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Alex M.

Divisibility of multiple related amendments

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RONR says "sometimes a series of independent resolutions or main motions dealing with different subjects is offered in one motion. In such a case, one or more of the several resolutions must receive separate consideration and vote at the request of a single member...." RONR (11th ed.), p. 274, ll. 32–36. "Similarly, a series of amendments to a main motion (or conceivably to a primary amendment such as a substitute) may be offered in one motion. Unless these amendments meet the standard for conforming amendments given on pages 273–74, any member may demand a separate vote on one or more of them." p. 275, ll. 7–12.

However, "a motion cannot be divided unless each part presents a proper question for the assembly to act upon if none of the other parts is adopted, and unless the effect of adopting all of the parts will be exactly the same—no more, no less—as adoption of the compound mean question." p. 272, ll. 19–24.

Suppose a member wishes to eliminate the office of Financial Secretary from the bylaws, transferring some duties to the existing office of Recording Secretary and some to the existing office of Treasurer. The member offers a series of bylaws amendments, one to strike "Financial Secretary" from the list of officers, and the others to strike "Financial Secretary" from each place it appears and insert "Recording Secretary" or "Treasurer" as appropriate.

Clearly each of these are separate amendments in the parliamentary sense, but they depend on one another such that the whole is not the sum of its parts (e.g., adopting only the first amendment but not the others would leave a reference to a nonexistent office in the bylaws). However, the standard for conforming amendments appears narrow enough that these amendments would not meet it. It is also conceivable that a member would want to move some of the reassigned duties between the Recording Secretary and the Treasurer, which I presume would be easier if one of the latter amendments gets a separate vote.

In light of this, is it in order to offer the series of amendments given above with a single enacting motion? If so, is that motion divisible on demand, divisible by majority vote, indivisible, or a combination?

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Consider moving it as a Substitute of the bylaws article on Officers. Substitute enough of the article to cover the three positions.  That is, if the three positions are Sections 4, 6, and 9 of the article, then move a substitute of Sections 4-9. The other changes, from "Financial Secretary" to one of the two remaining officers, can likely be considered to be conforming amendments (RONR 11th ed., pages 273-4).

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On 2/11/2020 at 10:24 PM, Alex M. said:

they depend on one another such that the whole is not the sum of its parts (e.g., adopting only the first amendment but not the others would leave a reference to a nonexistent office in the bylaws

I agree that adopting only one of the amendments without the others would leave an incoherent set of bylaws, but that doesn't mean the whole is not the sum of its parts; it means one part is not the sum of the parts. 🙂

On 2/11/2020 at 10:24 PM, Alex M. said:

the standard for conforming amendments appears narrow enough that these amendments would not meet it

I'm curious as to why you think that. In any event, keep in mind that a motion to amend bylaws is a main motion. Therefore, a series of bylaw amendments on the same subject, even if it is possible to adopt some without adopting all, would not be divisible upon the demand of a single member but would be divisible by majority vote.

On 2/11/2020 at 10:24 PM, Alex M. said:

is it in order to offer the series of amendments given above with a single enacting motion? If so, is that motion divisible on demand, divisible by majority vote, indivisible, or a combination?

Yes, and that motion would be indivisible, because adopting some without the others would leave the bylaws in an incoherent state. If a member wishes to distribute the duties of the eliminated office in some other way, the correct procedure would be to offer an amendment to the motion to amend the bylaws, probably in the form of a substitute proposing a different set of amendments.

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