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Committee Report Before Deadline


Weldon Merritt
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Suppose a special committee is created for a specified task, and ordered to present its report at a specific meeting. (Not by the specified meeting, but at the specified meeting.) Then the committee finishes its assigned task early and would like to report at an earlier meeting. May the committee simply notify the chair that it is ready to report, and be allowed to do so without further action by the assembly, or must the assembly first amend the motion creating the committee to specify the earlier reporting date? And if the latter, may the motion to amend be adopted and and the committee report given at the same meeting, or must the motion to amend be adopted at one meeting and the report be given at a later meeting?

On the one hand, it seems like the committee should be able to report earlier than specified. But on the other hand, maybe the fact that the committee was ordered to report at a specified meeting (instead of by that meeting) creates an expectation that any assembly members who are interested in the report need not attend earlier meetings, so that presenting the report earlier might potentially violate absentee rights.

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On 12/10/2021 at 5:46 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

May the committee simply notify the chair that it is ready to report, and be allowed to do so without further action by the assembly...

No.  Neither the committee nor the chair of the parent body has the authority to circumvent the parent body's instruction.

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On 12/10/2021 at 8:00 PM, Rob Elsman said:

No.  Neither the committee nor the chair of the parent body has the authority to circumvent the parent body's instruction.

OK; I'll buy that. (It's pretty much what I was thinking anyway.) But what about my other question? I assume the assembly could amend the original motion to allow the committee to report earlier. But could the earlier reporting date be set for the same meeting at which the amendment is adopted? Or would that violate the rights of absentees who were not expecting the committee to report until later?  

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On 12/10/2021 at 5:46 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

or must the assembly first amend the motion creating the committee to specify the earlier reporting date? And if the latter, may the motion to amend be adopted and and the committee report given at the same meeting, or must the motion to amend be adopted at one meeting and the report be given at a later meeting?

I think the proper motion is Discharge a Committee; however, how the committee's report is presented and its recommendations considered is in doubt in my mind, unless the parent body orders the report to be presented by general agreement.

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On 12/10/2021 at 10:16 PM, Rob Elsman said:

If the referral was made by means of the subsidiary motion, Commit, I do not understand how you think it could be amended if the window for reconsideration has expired.

By the use of the motion to Discharge, of course. (§36)  Or by a motion to further instruct the committee [13:22].

Edited by Gary Novosielski
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On 12/10/2021 at 6:46 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

Suppose a special committee is created for a specified task, and ordered to present its report at a specific meeting. (Not by the specified meeting, but at the specified meeting.) Then the committee finishes its assigned task early and would like to report at an earlier meeting. May the committee simply notify the chair that it is ready to report, and be allowed to do so without further action by the assembly, or must the assembly first amend the motion creating the committee to specify the earlier reporting date? And if the latter, may the motion to amend be adopted and and the committee report given at the same meeting, or must the motion to amend be adopted at one meeting and the report be given at a later meeting?

On the one hand, it seems like the committee should be able to report earlier than specified. But on the other hand, maybe the fact that the committee was ordered to report at a specified meeting (instead of by that meeting) creates an expectation that any assembly members who are interested in the report need not attend earlier meetings, so that presenting the report earlier might potentially violate absentee rights.

First, it sounds that, if this committee is mandated not to report beyond the end of the next session, the assembly has created a special rule, effectively.   It effectively prevents the motion from being considered for a few sessions.   It would be required the vote needed to repeal a special rule.

Note, however, that the motion to prevent something from being brought up for several sessions would require a 2/3 vote with notice or a majority of the entire membership. 

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If I were the presiding officer I would be extremely reluctant to allow any motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted or a motion to Discharge a Committee because important members may be absent and expecting to attend the meeting in question. Perhaps the assembly can receive the report and out of deference then postpone the motion to the next meeting. In this fashion no damage has been done.  However, if the motion is received early and action is taken, the absent members may not have an opportunity to make a positive contribution.

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On 12/10/2021 at 6:46 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

Suppose a special committee is created for a specified task, and ordered to present its report at a specific meeting. (Not by the specified meeting, but at the specified meeting.) Then the committee finishes its assigned task early and would like to report at an earlier meeting. May the committee simply notify the chair that it is ready to report, and be allowed to do so without further action by the assembly, or must the assembly first amend the motion creating the committee to specify the earlier reporting date? And if the latter, may the motion to amend be adopted and and the committee report given at the same meeting, or must the motion to amend be adopted at one meeting and the report be given at a later meeting?

On the one hand, it seems like the committee should be able to report earlier than specified. But on the other hand, maybe the fact that the committee was ordered to report at a specified meeting (instead of by that meeting) creates an expectation that any assembly members who are interested in the report need not attend earlier meetings, so that presenting the report earlier might potentially violate absentee rights.

If the assembly wishes to receive the committee's report during its present session, it may adopt a motion instructing the committee to report. Since this motion changes the previously specified reporting time, the vote required for its adoption will be the same as that required for the adoption of a motion to Discharge a Committee (RONR, 12th ed., 36:7).  This does not violate the rights of absentees because no previous notice is required for the adoption of such a motion. If such notice has been given, only a majority vote will be required for adoption.

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On 12/11/2021 at 7:04 AM, Dan Honemann said:

 

If the assembly wishes to receive the committee's report during its present session, it may adopt a motion instructing the committee to report. Since this motion changes the previously specified reporting time, the vote required for its adoption will be the same as that required for the adoption of a motion to Discharge a Committee (RONR, 12th ed., 36:7).  This does not violate the rights of absentees because no previous notice is required for the adoption of such a motion. If such notice has been given, only a majority vote will be required for adoption.

My problem is that the motion to commit itself ties the hands of future sessions, potentially (8:12).  

To give a solid example.  The assembly meets monthly.  In January, the committee is tasked with considering X, and ordered "not to report back until July."  That would effectively prevent the majority from considering X at the February through June meetings.  

For me, the motion to commit that ordered the committee "not to report back until July," could only be adopted by the vote needed adopt a special rule (and is, in fact, a special rule).  If adopted by that vote. the committee could not be discharged of considering X until July, unless the rule was rescinded. 

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On 12/11/2021 at 8:23 AM, J. J. said:

My problem is that the motion to commit itself ties the hands of future sessions, potentially (8:12).  

To give a solid example.  The assembly meets monthly.  In January, the committee is tasked with considering X, and ordered "not to report back until July."  That would effectively prevent the majority from considering X at the February through June meetings.  

For me, the motion to commit that ordered the committee "not to report back until July," could only be adopted by the vote needed adopt a special rule (and is, in fact, a special rule).  If adopted by that vote. the committee could not be discharged of considering X until July, unless the rule was rescinded. 

But 8:11 specifically notes that the general rule to which it refers exists only in qualified form with respect to committee referrals, citing 36:4(7).  I see no material difference between an instruction to a committee to report at the July meeting and an instruction not to report until the July meeting, but even if there is it doesn't matter. The rule remains the same. A committee may be given instructions, by majority vote, as to when it is to report (13:8(d), 13:22).

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On 12/11/2021 at 9:02 AM, Dan Honemann said:

But 8:11 specifically notes that the general rule to which it refers exists only in qualified form with respect to committee referrals, citing 36:4(7).  I see no material difference between an instruction to a committee to report at the July meeting and an instruction not to report until the July meeting, but even if there is it doesn't matter. The rule remains the same. A committee may be given instructions, by majority vote, as to when it is to report (13:8(d), 13:22).

I see a very material difference.

A motion to instruct a committee to report back by July places a limit on the committee, not the members at regular meetings held in February through June.

The motion to commit that prohibits consideration until July, places limits on not merely the committee, but the assembly at regular meetings held in February through June.  It is saying that the motion remains under the control of the committee, and beyond the control of the majority, until July.

Such a motion could be adopted as a special rule, e.g.  "X shall be sent to a committee and shall not be considered until July of 20xx."  If such a rule were properly adopted, it would require a 2/3 vote with notice or a majority of the entire membership to reach X.

I would probably rule the motion to commit until July out of order on the ground that it tied the hands of future meetings without being a special rule.  Unless the assembly initially adopted the motion to commit by the vote needed to adopt a special rule, the motion would be subject to a Point of Order at any meeting between February and June, inclusive.  Discharge a Committee would be unneeded.

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On 12/11/2021 at 9:35 AM, J. J. said:

I see a very material difference.

A motion to instruct a committee to report back by July places a limit on the committee, not the members at regular meetings held in February through June.

I agree that there is a material difference between these two instructions.  I said that I can see no material difference between an instruction to a committee to report at the July meeting and an instruction not to report until the July meeting, but this is all beside the point.

On 12/11/2021 at 9:35 AM, J. J. said:

The motion to commit that prohibits consideration until July, places limits on not merely the committee, but the assembly at regular meetings held in February through June.  It is saying that the motion remains under the control of the committee, and beyond the control of the majority, until July.

Well, an instruction to a committee not to report back until July doesn't prohibit consideration by the assembly before that time, and, as previously noted, its adoption by majority vote is entirely in accord with the rules in RONR (8:11, 36:4(7), 13:8(d), and 13:22).

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On 12/11/2021 at 10:27 AM, Dan Honemann said:

 

 

Well, an instruction to a committee not to report back until July doesn't prohibit consideration by the assembly before that time, and, as previously noted, its adoption by majority vote is entirely in accord with the rules in RONR (8:11, 36:4(7), 13:8(d), and 13:22).

This is where I disagree.  A motion constructed this way would put X beyond the hands of the assembly until July.

The motion to commit, in this form, is tantamount to the assembly adopting a motion in January, "That the assembly will not consider X until July."  Such a motion could be adopted as a special rule, but would create an absentee right.  If adopted as a plain vanilla main motion, by a vote below the threshold vote to adopt a special rule, it would be void.  I see no difference between this and even an unintentional attempt to circumvent this by using commit.

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For whatever it is worth, the motion was not the subsidiary motion to commit, but a main motion for the committee to consider a particular matter and make a recommendation. And the instruction was "to report at the February meeting." (I don't think either fact will change the answers that have been given, but I just want to make the situation clear in case anyone is unclear.)

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On 12/11/2021 at 10:39 AM, J. J. said:

This is where I disagree.  A motion constructed this way would put X beyond the hands of the assembly until July.

When you refer to a motion "constructed this way" I assume you are referring to one such as the one you posited when you said "In January, the committee is tasked with considering X, and ordered "not to report back until July." Such a motion obviously does not put X beyond the hands of the assembly until July. This is exactly what the rules in Section 36 keep from happening, and as noted in 36:7, the committee may be instructed to report at a time prior to the time when it was previously instructed to report. 

 

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On 12/11/2021 at 11:16 AM, Weldon Merritt said:

For whatever it is worth, the motion was not the subsidiary motion to commit, but a main motion for the committee to consider a particular matter and make a recommendation. And the instruction was "to report at the February meeting." (I don't think either fact will change the answers that have been given, but I just want to make the situation clear in case anyone is unclear.)

No, none of this makes any difference. My initial response was framed to apply regardless of whether the referral was effected by the adoption of a main motion or a subsidiary motion, and certainly with the understanding that the instruction was to report at the specified meeting, which I understood to be a meeting which was sometime after the next regular meeting. 

Edited by Dan Honemann
Modified the last portion of the final sentence to be a bit more accurate.
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On 12/11/2021 at 11:27 AM, Dan Honemann said:

When you refer to a motion "constructed this way" I assume you are referring to one such as the one you posited when you said "In January, the committee is tasked with considering X, and ordered "not to report back until July." Such a motion obviously does not put X beyond the hands of the assembly until July. This is exactly what the rules in Section 36 keep from happening, and as noted in 36:7, the committee may be instructed to report at a time prior to the time when it was previously instructed to report. 

 

This is not something envisioned in Section 36, so how is that applicable?

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On 12/11/2021 at 10:33 AM, Dan Honemann said:

My initial response was framed to apply regardless of whether the referral was effected by the adoption of a main motion or a subsidiary motion, and certainly with the understanding that the instruction was to report at the specified meeting, which I understood to be a meeting which was sometime after the next regular meeting. 

Thank you, sir.  I have learned something new.  And thank you, Mr. Merritt, for bring up this interesting subject, which had never before occurred to me.

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On 12/11/2021 at 1:44 PM, Dan Honemann said:

Well, I guess it isn't if it's something you've dreamed up instead of a motion to refer something to a committee and instruct it when it is to report.  🙂

As this is a nonstandard motion, I cannot find the equivalence that you can.

 

On 12/10/2021 at 6:46 PM, Weldon Merritt said:

But on the other hand, maybe the fact that the committee was ordered to report at a specified meeting (instead of by that meeting) creates an expectation that any assembly members who are interested in the report need not attend earlier meetings, so that presenting the report earlier might potentially violate absentee rights.

This initial comment illustrates the difference.

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