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Is Parliamentary Inquiry appropriate if someone says something that potentially conflicts with the bylaws?


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If there's a pending motion on the floor, and someone says they plan on doing something that might conflict with the bylaws, is it more appropriate to raise a Parliamentary Inquiry or a Request for Information? Or are both completely appropriate for this?

RONR 12th 33:3 says “A Parliamentary Inquiry is a question directed to the presiding officer to obtain information on a matter of parliamentary law or the rules of the organization bearing on the business at hand.”

I ask this question because whenever I read about Parliamentary Inquiry, they always give examples of someone asking something like "is it in order to move xyz right now?" or some other procedural question answered in Robert's Rules of Order, but they generally don't give an example where someone asks about the organization's bylaws.

Even here for example Robert's Rules for Making a Parliamentary Inquiry - dummies "You may have the sense that something isn’t being done according to Robert’s Rules..." but they don't mention anything about using Parliamentary Inquiry for something that potentially violates the organization's bylaws.

Edited by user
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4 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

A parliamentary inquiry can be used concerning either the rules of order or the bylaws as it relates to the business of the assembly. 

Also to clarify, Parliamentary Inquiry doesn't necessarily need to be a procedural question, it could be any question about the bylaws and how it relates to the business at hand, right?

For example, someone could make a Parliamentary Inquiry saying "A member stated in debate that perhaps we could hold the event in December, but don't the bylaws state that the event must be held in October?"

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57 minutes ago, user said:

For example, someone could make a Parliamentary Inquiry saying "A member stated in debate that perhaps we could hold the event in December, but don't the bylaws state that the event must be held in October?"

I think that question technically would fall under a Request for Information rather than a Parliamentary Inquiry. But ultimately, it matters little (if at all) which label it has. Either way, it's an appropriate question and should be answered.

Edited by Weldon Merritt
Edited to correct a typo.
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15 hours ago, user said:

If there's a pending motion on the floor, and someone says they plan on doing something that might conflict with the bylaws, is it more appropriate to raise a Parliamentary Inquiry or a Request for Information? Or are both completely appropriate for this?

It would be a parliamentary inquiry, but I don't think the chair needs to sweat too much over this distinction.

15 hours ago, user said:

Also to clarify, Parliamentary Inquiry doesn't necessarily need to be a procedural question, it could be any question about the bylaws and how it relates to the business at hand, right?

For example, someone could make a Parliamentary Inquiry saying "A member stated in debate that perhaps we could hold the event in December, but don't the bylaws state that the event must be held in October?"

Yes, I think this is a proper parliamentary inquiry, because the question relates to "the rules of the organization bearing on the business at hand."

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1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

Yes, I think this is a proper parliamentary inquiry, because the question relates to "the rules of the organization bearing on the business at hand."

I see that Mr. Martin and I differ on whether the question at issue properly is a Parliamentary Inquiry or a Request for Information. Bit I believe we are in agreement that the chair needn't "sweat too much over this distinction." 

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On 7/18/2021 at 4:32 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

I think that question technically would fall under a Request for Information rather than a Parliamentary Inquiry. But ultimately, it matters little (if at all) which label it has. Either way, it's an appropriate question and should be answered.

I agree it likely doesn't matter too much. But my question would then be - where do we draw the line between Parliamentary Inquiry and Request for Information?

I understand the previous example wouldn't directly be a violation of the bylaws since the comment was only made in debate. However, if it were a motion that potentially violated the bylaws (which would be out of order, correct?) and I want to ask about it, then that would clearly be on the side of Parliamentary Inquiry?

On 7/19/2021 at 9:22 AM, Daniel H. Honemann said:

How can you know what the correct answer is if you don't know what the pending main motion is about? 

For example, someone tries to make a motion to have an event in December, but I think that might violate the organization's bylaws, then I would raise a Parliamentary Inquiry and ask "doesn't the motion violate the bylaws since it states this event must be held in October?"

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1 hour ago, user said:

For example, someone tries to make a motion to have an event in December, but I think that might violate the organization's bylaws, then I would raise a Parliamentary Inquiry and ask "doesn't the motion violate the bylaws since it states this event must be held in October?"

I think that would more properly be a parliamentary inquiry, but as others have said, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Either way, the answer will be the chairs opinion. If someone actually tries to introduce a motion and a member believes it violates the bylaws, that member should then raise a point of order that the motion violates the bylaws and is out of order. The chairs ruling on that Point of Order can then be appealed to the assembly.

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6 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

If someone is making a motion that would violate the bylaws and the chair doesn't rule it out of order, then the appropriate response is a Point of Order.

Agreed. Though sometimes you're not totally sure if it violates the bylaws or not and would prefer to ask a question about it. Or sometimes you need clarification on how the bylaws pertain to this situation.

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