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When does unfinished business die?


Guest Crystal
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When does unfinished business carried over from a previous meeting finally die?

 

Example:  An item of new business (or a general order) for the August meeting is never reached before the meeting is adjourned.   That item automatically becomes "unfinished business and general orders" at the September meeting, correct?

 

What happens if the September meeting adjourns without reaching the item?   Does it die automatically, much as an item laid on the table at the August meeting would die, or does it continue to be unfinished business at the October meeting?   Does it just live on forever, ad infinitum, as unfinished business until it is finally taken up and disposed of?

 

I cannot find a clear answer in RONR.  If it is addressed and I'm overlooking it, I would appreciate a citation. 

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I'm glad to know I'm not the only one having a hard time finding a definitive statement or rule on it.

 

I've checked RONR 11th edition, Parliamentary Law, RONR in Brief (1st edition), The Standard Code (4th edition), Demeter's Manual, Cannon's, Alan Jenning's Robert's Rules For Dummies (1st and 2nd editions), Nancy Sylvester's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Robert's Rules, Nancy Sylvester's Guerrilla Guide to Robert's Rules, Jim Slaughter's Fast Track to Parliamentary Procedure, and Jim Slaughter's Notes and Comments on Robert's Rules (4th edition) and cannot find one word on whether or when unfinished business dies.

 

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that since RONR says simply that business not reached or completed at a meeting before the meeting adjourns automatically becomes an item of unfinished business at the next meeting, that that process does in fact go on indefinitely, at meeting after meeting, until the matter is finally dealt with and disposed of in some manner.

 

Comments, anyone?  Please?

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Comments, anyone?  Please?

 

Perhaps it depends on the specific nature of the unfinished business? For instance, questions laid on the table die if not taken from the table before a quarterly time interval has elapsed (p.301). Or something like that. I suppose there might be other instances of unfinished business (consideration of a continuing breach?) that (like old parliamentarians?) never die. But this is the sort of parliamentary arcana I prefer to leave to the experts (i.e. those with upper-case letters after their names).

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Really?

(Sorry for the delay, Guest_Crystal (and captious cavilling critics). I was unavoidably detained by adamantly intrusive aspects of Real Life.)

I looked in the soi-disant lowbrow Jennings and Sylvester books, RONR 11th, ROR 6th, and RONR-IB, 2nd Ed. (sorry, Guest_Crystal, that's all I got now); can't find my Demeter, and don't have any of the others; although here, on the world's premier Internet parliamentary forum, RONR alone is more than sufficient. In addition to Mr Britton's citation from RONR 11th, I think p. 358, item (b ) is apropos. And no, even when unfinished business comes in a carton, there's no expiration date stamped on it. It's not perishable like your staple milk or cinnamon or marijuana. I think we should take it as given that, in the absence of a statement that there is a time when unfinished business, carried over multiple times, will die of old age, it simply does not happen.

I think Guest_Crystal is spot on with this:

... I've checked RONR 11th edition,... and cannot find one word on whether or when unfinished business dies.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that since RONR says simply that business not reached or completed at a meeting before the meeting adjourns automatically becomes an item of unfinished business at the next meeting, that that process does in fact go on indefinitely, at meeting after meeting, until the matter is finally dealt with and disposed of in some manner.

Comments, anyone? Please?

...

Clearly, the expectation is that it will rarely happen that a meeting will not dispose of unfinished business that has been carried over from the previous meeting (let alone from more than one), and if it does happen, this is aberrant, and the organization needs to look to fixing the disfunction. Be mindful that when we don't get past unfinished business, we don't ever get to new business, which is often what organizations' business is mainly about.

Incidentally, especially given Guest_Crystal's awesome capacity for exhaustive research (most of which would not be called for at all), it would be good, and more than welcome, if she would try and see if she would enjoy returning occasionally to this, the world's premier Internet parliamentary forum, and try her hand at answering some other people's questions, so maybe me and Mr (Edgar) Guest and Mr Britton could maybe take a couple days off some day this year or maybe 2018 and go fishing in West Virginia or something. We'd be glad to take her along but she'll be on world's premier Internet parliamentary forum coverage duty that weekend. Truly sorry, Crystal, next time.

Edited by Gary c Tesser
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This thread seems to relevant to our Association's upcoming owner meeting. With all the motions to be made under Bylaws Changes and New Business, if the owners weary of the meeting and leave (my Fix the Time having been defeated), then whatever was unfinished automatically becomes Unfinished Business at next year's annual meeting. Am I correct in my interpretation?

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This thread seems to relevant to our Association's upcoming owner meeting. With all the motions to be made under Bylaws Changes and New Business, if the owners weary of the meeting and leave (my Fix the Time having been defeated), then whatever was unfinished automatically becomes Unfinished Business at next year's annual meeting. Am I correct in my interpretation?

 

No.  (See RONR, 11th ed., p. 237, ll. 6-15.)

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Guest Crystal agrees with the esteemed Mr. Honemann's opinion that unfinished business from Mr. Mikalac's annual meeting does not carry over to the next annual meeting. There is more than a quarterly time interval between said meetings.

My own scenario is based on events occurring at a series of an organization's regular monthly meetings. Though perhaps unlikely, I can envision a scenario where some shrewd members or a chair use parliamentary maneuvers to avoid taking up an item of unfinished business so as to leave it pending from meeting to meeting until a meeting at which they have the majority of votes they need to adopt the measure.  It could also happen due to simple oversight by the chair.

 

As to my scenario, I agree that the citations offered by Mr. Britton and Mr. Tesser (pages 236 - 237 and 358, respectively) seem pretty much on point, but I was hoping for a more definitive statement.  

 

I will elaborate shortly on what prompted me to ask this question and why I believe the rule (or a rule) that unfinished business never dies and carries over from meeting to meeting until dealt with can be problematic. 

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This thread seems to relevant to our Association's upcoming owner meeting. With all the motions to be made under Bylaws Changes and New Business, if the owners weary of the meeting and leave (my Fix the Time having been defeated), then whatever was unfinished automatically becomes Unfinished Business at next year's annual meeting. Am I correct in my interpretation?

Oooooh, critical point there.  ANNUAL meeting?  No.  Things carry over as long as the next meeting date does not exceed a quarterly interval which, by somewhat less-than-obvious definition can sometimes be nearly four months long, but that's it.

 

If, for some reason, you want some question brought up at the next annual meeting you could refer it to a committee with instructions to report then.

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When does unfinished business carried over from a previous meeting finally die?

 

Example:  An item of new business (or a general order) for the August meeting is never reached before the meeting is adjourned.   That item automatically becomes "unfinished business and general orders" at the September meeting, correct?

 

What happens if the September meeting adjourns without reaching the item?   Does it die automatically, much as an item laid on the table at the August meeting would die, or does it continue to be unfinished business at the October meeting?   Does it just live on forever, ad infinitum, as unfinished business until it is finally taken up and disposed of?

 

I cannot find a clear answer in RONR.  If it is addressed and I'm overlooking it, I would appreciate a citation. 

 

Perhaps Crystal's lack of certainty stems from the way item (b ) on page 358 is worded:

 

<< The heading of Unfinished Business and General Orders includes items of business in the four categories that are listed below in the order in which they are taken up. Of these, the first three constitute "Unfinished Business" ... :

    a)    The question that was pending when the previous meeting adjourned, if that meeting adjourned while a question other than a special order was pending.

    b )    Any questions that were unfinished business at the previous meeting but were not reached before it adjourned—taken in the order in which they were due to come up at that meeting as indicated under (a) and (c ).

    c)    Any questions which, by postponement or otherwise, were set as general orders for the previous meeting, or for a particular hour during that meeting, but were not reached before it adjourned—taken in the order in which the general orders were made. >>

 

In my own opinion, which does not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of the RONR authorship team, the words "as indicated under (a) and (c )" serve no useful function and, in fact, cause the statement of the rule to be incomplete.

 

In other words, if a question was unfinished business at the previous meeting because it was carried over from unfinished business from the meeting before that, and it was not reached at the previous meeting, then it would carry over to the present meeting as unfinished business that is taken up in the order in which it was due to come up at that (the previous) meeting as indicated under item (b ). (And, as all items that were unfinished business at the previous meeting but were not reached at that meeting do, it would come after (a) the question that was pending when the previous meeting adjourned, and before (c ) any questions which were set as general orders for the previous meeting.)

 

Edited to add: I should note that the above is to address the question of "ad infinitum." Assuming that the matter started out as a general order (item (d) on page 359) in August and became unfinished business (item (c )) in September, it's rather clear that it comes up again as unfinished business (item (b )) in October, if it does not expire for some other reason as stated on pages 236-237.

Edited by Shmuel Gerber
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Edited to add: I should note that the above is to address the question of "ad infinitum." Assuming that the matter started out as a general order (item (d) on page 359) in August and became unfinished business (item (c )) in September, it's rather clear that it comes up again as unfinished business (item (b )) in October, if it does not expire for some other reason as stated on pages 236-237.

... and, if not reached in October, will come up again as unfinished business in November (even although one might not gather this based solely upon what is said in b ) on pages 236-237). :-)

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... and, if not reached in October, will come up again as unfinished business in November (even although one might not gather this based solely upon what is said in b ) on pages 236-237). :-)

 

It's not our fault, really; when it comes to stating the rules for unfinished usiness, the letter "b" just refuses to cooperate :-)

But at least the typesetter for RONR didn't change them all to ( B), like the message board wants to do.

 

All this reminds me of that adage they're fond of at the SUM,* "Old Business never dies, it just gets put on the agenda for the next meeting."

 

*Society of Uninformed Meetings

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