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Debate limit


Guest Gaudias

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At a recent meeting, we had two controversial issues or processes for which members disagrees.  The motion dealt with a significant amendment to our current bylaws: 

 

First issuethe chair sets a limit of four "against" and four "supporting" the motion.  Some members felt that any member should have the opportunity to comment although a time limit can be set for each speaker.  Others felt that the process used was the proper one to follow.  

 

Second issue.  An amendment to a main motion was made and defeated.  The chair returned to the main motion for a vote.  However, before the vote was taken,  someone else proposed an amendment to the amendment.  It was declared "out of order".since the vote to the main motion was pending.  The vote was taken on the main motion and defeated as well.  Should the "amendment to the amendment" have been allowed?  

 

 

 

  

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1. It's up to the assembly (not any one member, not even the chair) to limit debate if it wants to. The RONR default is ten minutes, two times (and not a second time until all members who want to have had a chance to speak).

 

2. Once the proposed amendment to the main motion was defeated, it couldn't be amended since it was no longer the pending motion.

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In the order you asked:

 

First:  Neither group was exactly right...  the RONR default rule (once you have adopted RONR's book of rules, usually in the bylaws), is that all members get to speak twice (for 10 minutes - ! -  each time) but don't get a second chance until all who want their first shot get it.  Any time limit (via a 2/3 vote) applies equally to all (not individual) speakers.

 

Second:  The chair was correct.  The opportunity to amend the amendment was when the first ("primary") amendment was pending.  After it was defeated, it is gone from all future consideration (or amendment).

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Second issue.  An amendment to a main motion was made and defeated.  The chair returned to the main motion for a vote.  However, before the vote was taken,  someone else proposed an amendment to the amendment.  It was declared "out of order".since the vote to the main motion was pending.  The vote was taken on the main motion and defeated as well.  Should the "amendment to the amendment" have been allowed?  

 

I'm confused.

 

Guest Gaudias, can you clarify exactly what this "amendment to the amendment" was?  

 

What was the main motion that was under consideration when it was proposed?  Was it one of the proposed bylaw amendments or something unrelated to the bylaw amendments?

 

What about the amendment to the main motion that you referenced?  Was it an amendment to the proposed bylaw amendment or an amendment to some other motion?

 

And finally, the "amendment to the amendment":  What was that final amendment directed to?   The amendment that had just been defeated?   The original proposed bylaw amendment?   Something else?

 

If it was a proposed amendment to the first degree amendment to the proposed bylaw change that had just been defeated, it was indeed out of order.  But if it had nothing to do with the amendment that had just been voted down and was instead an amendment to the pending bylaw amendment, it should have been in order unless voting had already started or the previous question had been ordered.

 

This talk of "amendments to amendments" when the main motion is itself an amendment (to the bylaws) can easily get confusing and hard to follow.  

 

I interpreted your statement to mean that a new first degree amendment to the bylaw change was ruled out of order by the chair, but Dr. Stackpole and Mr. Guest apparently understand it to have been a proposed amendment to the amendment that had just been defeated.

 

Can you try again to walk us through what happened with your second issue?

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Thank you all for your feedback.  I have learned more about RRO since becoming aware of this forum. 

 

Sorry for the confusion,  Richard.. hopefully, the following may clarify

  1. A Notice of Motion had been made to amend the quorum, in our By-Laws, to read 30 in lieu of 14
  2. The main motion to change from 14 to 30) was made and seconded at the following meeting  
  3. Before the debate started the chairperson set a limit of 4 speakers in "support of" and 4 speakers "against"  the motion   (See (Note 1)
  4. The debate started on the main motion and shortly afterward an amendment was made to change from 30 to 22 -  "Within the Scope of the Notice" (between 14 - 30)
  5. The debate took place  and stopped automatically after the debate limits (4 for; 4 against) had been reached.  (See Note 2)
  6. This amendment (from 30 to 22) was defeated
  7. The main motion (amend from 14 to 30) was then presented to the members for a vote  -  howewer, before the voting actually took place,  
  8. Another member "supporting the amendment" made a 2nd motion to the amend from 22 to 20 
  9. He was declared "Out of Order" as the debate had been stopped (by the  "debate limit established") and that the main motion had then been put on the floor  (See note 2) 
  10. The main motion was then presented, voted on and defeated. 

Note 1:  The "limit of the debate" was set by the Chairperson without and motion/vote.

 

Note 2:  In our assembly, the "Previous Question" (or, Stop the Debate) is not usually presented as a clear motion.  It is usually the result of a member (usually a senior one) shout out out "Question"  It is evident that several members do NOT understand the meaning of "Question" and consequently are confused and go with the flow. 

 

Thank you again for your help.  I hope the above is |Not a clear as mud"

 

 

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In the order you asked:

 

First:  Neither group was exactly right...  the RONR default rule (once you have adopted RONR's book of rules, usually in the bylaws), is that all members get to speak twice (for 10 minutes - ! -  each time) but don't get a second chance until all who want their first shot get it.  Any time limit (via a 2/3 vote) applies equally to all (not individual) speakers.

 

Second:  The chair was correct.  The opportunity to amend the amendment was when the first ("primary") amendment was pending.  After it was defeated, it is gone from all future consideration (or amendment).

Because Roberts is ambiguous on Members right to speak.....and right can be taken away with a 2/3 vote... We clarified our by-laws by stating All Members have the right to speak.............And this cannot be interrupted by Previous Questions or a 2/3 vote until each member, who wished to speak, has spoken. This eliminates the argument that 2/3 can take away basic rights.

I agree with the amendment to amendment solution. Paul 

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Thanks for the clarification. SInce this second amendment was to change 22 to 20, it was indeed out of order, since the first amendment - to change 30 to 22 - had already been defeated. So the 22 figure was no longer in play at all. Unfortunately, the maker of that second out-of-order amendment could have made it a proper amendment by making the proposed change from 30 to 20. Whether that amendment was in order, though, would depend on whether the chair, and/or ultimately the assembly, felt that proposing a change to 20 (in a second, properly-worded amendment) would be a sufficently different question from a change to 22 proposed in the first defeated amendment.

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Hi Bruce.   Sorry for MISLEADING.  The proposer of the 2nd amendment at moved that it be changed from 30 to 20 and NOT from 22 to 20l.

I personally find some of these situations quite confusing and difficult especially for those of us who are still quite new to RRO.

 

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Because Roberts is ambiguous on Members right to speak.....and right can be taken away with a 2/3 vote... We clarified our by-laws by stating All Members have the right to speak.............And this cannot be interrupted by Previous Questions or a 2/3 vote until each member, who wished to speak, has spoken. This eliminates the argument that 2/3 can take away basic rights.

 

You will probably live to regret that...  but that will be for another time.

 

Members do NOT have an absolute "right to speak"  See page li  (roman 51) in the introduction pages.  The right to speak is balanced against the right of the assembly as a whole to get something done.  The 2/3 Previous Question rule (AKA "lets shut up and vote NOW!") gives the assembly that right. You have introduced, into your bylaws, a full and unstoppable filibuster (it is a matter of interpretation as to whether the 10 minutes per speech rule has been abrogated by the exact wording of your new bylaws - you didn't tell us what it was, please DON'T bother!) such that any one member could tie up the meeting all day and all night, just by talking  Or a cadre of members, each exercising their 10 minute speaking times, could do the same.

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I think the chair was incorrect in ruling the second amendment out of order since it appears to be essentially the same as the first, but with a lower threshold. It proposed a substantially different question, presuming that 20 is a substantially different number from 22, which I assert it is.  Ask any bartender.  But it was simply a first-order amendment, not an amendment to an amendment, which may have been what  triggered the ruling by the chair.

 

I'm not certain (bookless as I am at the moment) whether the expiration of time limits on debate of a motion necessarily prevents further amendment. An order for the Previous Question would, but there may be fine points at work here.

 

Having said that, the chair had no right, without the consent of the assembly, to Limit Debate in the first place.  But if nobody raised a point of order at the time, this metaphorical snoozing was tantamount to losing their rights.  Too late to complain now.

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I think the chair was incorrect in ruling the second amendment out of order since it appears to be essentially the same as the first, but with a lower threshold. It proposed a substantially different question, presuming that 20 is a substantially different number from 22, which I assert it is.  Ask any bartender.  But it was simply a first-order amendment, not an amendment to an amendment, which may have been what  triggered the ruling by the chair.

 

I'm not certain (bookless as I am at the moment) whether the expiration of time limits on debate of a motion necessarily prevents further amendment. An order for the Previous Question would, but there may be fine points at work here.

 

Having said that, the chair had no right, without the consent of the assembly, to Limit Debate in the first place.  But if nobody raised a point of order at the time, this metaphorical snoozing was tantamount to losing their rights.  Too late to complain now.

 

I agree, Gary.  My take on it is that the amendment which the chair ruled out of order was a first degree amendment (or primary amendment...which is the preferred term)  and should have been allowed unless something about this organization's debate rules made it out of order. 

The wording "change 22 to 20" which the member making the motion used in the motion was awkward and can make it look like a secondary amendment, but I believe it was intended as a primary amendment and the chair should have treated it as such.  If the chair was in doubt, he should have inquired as to whether the member was proposing a secondary amendment to the amendment just defeated or if he was proposing a new primary amendment. 

 

I'm not even going to comment on the strange debate rules or the chair arbitrarily imposing a "four speakers per side" rule during debate.

 

Edited to  add:  I reviewing the posts, I see that Guest Gaudias clarified in post # 9 that the amendment which was ruled out of order was not to change the quorum from 22 to 20 as he first said, but rather to change it from 30 to 20.  To me, that cinches the fact that it was a primary amendment to the pending main motion and should have been allowed.

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  1. A Notice of Motion had been made to amend the quorum, in our By-Laws, to read 30 in lieu of 14
  2. The main motion to change from 14 to 30) was made and seconded at the following meeting  
  3. Before the debate started the chairperson set a limit of 4 speakers in "support of" and 4 speakers "against"  the motion   (See (Note 1)
  4. The debate started on the main motion and shortly afterward an amendment was made to change from 30 to 22 -  "Within the Scope of the Notice" (between 14 - 30)
  5. The debate took place  and stopped automatically after the debate limits (4 for; 4 against) had been reached.  (See Note 2)
  6. This amendment (from 30 to 22) was defeated
  7. The main motion (amend from 14 to 30) was then presented to the members for a vote  -  howewer, before the voting actually took place,  
  8. Another member "supporting the amendment" made a 2nd motion to the amend from 22 to 20 
  9. He was declared "Out of Order" as the debate had been stopped (by the  "debate limit established") and that the main motion had then been put on the floor  (See note 2) 
  10. The main motion was then presented, voted on and defeated. 

Note 1:  The "limit of the debate" was set by the Chairperson without and motion/vote.

 

Note 2:  In our assembly, the "Previous Question" (or, Stop the Debate) is not usually presented as a clear motion.  It is usually the result of a member (usually a senior one) shout out out "Question"  It is evident that several members do NOT understand the meaning of "Question" and consequently are confused and go with the flow. 

 

It was not proper for the chairperson to declare on his own authority that there would be only four speakers on each side. Only the assembly could adopt such a motion, by a 2/3 vote. The chair was correct that the motion to strike "22" and insert "20" was out of order, because the amendment had been defeated and the main motion (which included the number "30") was before the assembly. He should have informed the member that he could have instead moved to strike "30" and insert "20." As for your issues with the Previous Question, see FAQ #11. It is too late to raise a Point of Order about any of this now.

 

Because Roberts is ambiguous on Members right to speak.....and right can be taken away with a 2/3 vote... We clarified our by-laws by stating All Members have the right to speak.............And this cannot be interrupted by Previous Questions or a 2/3 vote until each member, who wished to speak, has spoken. This eliminates the argument that 2/3 can take away basic rights.

I agree with the amendment to amendment solution. Paul 

 

The rules on this subject are not ambiguous. Every member has a right to speak, and the rules may not be suspended so as to deprive any individual member of the right to speak in debate, but the rules may be suspended to set general limits on debate, or to end debate. This is a balancing act between the rights of the majority and the minority. An assembly may nonetheless adopt a rule such as this if it wishes to do so.

 

You will probably live to regret that...  but that will be for another time.

 

Members do NOT have an absolute "right to speak"  See page li  (roman 51) in the introduction pages.  The right to speak is balanced against the right of the assembly as a whole to get something done.  The 2/3 Previous Question rule (AKA "lets shut up and vote NOW!") gives the assembly that right. You have introduced, into your bylaws, a full and unstoppable filibuster (it is a matter of interpretation as to whether the 10 minutes per speech rule has been abrogated by the exact wording of your new bylaws - you didn't tell us what it was, please DON'T bother!) such that any one member could tie up the meeting all day and all night, just by talking  Or a cadre of members, each exercising their 10 minute speaking times, could do the same.

 

These concerns seem a bit overblown. An assembly could adopt rules providing that Limit Debate or the Previous Question could not be adopted so long as a member who has not yet spoken wishes to speak. This would not necessarily interfere with the rule limiting each speech to ten minutes. Several members could band together, but depending on the size of the assembly, this may or may not be a serious problem. This is not to say that I agree with the rule in question, but I don't think it's quite as dire as you suggest.

 

I'm not certain (bookless as I am at the moment) whether the expiration of time limits on debate of a motion necessarily prevents further amendment. An order for the Previous Question would, but there may be fine points at work here.

 

The motion to Limit Debate was not properly adopted anyway, so this issue may be moot. Assuming the assembly had adopted a motion to limit debate to four speakers on each side, however, this would not have prevented subsidiary motions from being made. A motion to Limit Debate only prevents the making of subsidiary motions if it specifies the time at which the vote will be taken.

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As far as taking a basic right away, that is precisely what your presiding officer did by arbitrarily limiting the members to four speakers on each side.  It doesn't  look to me like your "rule" guaranteeing every member the right to debate worked out so well, did it?

It strikes me as odd that if you went to the trouble of preventing the use of Limit Debate and the Previous Question in your bylaws, that nobody jumped to their feet with a point of order when the president proposed the limitations you described.

 

I guess that shows that changing the bylaws doesn't help much if the chair doesn't respect them and the membership doesn't defend them.

Paul appears to be from a different organization and suggested his organization's rule as a solution to the OP's problem. I don't think this is the right solution, as it seems that the OP's concern is not the fact that debate was limited, but that it was done without the assembly's consent.

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