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Parliamentary authority in bylaws


Guest K. Green
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Our organization is considering a bylaws amendment changing the word "govern" to "guide" when referencing that RONR will be the parliamentary authority used. The concern is if action is taken and RONR procedures are not exactly followed, (mostly from lack of knowledge about executing them properly), that the actions of the organization could be overturned due to this or draw legal action against the organization on the issue. The other consideration is leaving out entirely any article in the bylaws that gives parliamentary authority. What would be the ramifications of either not adopting a parliamentary authority or only noting that RONR will guide the rules when the bylaws are silent on an issue?

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Our organization is considering a bylaws amendment changing the word "govern" to "guide" when referencing that RONR will be the parliamentary authority used. The concern is if action is taken and RONR procedures are not exactly followed, (mostly from lack of knowledge about executing them properly), that the actions of the organization could be overturned due to this or draw legal action against the organization on the issue.

 

These fears are misguided. In the vast majority of cases, a violation of the rules must be challenged promptly for the Point of Order to be timely. Only the most egregious violations are subject to challenge at a later date.

 

RONR's recommended wording does use the word "govern."

 

What would be the ramifications of either not adopting a parliamentary authority or only noting that RONR will guide the rules when the bylaws are silent on an issue?

 

If the society did not adopt a parliamentary authority, the society would still be bound by the common parliamentary law, but without any formal parliamentary authority on the subject, there would be a great deal of uncertainty for the members in what the rules are in a particular case. This is not recommended.

 

I'm not sure what the ramifications (if any) would be of using the word "guide" instead of "govern" when adopting a parliamentary authority. See RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 588-591 for some Principles of Interpretation.

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Your organization is making an error in believing that if RONR is not follwed to the letter, the actions taken would somehow be overturned or draw legal action.  This is rarely the case, and in the cases where it is true, I'm sure I would not want them to be changed, in any organization I belonged to.

 

By changing "govern" to "guide", you are effectively saying that no matter how egregiously the rights of members may be trampled in your worst nightmare scenario, you simply don't care.  There is no recourse, because after all, the rules were only a "guide". 

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By changing "govern" to "guide", you are effectively saying that no matter how egregiously the rights of members may be trampled in your worst nightmare scenario, you simply don't care.  There is no recourse, because after all, the rules were only a "guide". 

 

While I agree that the rule is ill-advised, I don't agree with this overly dramatic interpretation.

 

One possible interpretation is that the organization is governed by no parliamentary authority, but that it has formally recognized RONR as "persuasive" on matters of parliamentary law.

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  • 7 years later...
On 10/17/2013 at 11:37 AM, Josh Martin said:

If the society did not adopt a parliamentary authority, the society would still be bound by the common parliamentary law

I'm new to parliamentary procedure and would like to understand some basics. What and where is "common parliamentary law" and what obligates an organization to follow it if the organization "did not adopt a parliamentary authority"?

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1 hour ago, Guest rbk said:

I'm new to parliamentary procedure and would like to understand some basics. What and where is "common parliamentary law"

"Common parliamentary law" refers to the general customs and rules of parliamentary law as applied to ordinary societies (that is, organizations other than state or national legislatures). There are various manuals on this subject, the foremost of which in the United States today is Robert's Rules of Order.

"This book embodies a codification of the present-day general parliamentary law (omitting provisions having no application outside legislative bodies).

...

Parliamentary law originally was the name given to the rules and customs for carrying on business in the English Parliament that were developed through a continuing process of decisions and precedents somewhat like the growth of the common law. These rules and customs, as brought to America with the settling of the New World, became the basic substance from which the practice of legislative bodies in the United States evolved. Out of early American legislative procedure and paralleling it in further development has come the general parliamentary law, or common parliamentary law, of today, which is adapted to the needs of organizations and assemblies of widely differing purposes and conditions." RONR (12th ed.) Introduction

1 hour ago, Guest rbk said:

what obligates an organization to follow it if the organization "did not adopt a parliamentary authority"?

Not much. As I said in the rest of my original statement on this subject "but without any formal parliamentary authority on the subject, there would be a great deal of uncertainty for the members in what the rules are in a particular case. This is not recommended."

RONR says the following on this:

"A deliberative assembly that has not adopted any rules is commonly understood to hold itself bound by the rules and customs of the general parliamentary law - or common parliamentary law (as discussed in the Introduction) to the extent that there is agreement in the meeting body as to what these rules and practices are." RONR (12th ed.) 1:5

"Although it is unwise for an assembly or a society to attempt to function without formally recognized rules of order, a recognized parliamentary manual may be cited under such conditions as persuasive. Or, by being followed through long-established custom in an organization, a particular manual may acquire a status within the body similar to that of an adopted parliamentary authority." RONR (12th ed.) 2:19

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