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Can a body adopt a rule to pass a specific motion by 80% if the by-laws say otherwise


Guest Jan

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Our by-laws say: "The majority of those members present and voting shall decide any question, unless the bylaws specify otherwise."

There is a motion pending in 2 parts.  Part 1 says the second one shall pass with 80% voting for it.  And then there is a motion that, if the first were passed, would require 80+% to pass.

Is this allowed?  Can we pass a special one time rule that goes against a sentence in the by-laws.

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Well, I'm not clear what the point of all this is - after all, those in favor of the second will vote against the first, and those who oppose the second will vote for the first - if the first passes, there were enough opposed to just kill it anyway.  But regardless:

The bylaw seems to be clearly in the nature of a rule of order.  It's possible that the second clause means the first clause cannot be suspended, but that's certainly not clear, making it a question of bylaw interpretation that only your organization can answer.  The more likely answer, in my mind, is that it may be suspended, so you'd need a motion to suspend the rules and adopt a special rule of order requiring 80% (of what?) for just one motion.  At least, that's my first thought, but stay tuned for those with greater wisdom.

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Yes, I believe you could do that, since the bylaw rule specifying a majority vote is in the nature of a rule of order, dealing with the transaction of business in a meeting. But it will take more than just a majority vote to accomplish this because you will be suspending that bylaw rule. A motion to suspend the rules requires a 2/3 vote, a majority vote with previous notice, or an affirmative vote of a majority of the entire membership.

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13 hours ago, Guest Jan said:

Our by-laws say: "The majority of those members present and voting shall decide any question, unless the bylaws specify otherwise."

Logical Conundrum question:   "Any question" sure sounds like, well, any question, including a vote to suspend rules.  (Never mind that "any" doesn't count when dealing with vice-presidents succeeding to presidential office).  However... "unless the bylaws specify otherwise", when the bylaws include RONR as the parliamentary authority, sure sounds like an exception to the "any question" rule.  So a 2/3 vote is required to suspend a rule.  Yet we all know that bylaws supersede RONR when they are inconsistent. So, majority or 2/3?

Are we just left with an inconsistency in the bylaws, which would best be resolved by striking out the "shall decide any question" rule from the bylaws post haste?  (Writing your own rules is a risky business, at best.)

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1 minute ago, jstackpo said:

Logical Conundrum question:   "Any question" sure sounds like, well, any question, including a vote to suspend rules.  (Never mind that "any" doesn't count when dealing with vice-presidents succeeding to presidential office).  However... "unless the bylaws specify otherwise", when the bylaws include RONR as the parliamentary authority, sure sounds like an exception to the "any question" rule.  So a 2/3 vote is required to suspend a rule.  Yet we all know that bylaws supersede RONR when they are inconsistent. So, majority or 2/3?

Are we just left with an inconsistency in the bylaws, which would best be resolved by striking out the "shall decide any question" rule from the bylaws post haste?  (Writing your own rules is a risky business, at best.)

Yes, a bylaw provision such as the one quoted by guest Jan is grossly ambiguous, and so guest Jan's organization will have to decide what it means (or get rid of it altogether, which is a much better idea). 

Because that bylaw provision is such a mess, there's no sense worrying about the fact that there cannot be a single motion consisting of two parts, one of which is to be voted on before the other. 

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Responding to the gist of the question asked, and basing the response solely upon the rules in RONR (as if that awful bylaw provision didn't exist), two possible courses of action come to mind. 

1. While a main motion is pending, a member can move "that the vote of 80% of the members present and voting shall be required for the adoption of the pending motion to (describing the motion)." This is, in effect, a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for its adoption.

2. A main motion can be made, with the following clause tacked on at the end "; provided, however, that this motion shall become effective only is it is adopted by the vote of 80% of the members present and voting."

The first course of action has been approved by General Robert (see Q&A 323 and 324 on p. 518 of PL). The second is somewhat questionable.  :)

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3 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Responding to the gist of the question asked, and basing the response solely upon the rules in RONR (as if that awful bylaw provision didn't exist), two possible courses of action come to mind. 

1. While a main motion is pending, a member can move "that the vote of 80% of the members present and voting shall be required for the adoption of the pending motion to (describing the motion)." This is, in effect, a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for its adoption.

2. A main motion can be made, with the following clause tacked on at the end "; provided, however, that this motion shall become effective only is it is adopted by the vote of 80% of the members present and voting."

The first course of action has been approved by General Robert (see Q&A 323 and 324 on p. 518 of PL). The second is somewhat questionable.  :)

As a variant of your #1 above, could not the member begin by moving to suspend the rules and ... [main motion] ?

(And if not, why not, if you please.)

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9 minutes ago, Gary c Tesser said:

As a variant of your #1 above, could not the member begin by moving to suspend the rules and ... [main motion] ?

(And if not, why not, if you please.)

If you are referring to a motion such as the one referred to on page 262, lines 6-8, then yes, but that sort of motion serves an entirely different purpose. If not, you'll have to describe your motion much more clearly. A motion such as the one you describe makes no sense at all.

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4 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

The first course of action has been approved by General Robert (see Q&A 323 and 324 on p. 518 of PL).

I think this is the best part of General Robert's answer:

"If you read a few sentences preceding the quotation, I think you will see that the sentence quoted does not apply to your case."

This needs to be one of our stock responses on the forum. :)

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