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Meeting Participation via Conference Call


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Our nonprofit organization is calling for a special meeting to address an issue at hand. Our Bylaws do not allow for conference calls, however there are people who cannot attend due to distance, conflicts, etc. These people will not be allowed to vote based on the understanding around the Bylaws not allowing calls. Can these people still allowed to discuss via conference call? Or since our Bylaws do not allow conference calls, are they prohibited from any participation in the meeting?

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2 hours ago, Hieu H. Huynh said:

They could be considered as nonmembers of the assembly and participate accordingly.

In other woirds, yes, they can be allowed to participate in the discussion, but not vote. And of course, they won't count as present for purposes of the quorum.

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17 hours ago, RONR Newbie said:

Our nonprofit organization is calling for a special meeting to address an issue at hand. Our Bylaws do not allow for conference calls, however there are people who cannot attend due to distance, conflicts, etc. These people will not be allowed to vote based on the understanding around the Bylaws not allowing calls. Can these people still allowed to discuss via conference call? Or since our Bylaws do not allow conference calls, are they prohibited from any participation in the meeting?

They have no right to participate, but this can be fixed by adopting a motion near the beginning of the meeting, to Suspend the Rules and permit absent members to participate fully via conference call, with the exception of voting.  

It's worth including the exception in the motion for clarity, even though omitting it would not confer the right to vote.  The prohibition against absentee voting may not be suspended.  Some might even argue that without the exception the motion would not be in order.

Edited by Gary Novosielski
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17 hours ago, Weldon Merritt said:

In other woirds, yes, they can be allowed to participate in the discussion, but not vote. And of course, they won't count as present for purposes of the quorum.

When you say "can be allowed to participate," just to clarify, this would require the members to vote to Suspend the Rules so that they can participate, correct? Because otherwise nonmembers can't participate.

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3 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

They have no right to participate, but this can be fixed by adopting a motion near the beginning of the meeting, to Suspend the Rules and permit absent members to participate fully via conference call, with the exception of voting.  

It's worth including the exception in the motion for clarity, even though omitting it would not confer the right to vote.  The prohibition against absentee voting may not be suspended.  Some might even argue that without the exception the motion would not be in order.

They could be allowed to make motions, correct? Page 263 explicitly says you can't suspend the rules to allow them to vote and also says you can suspend the rules to allow them to speak in debate, but it doesn't explicitly mention allowing them to make motions. Or does it say that somewhere?

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6 minutes ago, user said:

They could be allowed to make motions, correct? Page 263 explicitly says you can't suspend the rules to allow them to vote and also says you can suspend the rules to allow them to speak in debate, but it doesn't explicitly mention allowing them to make motions. Or does it say that somewhere?

I think it is the consensus among our regular contributors that the rules may be suspended to allow a guest to speak, to speak in debate, and to make motions.  The rules cannot be suspended to permit a guest to vote.

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7 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

I think it is the consensus among our regular contributors that the rules may be suspended to allow a guest to speak, to speak in debate, and to make motions.  The rules cannot be suspended to permit a guest to vote.

Unfortunate that RONR isn't more explicit about this. However, I agree with the consensus.

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1 hour ago, Richard Brown said:

I think it is the consensus among our regular contributors that the rules may be suspended to allow a guest to speak, to speak in debate, and to make motions.  The rules cannot be suspended to permit a guest to vote.

I concur.  Yes, RONR is somewhat vague on that, but it seems to me that making motions is more like debating than it is like voting.  

Edited by Gary Novosielski
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5 hours ago, user said:

Unfortunate that RONR isn't more explicit about this.

The ability of nonmembers to speak in debate is mentioned specifically on page 263 contingent on the permission of the assembly via a motion to Suspend The Rules. As "user" has indicated, no such exception is granted to nonmembers making motions, yet there is explicit language on page 263 that prohibits the granting of voting privileges to nonmembers.

So, can we grant a nonmember the right to make a motion? Observe the following quote:

Quote

A question of order can be raised only by the presiding officer or by a member who is entitled to vote, and not by a non-member who has been granted the privileges of the floor and of debate.

Parliamentary Law, page 150, 4th paragraph.

6 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I think it is the consensus among our regular contributors that the rules may be suspended to allow a guest to speak, to speak in debate, and to make motions.

I am going to disagree with this consensus until such a time as some more explicit language is found that clarifies this subject. Also, I have examined the text of all previous ten editions and I find nothing that suggests to me that nonmembers may be granted a right to make motions. But, who knows. I could be wrong.

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Since the rule against making motions, like the rule against speaking in debate, is in the nature of a rule of order I see no reason why it cannot be suspended.  RONR makes no attempt to exhaustively list every rule which may be suspended, so nothing should be inferred by the omission.

The reason that speaking in debate is mentioned is to emphasise that the privilege of speaking can be extended to non-members by a majority vote as long as it is not during debate.  Since there is no rule interfering, assuming the assembly is amenable, there is no rule to suspend.  But there is a rule that interferes with non-members speaking in debate, so permitting it would require a 2/3 vote to suspend that rule.

Voting, on the other hand, is fundamentally different, and the rule that only members may vote is expressly stated to be non-suspendible.  

However, let's not lose sight of the fact that the original question had nothing to do with participation by non-members.  It was about allowing absent members to participate by conference call.  I hope we can agree that members have a greater claim to making motions than non-members.  So I think that the rule that only present members may vote, being the only rule explicitly identified as non-suspendible, is the only one that need be excepted from the motion to Suspend, and that a motion that they be allowed to "participate fully" otherwise, would be in order and would confer the right to make motions and presumably second others.

 

Edited by Gary Novosielski
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1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Since the rule against making motions, like the rule against speaking in debate, is in the nature of a rule of order I see no reason why it cannot be suspended.

It cannot be suspended because General Robert said in Parliamentary Law that it cannot be suspended. If the authors of this book tell me explicitly that Parliamentary Law has no authority whatsoever then I will switch sides on this question.

1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

The reason that speaking in debate is mentioned is to emphasise that the privilege of speaking can be extended to non-members by a majority vote as long as it is not during debate.

This is contrary to the statement found in the footnote on page 263, to wit:

Quote

*In contrast, the rules may be suspended to allow a nonmember to speak in debate.

RONR 11th edition page 263 fn.

1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

I hope we can agree that members have a greater claim to making motions than non-members. 

I disagree entirely with the use of the word "greater." This is not a question of degrees. Nonmembers have no right whatsoever to make motions.

1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

So I think that the rule that only present members may vote, being the only rule explicitly identified as non-suspendible, is the only one that need be excepted from the motion to Suspend, and that a motion that they be allowed to "participate fully" otherwise, would be in order and would confer the right to make motions and presumably second others.

I am going to disagree a second time. If nonmembers have no right to make motions then they do not have any right whatsoever to second motions.

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16 hours ago, Guest Zev said:

This is contrary to the statement found in the footnote on page 263, to wit:

I think you misread my comment.  It referred to what could be allowed by a majority vote, i.e., speaking as long as it is not in debate.

The statement in the footnote refers to speaking in debate, and confirms that a suspension of the rules is required.  Suspension of the rules cannot be accomplished with a majority vote. 

16 hours ago, Guest Zev said:

It cannot be suspended because General Robert said in Parliamentary Law that it cannot be suspended.

He said nothing of the sort, at least in the place cited.  That sentence applies to questions of order, not to making motions in general.  If you'll refer to PL page 158, lines 5-7, among the rules that can be suspended by a 2/3 vote are rules relating to: the order of business, "admission to the hall, or to participation in debate by non-members, etc." <emphasis added>.   

The "etc." is a clear indication that this is not an exhaustive list.  Unless you can provide an explicit citation that says the right to make motions cannot be granted under suspension of the rules, I don't think PL is particularly persuasive on this question.

Edited by Gary Novosielski
Specify cite as PL
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1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

I think you misread my comment.  It referred to what could be allowed by a majority vote, i.e., speaking as long as it is not in debate.

Thank you very much. I'm good with this clarification.

1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

He said nothing of the sort, at least in the place cited. That sentence applies to questions of order, not to making motions in general.

I will grant you that the actual context is not the same. However, under this interpretation, nonmembers cannot raise a Point Of Order but would be allowed to move any other type of motion, or to raise an Appeal on the very Point Of Order they themselves could not raise. I find this result as being really strange.

 

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9 hours ago, Guest Zev said:

The ability of nonmembers to speak in debate is mentioned specifically on page 263 contingent on the permission of the assembly via a motion to Suspend The Rules. As "user" has indicated, no such exception is granted to nonmembers making motions, yet there is explicit language on page 263 that prohibits the granting of voting privileges to nonmembers.

So, can we grant a nonmember the right to make a motion? Observe the following quote:

Parliamentary Law, page 150, 4th paragraph.

I am going to disagree with this consensus until such a time as some more explicit language is found that clarifies this subject. Also, I have examined the text of all previous ten editions and I find nothing that suggests to me that nonmembers may be granted a right to make motions. But, who knows. I could be wrong.

I do not think that the citation in question suggests that the rules may not be suspended to permit nonmembers to make motions generally, or even that the rules may not be suspended to permit nonmembers to raise a question of order.

“A question of order can be raised only by the presiding officer or by a member who is entitled to vote, and not by a non-member who has been granted the privileges of the floor and of debate.” (PL, pg. 150)

The citation notes that a nonmember who has been granted “the privileges of the floor and of debate” cannot raise a question of order. This is of course correct, as the privileges of the floor simply refers to the person’s privilege to be on the floor of the assembly, and a privilege of debate refers only to debate. Neither gives the person the privilege to make motions of any sort. This does not mean the assembly cannot grant additional privileges (such as to make motions, including raising questions of order) if it wishes to do so.

I expect this is included because, at the time Parliamentary Law was written, there was some ambiguity among the public over whether raising a question of order was considered to be a motion.

As to why RONR specifically notes that the rules may be suspended to permit a nonmember to speak in debate (but does not address making motions), I think this is simply because the authors expected that permitting a nonmember to speak in debate is a more common occurrence. I concur with others that the rules may be suspended to grant other rights of membership (such as making motions) to nonmembers as well. The one right which cannot be granted to nonmembers is the right to vote, as the text explicitly prohibits this.

Edited by Josh Martin
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7 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

This does not mean the assembly cannot grant additional privileges (such as to make motions, including raising questions of order) if it wishes to do so.

But the contrast that the General makes is with members that have the right to vote. Members that have a right to vote can raise a Point Of Order. Nonmembers do not have a right to vote and therefore cannot raise a Point Of Order. The question is, does that include other motions or not? In other words, is the right to vote and the right to make motions one and the same and indivisible, or may those two rights be divided and one granted and the other not?

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11 minutes ago, Guest Zev said:

But the contrast that the General makes is with members that have the right to vote. Members that have a right to vote can raise a Point Of Order. Nonmembers do not have a right to vote and therefore cannot raise a Point Of Order. The question is, does that include other motions or not? In other words, is the right to vote and the right to make motions one and the same and indivisible, or may those two rights be divided and one granted and the other not?

They may be divided. Making a motion and voting are not the same.

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1 hour ago, Guest Zev said:

But the contrast that the General makes is with members that have the right to vote. Members that have a right to vote can raise a Point Of Order. Nonmembers do not have a right to vote and therefore cannot raise a Point Of Order. The question is, does that include other motions or not? In other words, is the right to vote and the right to make motions one and the same and indivisible, or may those two rights be divided and one granted and the other not?

Yes, the contrast is with members that have the right to vote, because that is the one right that cannot be granted to nonmembers.

Nonmembers have no inherent right to:

  • Attend; or
  • Speak.

But, if they are permitted to be present, and even if they are permitted to speak, they are, by rule, prohibited from:

  • Speaking in debate;
  • Seconding motions;
  • Making motions; and
  • Voting

Of these, the first two, attend and speak, may be granted by a majority vote, but this does not waive the prohibitions.  That can only be done by suspending the interfering rules.  

And alone among them, the rule regarding the right to vote is explicitly protected from suspension.  None of the others are identified as having that protection.

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