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Limiting Amendments to Bylaw Motion

Guest Chuck Kantner

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I am moderator for a Congregational Church.

We recently constituted and elected a Bylaws Committee to review two specific bylaws in the context of some changes at the church and provide the congregation with recommended revised bylaws.

The Subcommittee has completed their work, being unanimous in their recommendation.  The congregation has been provided with a redline bylaws document detailing all additions and deletions in advance of a special meeting as specified in our bylaws.  For context, there are four pages of changes within a 20 page bylaws document.

Any changes to our bylaws require a 2/3rds majority of those present at the meeting.


Within Robert’s Rules is it possible to frame the motion in such a way that there can be robust debate and discussion about whether or not to accept the recommendation, but avoid having amendments to the proposed bylaw come from the floor.  My concern is that the Bylaws Committee has spent significant time finely crafting a recommendation, but with 100+ persons in the meeting we could easily have a large number of changes suggested from the floor with little time to review them for consistency with the total document as the Committee has done.  I have looked through my RONR but have not found guidance on this issue.  Thank you in advance for your perspectives.

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Well, if you have redlines, you could move each amendment as, well, an amendment, rather than a revision. Presumably, notice is required, and then amendments would be limited to the scope of notice. That might take some time though.

If you want to move a revision, you can't frame the motion in any particular way to get the result you want, but the assembly can adopt a special rule of order for the session. Ultimately, the assembly is in charge of its proceedings, so the only way to get the outcome you desire is for the assembly to decide on it.

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A couple of observations to head off possible controversy later on:

1).  You wrote: "changes to our bylaws require a 2/3rds majority of those present at the meeting"  Do you mean "a vote of 2/3 of those present and voting" or do you mean "a 2/3 vote of those present" whether the others abstain or not?  The latter is a more difficult threshold to reach,  and if the vote is close, can make a difference.  Your phrasing is a tad ambiguous; my two offerings are straight from RONR page 402 and are clearly defined in the book.

2) As J.K. noted neither you, as moderator, nor the bylaws committee can, on your own, prevent floor amendments; only the membership can, by a 2/3 vote, do so.   Another possibility to consider if it seems that there are indeed going to be, or are, numerous floor amendments, is for someone to move to send the whole mishegas back to the bylaws committee for the committee to review and come back at a later meeting with appropriate adjustments to their original proposals.

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