.

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While doing so would raise quite a few eyebrows I don't see why the member raising the Point of Order couldn't Appeal the ruling if he changed his mind as to the wisdom of ruling the Point Well Taken.

Well, I certainly hesitated before implying that the member that raised a point of order couldn't appeal a decision finding the point well-taken but I decided it would be simpler to ignore the zebras in this case. My point was just that even a "favorable" ruling can be appealed.

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