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Suspending the quorum requirement


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An assembly, a society with an enrolled membership has adopted RONR in its bylaws.  It has not established a quorum in the bylaws. 

At the May regular meeting, with 100% of the members present, a member moves a main motion to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of one-third; nothing else is pending at the time.  The member anticipates that some members have to leave early.  The motion to suspend the rules is adopted by a vote of 67% to 33%.

Later in the meeting 60% of the members have left.  A member raises a point of order that the quorum is no longer present, and does so without interrupting a speaker. 

Was the initial main motion to suspend the rules in order?

Should the point of order be well taken?

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2 hours ago, J. J. said:

An assembly, a society with an enrolled membership has adopted RONR in its bylaws.  It has not established a quorum in the bylaws. 

At the May regular meeting, with 100% of the members present, a member moves a main motion to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of one-third; nothing else is pending at the time.  The member anticipates that some members have to leave early.  The motion to suspend the rules is adopted by a vote of 67% to 33%.

Later in the meeting 60% of the members have left.  A member raises a point of order that the quorum is no longer present, and does so without interrupting a speaker. 

Was the initial main motion to suspend the rules in order?

Yes.

"Rules protecting absentees cannot be suspended, even by unanimous consent or an actual unanimous vote, because the absentees do not consent to such suspension. For example, the rules requiring the presence of a quorum, restricting business transacted at a special meeting to that mentioned in the call of the meeting, and requiring previous notice of a proposed amendment to the bylaws protect absentees, if there are any, and cannot be suspended when any member is absent." RONR (12th ed.) 25:10

We are told in this instance that, at the time the rule was suspended, there were no absentees. The rule in question provides that rules which protect absentees "cannot be suspended when any member is absent," which means that they can be suspended if no members are absent. The rule does not provide that the effect of the suspension continues only for so long as there are no absentees. It only requires that there are no absentees at the time of the suspension.

2 hours ago, J. J. said:

Should the point of order be well taken?

No. The chair should rule the point not well taken noting that, while the member is ordinarily correct that 40% of the members present would not meet the quorum requirement, the assembly had suspended the rules earlier in the meeting to provide for a quorum requirement of 1/3 for the duration of the session, which the assembly had the right to do given that all members of the assembly were present.

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But there were no members absent when the motion was adopted. So it was properly adopted and remains in force until the meeting ends.

If I understand your logic behind saying

5 hours ago, J. J. said:

There are now members absent, that is why I'm asking the question.

Then the suspension would end as soon as any one person leaves the meeting.

It would be absurd to adopt a motion to suspend the rules and decrease quorum decorum if that motion would only be in effect when 100% of the membership is present.

Edited by Atul Kapur
Corrected typo, as indicated.
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2 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

Then the suspension would end as soon as any one person leaves the meeting.

It would be absurd to adopt a motion to suspend the rules and decrease decorum if that motion would only be in effect when 100% of the membership is present.

Well, possibly, but then the assembly would be back to the regular quorum. 

There would not be a violation of the rule suspended until a majority was not there. 

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3 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

It would be absurd to adopt a motion to suspend the rules and decrease decorum if that motion would only be in effect when 100% of the membership is present.

I think you meant "decrease de quorum". 🙂

J. J. raises an interesting question. I don't know the answer, but I don't think it would necessarily be absurd to decrease the quorum only when all members are present, because that would come in handy when the total membership of the assembly somehow becomes less than the quorum specified in the organization's rules.

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5 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

We are told in this instance that, at the time the rule was suspended, there were no absentees. The rule in question provides that rules which protect absentees "cannot be suspended when any member is absent," which means that they can be suspended if no members are absent. The rule does not provide that the effect of the suspension continues only for so long as there are no absentees. It only requires that there are no absentees at the time of the suspension.

I don't think it's clear as all that. Like the man said, "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." 🙂

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5 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

It would be absurd to adopt a motion to suspend the rules and decrease quorum decorum if that motion would only be in effect when 100% of the membership is present.

 

1 hour ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

I think you meant "decrease de quorum". 🙂

J. J. raises an interesting question. I don't know the answer, but I don't think it would necessarily be absurd to decrease the quorum only when all members are present, because that would come in handy when the total membership of the assembly somehow becomes less than the quorum specified in the organization's rules.

Well if the total membership of the assembly is somehow less than the quorum specified in the organization's rules, then how was this motion allowed? I don't think that it could be considered as taking measures to obtain a quorum, as it is a motion to change quorum rather than achieve it.

And if you say that it is in order, then it is actually a motion to suspend the rules and set quorum as 100% of the membership, no matter what it actually says, if the answer to J.J.'s original question is different than what Mr. Martin and I have said.

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1 hour ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

I think you meant "decrease de quorum". 🙂

J. J. raises an interesting question. I don't know the answer, but I don't think it would necessarily be absurd to decrease the quorum only when all members are present, because that would come in handy when the total membership of the assembly somehow becomes less than the quorum specified in the organization's rules.

That was the one possibility that I was looking at, an organization that has dropped below the minimum number of members needed to have a quorum.

In this question, it is a situation where the rule protecting absentees may be suspended at the start of the meeting because there are no absentees.  The meeting would also be quorate at that time, because RONR provides that the quorum is a majority.  A point of order at that point that the meeting lacks a quorum would clearly fail.  It would continue to fail so long as a majority is there. 

Members leave and fewer that half remain.  At that point, there are absentees, obviously.   The meeting no longer meets the RONR requirement.  Now that are absentees, would ruling that the suspension of the rules still applies effect their rights?

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8 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

 

 

And if you say that it is in order, then it is actually a motion to suspend the rules and set quorum as 100% of the membership, no matter what it actually says, if the answer to J.J.'s original question is different than what Mr. Martin and I have said.

This was the point I was trying to make. 

At the time that the rule was suspended, there were no absentee rights violated.  That situation can change while the meeting is in session.  If so, the main motion to suspend the rules would become void.  A point of order that the meeting was without a quorum would not be well taken until the members present dropped below a majority in that case. 

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50 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

Well if the total membership of the assembly is somehow less than the quorum specified in the organization's rules, then how was this motion allowed?

That's a fair point. Obviously, in such a case the rules would have to first be suspended to allow the introduction of this motion. 🙂

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2 hours ago, J. J. said:

Members leave and fewer that half remain.  At that point, there are absentees, obviously.   The meeting no longer meets the RONR requirement.  Now that are absentees, would ruling that the suspension of the rules still applies effect their rights?

 

2 hours ago, J. J. said:

At the time that the rule was suspended, there were no absentee rights violated.  That situation can change while the meeting is in session.  If so, the main motion to suspend the rules would become void.

No. They were present when the decision was made. They heard and were aware that the motion was to be in force until the meeting was adjourned.

The idea that one person's leaving would end the suspension gives, in effect, one person a veto over a decision taken by a 2/3 vote.  That doesn't seem to be an appropriate balance of rights.

 

The effect would be that quorum is one-third of the membership as long as 100% of the membership is present but automatically becomes a majority as soon as one person departs. That sounds pretty dilatory to me as the result is the same whether the motion is adopted or lost: effectively quorum is unchanged.

Except in the one precise collection of facts that Mr. Gerber raises. And, as he responded to my objection,

1 hour ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

That's a fair point.

😀

 

Edited by Atul Kapur
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18 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

 

No. They were present when the decision was made. They heard and were aware that the motion was to be in force until the meeting was adjourned.

The idea that one person's leaving would end the suspension gives, in effect, one person a veto over a decision taken by a 2/3 vote.  That doesn't seem to be an appropriate balance of rights.

 

The effect would be that quorum is one-third of the membership as long as 100% of the membership is present but automatically becomes a majority as soon as one person departs. That sounds pretty dilatory to me as the result is the same whether the motion is adopted or lost: effectively quorum is unchanged.

Except in the one precise collection of facts that Mr. Gerber raises. And, as he responded to my objection,

😀

 

The majority, however, was not present when action was taken.  Any action taken without the majority present would become a 23:6 (e) violation. 

Suspending the rules is this instance could be dilatory, especially if the rule could not be suspended to accomplish the reduction in the quorum. 

As for a motion to suspend a rule being dilatory, but that alone would not create a breach of a continuing nature. 

For example, a main motion "to suspend the rules and permit Dr. Kapur to speak in debate, make motions and vote during this session," would be dilatory if you are a member of the organization.  However, suspending to do that would not cause any action to be null and void. 

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43 minutes ago, J. J. said:

The majority, however, was not present when action was taken.

Yes they were. In fact, every member was present when the action was taken. The action was to suspend the rules and reset quorum for the duration of the meeting.

45 minutes ago, J. J. said:

As for a motion to suspend a rule being dilatory, but that alone would not create a breach of a continuing nature. 
For example, a main motion "to suspend the rules and permit Dr. Kapur to speak in debate, make motions and vote during this session," would be dilatory if you are a member of the organization.

As presiding officer, I would rule that motion not in order because it would be frivolous, similar to the motion in your original post with your interpretation.

 

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I think we are losing sight of JJ’s original hypothetical and his original two questions.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my opinion still remains that the original motion to suspend the rules and set the quorum for the remainder of the meeting at 1/3 of the members was in order and that the subsequent Point of Order raised by a member that a quorum was not present when 60% of the members had departed and 40% remained was not well taken.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

I think we are losing sight of JJ’s original hypothetical and his original two questions.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my opinion still remains that the original motion to suspend the rules and set the quorum for the remainder of the meeting at 1/3 of the members was in order and that the subsequent Point of Order raised by a member that a quorum was not present when 60% of the members had departed and 40% remained was not well taken.

 

 

Dr. Kapur has raised another issue, perhaps inadvertently.  The motion to suspend the rules could be dilatory, though "dilatory" is often in the eye of the beholder. 

Again, the bylaws do not provide for a quorum, and, in this instance, the default rule in RONR is that a majority of the membership is the quorum.

When the main motion to suspend the rules and set the quorum to one third of the membership was adopted, no right of an absentee was violated, no right of any absentee was violated.

When some action is taken with less than a majority of the members present, there are absentees.  That, to me, triggers 26:6 (e) at this point.  The suspension of the rules that lowers the quorum, it permits an action that has been taken in violation of a rule protecting absentees. 

I could give an analogy with as society that has a quorum of less than a majority of the total membership.  Example:  A motion to adopt a special rule of order is made, without notice, when the meeting is quorate and has a majority of the entire membership present.  At some point enough members leave so that there is no longer a majority of the membership present, though a quorum remains.  When that happens, the motion to adopt a special rule becomes out of order, because the body can no longer meet the requirements to adopt it.  At that point, it might become dilatory as well. 

 

Edited by J. J.
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8 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

Yes they were. In fact, every member was present when the action was taken. The action was to suspend the rules and reset quorum for the duration of the meeting.

As presiding officer, I would rule that motion not in order because it would be frivolous, similar to the motion in your original post with your interpretation.

 

No, not every member is present when the action is taken.  Every member is present when the motion to suspend the rules was adopted.  Every member is not present when action is taken while less than a majority is present.  That is the difference. 

You may rule it dilatory, and I would agree, but the majority may decide that the motion to to permit you, a member, to vote, speak and make motions is not dilatory.  If the motion is adopted, however, it would not create a breach of a continuing nature. 

Edited by J. J.
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Well, now that it has been firmly established for the benefit of all PRP's, CPP's, and others who seriously worry about such things, that the assembly of a society with an enrolled membership, that has adopted RONR in its bylaws, and that has not established a quorum for its meetings in its bylaws, can, at one of its regular meetings when 100% of its members are present, validly adopt by a two-thirds vote a main motion (made at a time when nothing else is pending) "to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of one-third", perhaps we can safely conclude this discussion without further ado. 

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42 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Well, now that it has been firmly established for the benefit of all PRP's, CPP's, and others who seriously worry about such things, that the assembly of a society with an enrolled membership, that has adopted RONR in its bylaws, and that has not established a quorum for its meetings in its bylaws, can, at one of its regular meetings when 100% of its members are present, validly adopt by a two-thirds vote a main motion (made at a time when nothing else is pending) "to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of one-third", perhaps we can safely conclude this discussion without further ado. 

I do not believe that this even closed to established.  There is a suggestion that such a motion is dilatory (interestingly, that is a point I did not raise initially).

The question is if the assembly can adopt a motion, and take actions that require the presence of a quorum, while there are absentees and that the established quorum is not present.  :)

 

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18 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I do not believe that this even closed to established.  There is a suggestion that such a motion is dilatory (interestingly, that is a point I did not raise initially).

A suggestion was made that such a motion to suspend the rules would be dilatory if the suspension lasted only until a member departed. This was an argument advanced by Dr. Kapur who is clearly of the opinion that, in the situation as originally described by you, the motion to suspend the rules was validly adopted.

Things getting mixed up like this is one of the reasons why it's time to quit.

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Mr. Honemann has correctly and concisely summarized my position, which was intended to support the answers:

On 11/22/2020 at 10:47 AM, J. J. said:

Was the initial main motion to suspend the rules in order?

Yes

On 11/22/2020 at 10:47 AM, J. J. said:

Should the point of order be well taken?

No.

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4 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Well, now that it has been firmly established for the benefit of all PRP's, CPP's, and others who seriously worry about such things, that the assembly of a society with an enrolled membership, that has adopted RONR in its bylaws, and that has not established a quorum for its meetings in its bylaws, can, at one of its regular meetings when 100% of its members are present, validly adopt by a two-thirds vote a main motion (made at a time when nothing else is pending) "to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of one-third", perhaps we can safely conclude this discussion without further ado. 

Suppose an organization has established a quorum of 15, and there are currently 20 members. At one of its regular meetings at which all 20 members are present, a main motion is made, at a time when nothing else is pending, "to suspend the rules for the remainder of the meeting and establish the quorum of a majority of the entire membership" (i.e., 11).

A number of members make clear that they may have to leave the meeting if it goes for too long, and they are opposed to the motion. The vote on the motion to suspend the rules is 14 in favor, 6 opposed. The chair declares that there are two-thirds favor and the motion is adopted. At some point, the 6 members that were opposed to temporarily reducing the quorum leave the meeting. Don't they (or why don't they) have a valid claim that any business conducted after they've gone was taken in violation of a rule protecting absentees and is null and void?

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2 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

A suggestion was made that such a motion to suspend the rules would be dilatory if the suspension lasted only until a member departed. This was an argument advanced by Dr. Kapur who is clearly of the opinion that, in the situation as originally described by you, the motion to suspend the rules was validly adopted.

Things getting mixed up like this is one of the reasons why it's time to quit.

I don't think you understand.  I was initially not even looking at the possibility that the motion could be dilatory when first introduced.

It, however, could be dilatory if the effects of the motion could not be carried out.  There is not a situation that would occur where the motion could be carried out where there is no absentee. 

For example, a main motion to suspend the rules is adopted at 7:30 AM to permit nonmembers to vote after 3:00 PM.  This would clearly create a situation where, if a nonmember voted, there would be breach of a continuing nature.  However, until the point that a non-member attempts to vote, there is no breach of a continuing nature.  If the assembly adjourns at 12:30 AM there will never be a breach of the rule.

I had a problem with ruling the main motion "to suspend the rules and permit nonmembers to vote after 3:00 PM" out of order on the ground that it creates a breach by letting nonmembers vote, because it does not let nonmembers vote at the time it is being adopted.  At that point, there is no breach; no non member has voted or tried to vote.  However, there is no circumstance where a nonmember could be permitted to vote after 3:00 PM.  The motion could be ruled out of order as dilatory because there is no circumstance where it would not create a breach.

It was Dr. Kapur's reference to the motion possibly being dilatory that make me look at it this way. 

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