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Motions


Guest Erin Andersen
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If they actually mean the motion to Lay on the Table (pp. 209ff), then a majority vote would "stop" (temporarily) the original motion. Once some other business has been dealt with (presumably the business that led to the motion to Lay on the Table) has been handled, then a motion to Take from the Table (pp. 300ff), with a second and a majority vote, would bring the original motion back before the assembly.

As Mr. Novosielski points out, the motion to Lay on the Table is rarely needed and rarely used. Instead, the term "table" is frequently misused to refer to one of two other motions: Postpone to a Certain Time (pp. 179ff) or Postpone Indefinitely (pp. 126ff).

If the mover intends to postpone the original motion to a certain time, up to and including the next meeting, if it occurs within a quarter ("if the second session begins at any time during or before the third calendar month after the calendar month in which the first session ends", pp. 89f), a majority vote is needed to postpone. (The exception is if the question is to be made a special order, in which case it requires a 2/3 vote.) The motion to Postpone to a Certain Time is debatable but the debate must be limited to the merits of the motion to Postpone itself, and not the original question. If the motion to Postpone is passed, the original question will come up again at the specified time. 

If the mover instead intends to postpone the original motion indefinitely (i.e. kill the original motion), it also requires a majority vote to postpone. However, the motion to Postpone Indefinitely is debatable and necessarily requires debate on the merits of the original motion. If you wish to end debate, you'll need to move the Previous Question (pp. 197ff) on the motion to Postpone Indefinitely. (Or move the Previous Question on the original motion which is probably closer to what is intended.) This requires a 2/3 vote.

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Guest Erin Andersen

The motion to "table" is better defined as a motion to postpone indefinitely. In the original scenario when there is already a motion on the floor, then a motion to postpone indefinitely comes up, how are these two motions handled and in what order?

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A motion to Postpone Indefinitely (PI) has to be applied to a main motion, so if there isn't already a motion on the floor, the motion to PI is out of order. (Postpone what?)

If the only motion on the floor is the main motion, then the motion to PI takes precedence (is handled first). If the PI motion passes, the main motion is suppressed until the end of the current session (in most organizations, the current meeting). If it fails, then discussion of the main motion continues.

If any other motion is pending, or if the Previous Question has been moved and passed, the motion to PI is out of order. If another motion is applied to either the main motion or the motion to PI, that other motion is handled before the PI motion.

Consult the chart on page 3 of the shaded section in the back for a guide to which motions take precedence over which.

Edited by Benjamin Geiger
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Agreeing with Mr. Geiger's excellent description - when a motion is pending, and another is in order, they act like papers on a desk.  The one made most recently is on the top of the stack, and will be processed first.  

Note also the following special characteristic of Postpone Indefinitely: not only is it debatable, but the debate is permitted to go to the merits of the main motion that is pending.  So to answer what I think was part of the original question: consideration of the pending motion is not immediately stopped by making the motion.  The postponement is then debated, with the debate going to the merits of the original motion if desired, and then voted on.  If it carries, then the business is done with.  If it fails, you are right back to considering the pending motion.

So, what is the point?  It has two points.  First, the assembly might have found, through debate, that a yes/no vote on the motion itself would be embarrassing.  RONR gives the example of a motion to endorse the club's President for political office.  Voting no might suggest, falsely, that the assembly lacks confidence in the President.  Voting yes might be deemed improper, though.  This is a way to kill it without a direct vote.  Second, the opposition might use the motion to test its strength by moving to a vote which will be binding (but subject to reconsideration) if it kills the motion, but not if it fails to do so.  I once went to a meeting where the head-count coming in on a particular motion was 4 in favor, 1 against (I was the one against).  When I thought I had persuaded some people, I moved to postpone indefinitely, and there were 2 votes in favor, 3 against - so I had picked up one vote on my side.  The fact that I had moved someone, though, gave others permission, as it were, to start thinking differently (I was the only member of my party on the commission, so when it was just me, it could be dismissed as "oh, you know him.")  As a result, when we voted again, we wound up with 5 votes against the motion.

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