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Proper use of motions


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Guest Cindy

Synopsis:

Local government Policy lays out Roberts Rules as the structure for agenda items for public council meetings.

 

An agenda item is listed as a topic for discussion under the category of new business. No action or resolution is expected as it is simply to enable council members to have an open discussion to garner consensus on whether it is an item of interest that might require future action.

There is  also no policy in place that dictates open discussion to occur at a sub committee level. 

 

Question:

Once the agenda is approved with the discussion item listed, are council members required to put forth a motion to accept this as an item for discussion, or by way of accepting the agenda has Council already accepted this as an item for discussion?

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The mere fact that something is on an agenda doesn't necessarily mean a motion will be made. In other words, when the meeting gets to that item, a member will (eventually) have to make a motion or no decision will have been made. Motions (to do something) are how deliberative bodies make decisions (to do something).

 

If for example, the agenda item was the dilapidated condition of the clubhouse, a member could, for example, make a motion directing the president to hire a painter to paint the clubhouse red at a cost not to exceed $250.. During debate the motion might be amended (e.g. change "red" to "green"). Or the motion might be sent to a committee for further research. Or maybe no one makes a motion at all and the meeting moves on to the next item on the agenda.

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I agree with Mr. Guest.  Just having an item on the agenda is not enough unless the council's own rules are different.  Someone must still actually make the motion.  If nobody makes the motion, it dies and the next item on the agenda is taken up.  The link posted by Mr. Huynh is the correct method for getting something on the agenda per RONR, but getting it on the agenda, as Mr. Guest and I have pointed out, is not the same as getting it before the body.  That takes a motion.

 

I emphasize that your council might have specific rules that provide differently, especially for items for discussion, which is not the usual procedure in RONR.

 

Edited to add:  I have seen city councils put items on their agenda just for discussion, updates, etc.  Those are unique procedures that would likely be subject to their own rules.  But, if nobody starts discussing, then there is no discussion, right?  :-)

Edited by Richard Brown
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I took Guest Cindy's question to be not about a motion arising out of discussion nor a motion to do something, but rather is it necessary to make a motion to discuss.

 

IOW if the agenda states there will be discussion on the clubhouse, by approving the agenda are they ensuring they'll discuss the clubhouse, or does someone have to say "I move we discuss the clubhouse!"?

 

If that's the case, it would not appear a motion to discuss would be needed, especially if the group in question is a (sub)committee.

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Guest Cindy

First Church,

Thank you. Yes that is what I meant. It was an agenda item for discussion only that may or may not have resulted in an action that could be put forth as an action item(resolution) for the next meeting.

This discussion item was defeated on a motion which was called for by the Head of council. The question was specific to, if it was only an agenda item intended for discussion  - no action - and the agenda approved, why would a motion to open discussion be required?

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I took Guest Cindy's question to be not about a motion arising out of discussion nor a motion to do something, but rather is it necessary to make a motion to discuss.

I think you are probably right, which is why I added the second paragraph and then a third paragraph to my post # 5.  It may be that no motion is needed in order to discuss the item.  But, the point i made in the third paragraph is that if no one starts discussing, then no discussion takes place.  It seems to me, unless they have a rule to the contrary, that when the "discussion" item is reached on the agenda that someone simply starts discussing.

Edited by Richard Brown
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This discussion item was defeated on a motion which was called for by the Head of council.

Can you explain better what you mean by that statement?  What kind of motion defeated the discussion item?

 

Edited to add:  Was it a motion to remove the item from the agenda?

Edited by Richard Brown
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Guest Cindy

There was an item agenda item to hold an informal discussion. The agenda was accepted. When the discussion item was reached, the head of council directed the councillor to put a motion on the table to open discussing. The need for a motion was questioned given there was no action involved. A motion was put forward and was defeated.

There does not seem to any procedure that clarifies the need to put a motion on the table.

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So someone made a motion to talk about "x" and most members didn't want to talk about "x" so the motion (to do nothing but talk) was defeated?

 

Small boards (such as, presumably, your council) are free to discuss things without a formal motion having first been made. In larger bodies it's motion first, then debate, then voting.

 

Further, in case this might be an issue, the fact that the agenda listed something for discussion would not prevent the council from adopting a motion to actually do something rather than just talk about doing something (or talk about doing nothing).

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Guest Cindy

So someone made a motion to talk about "x" and most members didn't want to talk about "x" so the motion (to do nothing but talk) was defeated?

 

Small boards (such as, presumably, your council) are free to discuss things without a formal motion having first been made. In larger bodies it's motion first, then debate, then voting.

 

Further, in case this might be an issue, the fact that the agenda listed something for discussion would not prevent the council from adopting a motion to actually do something rather than just talk about doing something (or talk about doing nothing).

Yes, you are correct.

It is a council of a rural municipality. There was considerable confusion as to whether a motion was required and the head of council directed to do so. There was no point of order, just an order to do so.

Nor, is there anything in local policy to say a motion is or is not required for an open  discussion item.

So, if I am understanding all the posts, this was not correct procedure.

 

What I have been looking for, is any written procedure that explains this.

Thanks!

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Thank you.

What I need is the actually portion of Robert's Rules that spells this out.

Cindy, I cannot find anything directly on that point. Besides Edgar's correct statement that small boards are permitted to discuss things informally while no other business is pending.  Here is the pertinent provision from page 488.  It's a list of relaxed procedures in small boards:

 

"PROCEDURE IN SMALL BOARDS. In a board meeting where there are not more than about a dozen members present, some of the formality that is necessary in a large assembly would hinder business. The rules governing such meetings are different from the rules that hold in other assemblies, in the following respects:

    •    Members may raise a hand instead of standing when seeking to obtain the floor, and may remain seated while making motions or speaking.

[page 488] •    Motions need not be seconded.

    •    There is no limit to the number of times a member can speak to a debatable question.* Appeals, however, are debatable under the regular rules—that is, each member (except the chair) can speak only once in debate on them, while the chair may speak twice.

    •    Informal discussion of a subject is permitted while no motion is pending.

    •    When a proposal is perfectly clear to all present, a vote can be taken without a motion's having been introduced. Unless agreed to by unanimous consent, however, all proposed actions must be approved by vote under the same rules as in larger meetings, except that a vote can be taken initially by a show of hands, which is often a better method in small meetings.

    •    The chairman need not rise while putting questions to a vote.

    •    If the chairman is a member, he may, without leaving the chair, speak in informal discussions and in debate, and vote on all questions.**

 

Unfortunately, that provision does not specify whether any type of motion is necessary in order to discuss something informally.  It is my understanding that such discussion would normally take place without objection by unanimous consent.

 

Perhaps someone else has a better citation.  Stay tuned.

 

Edited to add:  I want to point out again, though, that with this being a public body with what are probably specific agenda procedures, this might well be covered by the council's rules or by custom.

Edited by Richard Brown
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There was an item agenda item to hold an informal discussion. The agenda was accepted. When the discussion item was reached, the head of council directed the councillor to put a motion on the table to open discussing. The need for a motion was questioned given there was no action involved. A motion was put forward and was defeated.

There does not seem to any procedure that clarifies the need to put a motion on the table.

 

 

Thank you.

What I need is the actually portion of Robert's Rules that spells this out.

 

Considering the first quoted post, don't look for anything under the rules in RONR.

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Synopsis:

Local government Policy lays out Roberts Rules as the structure for agenda items for public council meetings.

 

An agenda item is listed as a topic for discussion under the category of new business. No action or resolution is expected as it is simply to enable council members to have an open discussion to garner consensus on whether it is an item of interest that might require future action.

There is  also no policy in place that dictates open discussion to occur at a sub committee level. 

 

Question:

Once the agenda is approved with the discussion item listed, are council members required to put forth a motion to accept this as an item for discussion, or by way of accepting the agenda has Council already accepted this as an item for discussion?

 

If your council's policy is to follow Robert's Rules, as you say it is, then it should not be adopting any agenda at all if (as I assume is the case) it meets at least as often as once every three months. It should follow the standard order of business found in RONR, 11th ed., on pages 353-63. 

 

If it adopts an agenda listing new business as one of its headings, nothing should or need be listed under this heading. Any item of business specifically listed on an agenda is either a special order or a general order, and neither of these comes under the category of new business. A "topic for discussion" doesn't constitute "business" in any event.

 

In other words, if your council meets at least as often as quarterly and adopts an agenda listing something as a topic for discussion under new business, you are already so far outside of Robert's Rules that there is nothing that can be cited in RONR to answer your question.

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Guest Cindy

Help me out here please. The responses are confusing.

 

Our rural government council has policy on meeting structure with a caveat to address the unknowns as a fall back to  Roberts Rules of Order for meeting structure.

 

I am looking for an answer as to whether a motion is required that I can reference under Robert's Rules specific to an agenda item (of which the agenda was approved) that simply provides a specific topic for discussion. A discussion note outlining the topic was included under this agenda item.

 

The discussion note clearly states it is intended as a discussion only  with no action is requested. The intent was only to throw out ideas for further discussion on this topic to determine if there was any consensus to pursue ideas.

 

If there was consensus, then perhaps a motion could be struck if an action was required at that time.

 

However, the chair forced a motion to open the discussion which was defeated, therefore no discussion occurred. This appears to be a political maneuver as other agenda items, like correspondence are read and discussed without a motion. There is a Q&A agenda item which is opened for discussion without a motion.

 

Which is correct? Is a motion required for discussion? In reviewing Roberts Rules, everything suggests that the only time a motion is required is if there is an expected action. If the action arises out of a discussion, at that time it is appropriate to lay a motion on the table, but there is nothing I can find to suggest a motion is required to open a simple discussion.

 

This is what I am seeking clarity on. Where does RRoO show a motion is needed to open a discussion that has already been approved as such on the agenda.

 

 

 

 

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Help me out here please. The responses are confusing.

 

Our rural government council has policy on meeting structure with a caveat to address the unknowns as a fall back to  Roberts Rules of Order for meeting structure.

 

 

 

First off, RONR perhaps should be more properly designated as your parliamentary authority rather than a fall back for various instances when your policy on meeting structure is lacking.

 

I am looking for an answer as to whether a motion is required that I can reference under Robert's Rules specific to an agenda item (of which the agenda was approved) that simply provides a specific topic for discussion. A discussion note outlining the topic was included under this agenda item.

 

 

 

As indicated above, the answer is no specific motion should have been required to start talking/discussing.  But also as noted above, it appears your group should be using a standard order of business as opposed to an agenda, so you're from the start operating outside RONR, and trying to use RONR to fix issues caused by operating outside RONR might be fruitless.

 

The discussion note clearly states it is intended as a discussion only  with no action is requested. The intent was only to throw out ideas for further discussion on this topic to determine if there was any consensus to pursue ideas.

 

If there was consensus, then perhaps a motion could be struck if an action was required at that time.

 

 

 

And that's fine, but as details later showed, apparently a majority of members wanted NOT to discuss the item.  The will of the majority steers what happens.

 

However, the chair forced a motion to open the discussion which was defeated, therefore no discussion occurred. This appears to be a political maneuver as other agenda items, like correspondence are read and discussed without a motion. There is a Q&A agenda item which is opened for discussion without a motion.

 

 

 

Again, even if the "forced" motion was improper or unnecessary, it doesn't appear anyone raised a point of order.  And again, the majority wanted not to discuss the issue.

Which is correct? Is a motion required for discussion? In reviewing Roberts Rules, everything suggests that the only time a motion is required is if there is an expected action. If the action arises out of a discussion, at that time it is appropriate to lay a motion on the table, but there is nothing I can find to suggest a motion is required to open a simple discussion.

 

This is what I am seeking clarity on. Where does RRoO show a motion is needed to open a discussion that has already been approved as such on the agenda.

 

 

 

It doesn't.  But given the details you've described, it may be a moot point.  Somewhere between approving the agenda and the "forced" motion, apparently the group changed its collective mind.  

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The discussion note clearly states it is intended as a discussion only  with no action is requested. The intent was only to throw out ideas for further discussion on this topic to determine if there was any consensus to pursue ideas.

 

If there was consensus, then perhaps a motion could be struck if an action was required at that time.

 

If all you want to do is "throw out ideas", go across the street and throw them out at the tavern. Don't waste members' time waiting for "consensus". Some of them may have better things to do.

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I think almost everyone commenting in this thread has lost sight of the fact or is choosing to ignore the fact that Guest Cindy is referring to a city council.... a public body... that is almost certainly subject to both state open meetings (sunshine) laws and to its own special rules, both of which almost certainly call for the body to not only adopt an agenda but to post or publish the proposed agenda prior to the meeting.   Listing items for discussion on agendas for such public bodies is quite common.  If I am going to incur the "wrath of Dan" for  saying that, so be it.  If someone thinks it is "showing off, so be it.   RONR can apply.... and usually does apply... whenever and to the extent that it is not in conflict with the superior rules of the body, state law, or other controlling law such as a city charter.   The fact of the matter is that it is quite common for city councils to both adopt agendas and to have items on those agendas for discussion only.

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I think almost everyone commenting in this thread has lost sight of the fact or is choosing to ignore the fact that Guest Cindy is referring to a city council.... a public body... that is almost certainly subject to both state open meetings (sunshine) laws and to its own special rules, both of which almost certainly call for the body to not only adopt an agenda but to post or publish the proposed agenda prior to the meeting.   Listing items for discussion on agendas for such public bodies is quite common.  If I am going to incur the "wrath of Dan" for  saying that, so be it.  If someone thinks it is "showing off, so be it.   RONR can apply.... and usually does apply... whenever and to the extent that it is not in conflict with the superior rules of the body, state law, or other controlling law such as a city charter.   The fact of the matter is that it is quite common for city councils to both adopt agendas and to have items on those agendas for discussion only.

Thanks for that reminder Richard, and shame on me for not thinking of that aspect.

It's not like you and I have ever testified in front of the La legislature in support of any open meeting laws or anything. <_<

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  • 5 years later...
Guest Motions in an agenda?

I am preparing our Board agenda and a committee has sent motion wording for each policy approval with a mover and a seconder already listed from their committee.  Is it proper to include this in the agenda?   Normal practice for us would be to include suggested motion wording with no mover or seconder noted.

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