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mjhmjh

Constitutional revision committee procedure (new post)

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An organization has made me chair of a committee to propose a revision to their Constitution (they do not have bylaws). The motion was to "create a special committee for constitutional revisions." Per the constitution, the president appointed the committee members and chair. The committee includes myself (not a member), 7 people (most members), and a member ex officio (the president). Consistent with RONR (the chapter on bylaws in particular), I was planning to follow this procedure:

I believe that this committee charge is so broad that it empowers the special committee to recommend any and all constitutional amendments it finds appropriate, or even an entire revised constitution, to the organization. 

In the first meeting, we will discuss changes we would like to see to the constitution. Then, we will create drafting subcommittee(s) to write out the motions we agree upon in the full committee (e.g. "I move that the subcommittee draft an amendment that adds introducing new members to the rules of the organization as a duty of the Secretary."). 

Suppose we receive several constitutional amendments from the subcommittee, and after amending/debating the constitutional amendments, we adopt the constitutional amendments. What would be the procedure for combining them into one revision? Could we refer the constitutional amendments to a subcommittee, instructing the committee to draft a revision based on those amendments, and then adopt the subcommittee's draft revision?

Additionally, does adopting something in the committee automatically make it a part of our report? Or do we have to adopt the report we will deliver to the organization (the report will include the revised constitution or amendments) as a final vote at the end?

 

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I'm chairing a bylaws committee in my organization this fall. I searched for months for information on how to run a bylaws committee, both advisory information and requirements of Robert's Rules, and concluded that there were few strict requirements for how the committee works. The only requirement, the way I interpret things, is that the bylaws committee must eventually adopt a single complete document as its report, which would be the revised bylaws if the will of the committee is to produce a complete revision.

I'm not an experienced parliamentarian (or even an RP), but I'll share how I've been running the committee I chair: We've had several meetings focused on particular topics—for instance, rules for officer elections, membership provisions, and powers of the executive board. These have been informal discussions, and most decisions have been reached by consensus, though I've called a couple of votes on subjects where divisions were intractable. At these meetings, I've focused on practical issues, ranging from broad to minute matters, but omitting anything that I think is simply a technical matter of how to turn a well-defined idea into bylaws language—and the committee has been happy to grant me that discretion at least for now.

In parallel, I've been creating a working draft of the proposed revision, which any member can access and comment on—though I am the only person who can actually edit the draft (since I want to avoid the problem of too many cooks stirring the pot, which is the reason why our current bylaws are such a mess in the first place). I've been updating it in accordance with the consensus reached by the committee, filling in gaps according to my judgment of what best reflects the committee's will. After we finish the subject-matter meetings, I'll finish the first draft, then bring it to the committee for an informal discussion. If changes are suggested, I'll incorporate them into the second draft, which I will bring to the next committee meeting for a formal vote after possible amendments. Once we vote to report the revision, I'll give notice to the full membership at a general meeting (as our current bylaws require) and move adoption at the following meeting.

This is an organization that meets frequently, but is generally uninterested in parliamentary and organizational matters—though my committee has benefited from a variety of active contributors from various factions of the organization. You'll have to run your committee a little differently depending on the structure and dynamics of your organization. I don't claim that my method is perfect, or even good—it's just how I've been doing things, both in terms of my plans and the direction the committee has chosen for itself.

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A couple of other points: First, I'm writing the revision entirely from scratch—everyone agrees that our current bylaws need to be burned to the ground and rewritten. So it's not a series of amendments to the bylaws, just a whole new proposed set of bylaws. Second, it sounds like your committee has several members interested in the finer points of drafting. I'm probably the member of my organization who is the most obsessed, for lack of a better word, with rules, so the committee accepted my suggestion that I be the sole drafter in response to the agreements and discussions of the committee. In your organization, it might make more sense to involve all of your committee members in drafting, as you propose.

Edited by Alex M.
Clarify the nature of the revision

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2 hours ago, mjhmjh said:

I believe that this committee charge is so broad that it empowers the special committee to recommend any and all constitutional amendments it finds appropriate, or even an entire revised constitution, to the organization.

I agree.

2 hours ago, mjhmjh said:

Suppose we receive several constitutional amendments from the subcommittee, and after amending/debating the constitutional amendments, we adopt the constitutional amendments. What would be the procedure for combining them into one revision? Could we refer the constitutional amendments to a subcommittee, instructing the committee to draft a revision based on those amendments, and then adopt the subcommittee's draft revision?

Such procedures are at the committee’s discretion. The procedure you propose is certainly one option.

2 hours ago, mjhmjh said:

Additionally, does adopting something in the committee automatically make it a part of our report? Or do we have to adopt the report we will deliver to the organization (the report will include the revised constitution or amendments) as a final vote at the end?

The latter. Indeed, the final adoption of the report is the part that really matters. How the committee goes about drafting the report, or components of it, is at the committee’s discretion.

Edited by Josh Martin

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