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Is The Question of Bylaws Interpretation Germane to the Special Meeting


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8 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

I do not agree that the motion "would be binding just as would any motion until rescinded or amended by the assembly." A motion of this nature is not binding upon the chairman. If the assembly adopts a motion of this nature, the chairman is nonetheless free to act contrary to this motion, even if a situation immediately arises which is identical to the situation contemplated in the motion. This doesn't seem particularly wise on the chairman's part, as it would seem likely that his ruling will be promptly overturned on appeal, but I think he is nonetheless free to do so.

This is why I refer to this motion as "advisory."

I tend to agree, but, in theory, so would precedent established by a point of order.  I might call it "situational," "non-binding," or "precedential in nature," but I believe we are on the same page.

A motion that the assembly wishes to consider cannot possibly "obstruct or thwart the will of the assembly as clearly indicated in the existing parliamentary situation (31.10)."  I would add that the assembly's wishes might change a millisecond later. 

 

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18 hours ago, J. J. said:

It gets very close to a paradox.  The assembly, by a main motion can, at that point in time, determine what a bylaw means.  That would not prevent the assembly, at a future meeting from deciding that the bylaws mean something else.

 

A good reason, I would think, for insisting that the act of bylaw interpretation be done with reference to an actual, so to speak, case or controversy.

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21 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

No, it would not at all be in the nature of a bylaw amendment. It would simply be the assembly’s interpretation of what a bylaw provision means as of the date of adoption of the motion, much like a ruling or appeal on a Point of Order.
 

Some of us disagree as to just how binding it is or for how long. I think it would be binding just as would any motion until rescinded or amended by the assembly. However, unlike amending a bylaw, which usually requires previous notice and a 2/3 vote, the motion interpreting the bylaws can be amended without notice by 2/3 vote and by a majority vote if notice is given. Therefore, it’s not even close to being in the nature of a bylaw amendment. It is no more a bylaw amendment then would be a Point of Order and an appeal.

I don't think it would be binding at all, because the bylaws are always superior to ordinary main motions.  Therefore, the bylaws in their ambiguous glory, would supersede the "interpretive" motion, not matter how clear and explicit.  Depending on the facts, it's possible that an interpretive motion could be out of order, and create a continuing breach if adopted, if its interpretation was found to conflict with the bylaws, as those who disagreed with the motion would surely charge were it to be adopted. Even adopting it as a Special Rule of Order would not cure this breach.

Any of these situations would quickly prompt a Point of Order, possibly followed by an Appeal, and we're right back to square one, where only that process can decide a question of interpretation.  For that reason, I agree with D.H. that the motion would be dilatory.

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On 9/22/2020 at 9:08 AM, Daniel H. Honemann said:
On 9/21/2020 at 3:59 PM, Nicole Allmon-Learson said:

However, if a member did not raise a POO but simply moved to interpret that section of the bylaws as meaning (whatever their interpretation) and it's seconded by another member, would that motion be in order at this special meeting, thereby allowing the membership to address it rather than the presiding officer?

No, such a motion is dilatory. It accomplishes nothing and is a waste of the assembly's time. It will not remove any ambiguity (the only way to do this is to amend the bylaws) and it will not decide anything at all. 

When and if, during a meeting, a question actually arises concerning the eligibility of a person to vote, the question arising in this specific instance will be decided by, and in accordance with, the Point of Order and Appeal process described in Sections 23 and 24 of RONR, and this will be the case regardless of whether or not a motion such as the one described has been previously adopted. This Point of Order and Appeal process will decide the question that arose in this particular instance (unless reversed on reconsideration).

I will venture to add that the assembly could adopt a motion instructing the tellers (or the secretary, treasurer, or whoever is in charge of making sure that only the eligible members are able to vote) how to conduct the election. Any member who believes that those instructions are in conflict with the bylaws could raise a point of order against the adoption of the motion, and this would also be a question actually arising from the business of the assembly. The question doesn't have to wait until the voting begins.

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On 9/23/2020 at 8:16 PM, Joshua Katz said:

A good reason, I would think, for insisting that the act of bylaw interpretation be done with reference to an actual, so to speak, case or controversy.

I would serve as guidance to the chair on how to rule, much like a precedent would.  Keep in mind, however, that a precedent can be overturning in the same way and can create the same "paradox."

The question is not "Is this a particularly good way to do it," but could the assembly do it this way.  I agree with those who say that that it is a much better method to amend the bylaws to eliminate the ambiguity.

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On 9/23/2020 at 8:16 PM, Joshua Katz said:

A good reason, I would think, for insisting that the act of bylaw interpretation be done with reference to an actual, so to speak, case or controversy.

 

1 hour ago, J. J. said:

It would serve as guidance to the chair on how to rule, much like a precedent would. 

That's not necessarily the case. As I said way back on Page 1 of this thread, the theoretical interpetation may not apply to the facts surrounding the point of order. We won't know until that situation occurs and the point of order is made. 

Which is why this theoretical discussion is best conducted in a philosophy webinar and not in a deliberative assembly. 

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1 hour ago, Atul Kapur said:

 

That's not necessarily the case. As I said way back on Page 1 of this thread, the theoretical interpetation may not apply to the facts surrounding the point of order. We won't know until that situation occurs and the point of order is made. 

Which is why this theoretical discussion is best conducted in a philosophy webinar and not in a deliberative assembly. 

You still could have the same thing with precedent.  You can also have precedent that might be dissimilar enough to the current parliamentary situation not to be valid, or at of questionable applicability.

I think everyone agrees that it is far better to amend the bylaw to make them unambitious.  I've said, in reference to the 11th edition, 'RONR sagaciously recommends that, 'The ambiguous or doubtful expression should be amended as soon as practicable.'”  Neither a point or order, appeal, or a main motion will permanently clear up the situation. 

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1 hour ago, J. J. said:

You still could have the same thing with precedent.  You can also have precedent that might be dissimilar enough to the current parliamentary situation not to be valid, or at of questionable applicability.

We're repeating ourselves. The difference is whether the interpretation is applied to one particular set of facts during a point of order or no set of facts during consideration of a motion on interpretation. It's why I've said what I did earlier and why I agree that such a motion is dilatory.

During the next point of order, the decision to be made is whether the set of facts now is similar enough to the set of facts during the precedent ruling that the precedent is applicable. The theoretical motion is not nearly as helpful to the presiding officer or the assembly, the arguments are going to be the same whether it was considered or not.

1 hour ago, J. J. said:

I think everyone agrees that it is far better to amend the bylaw to make them unambitious.

The level of ambition of the bylaws is not germane to this discussion. 😀

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On 9/25/2020 at 2:42 PM, Atul Kapur said:

We're repeating ourselves. The difference is whether the interpretation is applied to one particular set of facts during a point of order or no set of facts during consideration of a motion on interpretation. It's why I've said what I did earlier and why I agree that such a motion is dilatory.

During the next point of order, the decision to be made is whether the set of facts now is similar enough to the set of facts during the precedent ruling that the precedent is applicable. The theoretical motion is not nearly as helpful to the presiding officer or the assembly, the arguments are going to be the same whether it was considered or not.

 

I should correct my post, but I won't.  :)

There is a set of facts, as much as there would be in the ruling of a point of order.  A motion "That the bylaws be interpreted  to mean X," is effectively the same as a point of order that the bylaws do not mean X.  Neither would be binding on the majority at a future point on time. The chair may (and I would say "should") rule that way, but even the barest majority may override that, whether that interpretation is made by motion or by a point of order. 

Edited by J. J.
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J.J.'s repeated insistence that the vote on a motion that an ambiguous provision in the bylaws should be interpreted in a certain way will establish a precedent having the same or similar effect as a precedent created by a ruling on a point of order (RONR, 12th ed., 23:10-11) is interesting but irrelevant. 

The fact remains that such a motion is dilatory because, unlike a ruling on a point of order, it decides nothing and is a waste of the assembly's time. In this respect, it is somewhat similar to a motion to take a straw poll.  Although the result of such a poll may indicate the assembly's view on how a certain question should be decided, such a motion is out of order because it is dilatory. It is essentially meaningless, decides nothing, and is a waste of the assembly's time.  (RONR, 12th ed., 45:72)

Mr. Novosielski is right when he says that the bylaws, in their ambiguous glory, will supersede the "interpretive" motion, no matter how clear and explicit it may be.  The same is true with respect to a ruling on a point of order, but at least the ruling on a point of order decides the question in the particular case in which it is rendered.

 

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