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Criteria for and Philosophy of New Business


Guest Paul
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I recently observed a major meeting at which an item of new business was brought to the floor - an item that proposed a MAJOR alteration to the method of amendment to the constitution. (Basically, it asked to lower the threshold of sub-bodies necessary to approve an amendment to the constitution from 2/3 to 51%.) This was raised as an item of new business at the meeting itself. I can recall at several meetings of this body in the past that one of the criteria for new business was that for it to be brought directly to the floor, it had to be based on events that occurred between the date of the publication of the "workbook" (agenda with supporting materials) and the call to order of the meeting. In other words, if the matter could have arisen from other forms of communication from the sub-bodies, the matter would not be ruled out of order, but it may - or would likely - have been referred to a commission whose specific task is to counsel the body on matters of governance. (I can not find this in the bylaws of the organization, however; my memory may be based on interpretations rather than bylaws) At the particular meeting of which I am speaking, the proposed amendment (2/3-->51%) was reviewed by a committee whose job it is to determine whether an item of new business is in order. That body, however, is charged with making "recommendation to [the assembly] concerning the acceptance of it as new business and, if accepted, its disposition through referral or other appropriate action." That body - the committee of reference - did accept the matter as new business, but, so far as I can tell, made no recommendation regarding disposition - other than that it dumped the matter straight back onto the floor of the whole body. This caused somewhat of a process donnybrook. Which is why I am asking about the philosophy of new business. I have no objection to new business being presented. However, I would argue that weighty matters (like changing the constitution!) need to be presented to the ENTIRE body prior to the call to order, so that they might prepare for debate. It's a matter of fair treatment of all members of the body - as in court, both sides need to see the same evidence, or be allowed the same amount of time to prepare. Otherwise, the introduction of new business can easily be cooked up as a way to let all manner of nonsense in, when one suspects that one has a 50.1% of the body agreeing with him or her. Is this a fair way to offer a philosophy of new business? I just think that the health of the continuing body must ALWAYS be paramount in the person at the gavel, and that, in this case, serious miscalculations were made. Thank you for reading my very long post. 

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RONR has no limit on what can be brought up under New Business, as long as it truly is new business and doesn't conflict with the bylaws or any procedural laws. Any limitations would have to be in your bylaws or Special Rules of Order. 

RONR states that bylaws should include a provision requiring previous notice for bylaw amendments  .

Edited by Atul Kapur
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1 hour ago, Guest Paul said:

However, I would argue that weighty matters (like changing the constitution!) need to be presented to the ENTIRE body prior to the call to order, so that they might prepare for debate.

Your Constitution presumably contains rules about how it is amended. (Were they followed in this case?) Those rules could be amended to require previous notice, if they do not already.

1 hour ago, Guest Paul said:

It's a matter of fair treatment of all members of the body - as in court, both sides need to see the same evidence, or be allowed the same amount of time to prepare.

A meeting is not a court proceeding, and no one would like the outcome if it were treated like one. That said, you have an easy solution here - if you haven't seen what you need to make an informed decision about a motion, vote 'no' and encourage others to do the same for that reason. 

 

1 hour ago, Guest Paul said:

I just think that the health of the continuing body must ALWAYS be paramount in the person at the gavel, and that, in this case, serious miscalculations were made.

The health of the body is important, but it does not permit the presiding officer to violate the rules and disallow an in-order motion. However, it is quite common that amendments to governing documents require notice - and, in fact, that is the default in RONR if your rules do not provide for how amendments are handled (unless a majority vote of the entire membership can be gathered0>

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First, thanks to you all for responding.

To fill in the picture just a bit more - the constitution states that new business "shall include a well-defined statement of the nature and purpose of the proposed business and of the reason for its presentation as new business rather than through the church's assemblies, agencies, or commissions." The burden of why something would qualify as new business is on its presenter. My contention is that "golly, we just thought of it at this meeting - that's why it didn't come up through another assembly, agency, or commission" is insufficient reason for such a late presentation. But I guess that "sufficiency" is the call of the president or appropriate committee to make.....?

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In view of the fact that the business to which you refer was a motion to change the method of amending the constitution, it would appear that this was itself a motion to amend the constitution, assuming that the constitution sets forth, as it should, the procedure which must be followed in order to amend it.

Was the prescribed procedure for amendment of the constitution followed?

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3 hours ago, paulgjanssen said:

To fill in the picture just a bit more - the constitution states that new business "shall include a well-defined statement of the nature and purpose of the proposed business and of the reason for its presentation as new business rather than through the church's assemblies, agencies, or commissions." The burden of why something would qualify as new business is on its presenter. My contention is that "golly, we just thought of it at this meeting - that's why it didn't come up through another assembly, agency, or commission" is insufficient reason for such a late presentation. But I guess that "sufficiency" is the call of the president or appropriate committee to make.....?

If what is required for New Business generally is “a well-defined statement of the nature and purpose of the proposed business and of the reason for its presentation as new business rather than through the church's assemblies, agencies, or commissions,” then this does seem to leave some judgment on the part of the chairman (and the assembly, if the chairman’s ruling is appealed) regarding whether such statements and reasons are sufficient. I suppose the committee “whose job it is to determine whether an item of new business is in order“ might also weigh in on this.

Most organizations, however, have rules specifically concerning the procedure for adopting amendments to the constitution. Since the motion in question appears to be an amendment to the constitution, it would be prudent to see what your constitution says on that subject, rather than relying on what it says regarding new business generally.

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