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Impossibly High Threshold

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The pg. 297 citation Mr. Elsman is speaking of refers to a situation in which the main motion may be adopted by a lower voting threshold, but since the amendment is beyond the scope of the notice, it raises the threshold to a majority of the entire membership.

As I understand it, Mr. Elsman is arguing that the same principle as in the pg. 297 citation would apply to the making of a main motion which required a vote of a majority of the entire membership.

I find the citation interesting but the "at the time the vote is taken" language puzzles me.

You understand correctly, Mr. Martin.

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I think if it were actually out of order to introduce such a motion there would be an explicit rule in RONR that covers it. And there is not. The familiar mantra of this forum--"No rule in RONR prohibits it"--certainly applies to this case.

The rule on page 297 is unpersuasive. It is offered as an aside to another rule, refers only to the motion to Amend, only in the case where the scope of notice is exceeded, and only where such notice is required in the first place. Furthermore, it explicitly considers only the number of members present "at the time the vote is taken". It's hard to imagine support more tenuous than that.

As I see it, the principle of Quorum is the overarching rule that relates the number of people present to admissibility of business. If a quorum is present, and no business is on the floor, the introduction of a new main motion is then in order, and the vote threshold required by that motion is irrelevant to its admissibility. The presence of a quorum permits the introduction, debate, and voting on any main motion.

Of course if a motion requires the assent of a majority of the membership, and fewer than that number are present, it is impossible for the motion to pass, but as others have noted, passing and failing are not the only two fates the motion might meet. The motion might be postponed, it might be committed, in fact it's probably possible (mirroring the p. 297 situation) to concoct a scenario where the motion could be amended sufficiently that it would then require a lower vote threshold.

But none of that can happen if the motion can't be introduced or debated. The parliamentary situation is such that a vote at that time would certainly kill the motion. But that wouldn't make a vote improper either. It simply becomes one more way of killing the motion. Supporters of the motion would be seeking ways to delay the vote until a majority of the membership is present, or until the context changes sufficiently that a lower threshold applies.

None of this suggests that it would be absurd to move or to debate the merits of the question, merely that its adoption, if any, would have to wait. It would be particularly poor strategy for supporters of the measure to move the Previous Question . But it would certainly be rational for opponents to do so.

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I think if it were actually out of order to introduce such a motion there would be an explicit rule in RONR that covers it. And there is not. The familiar mantra of this forum--"No rule in RONR prohibits it"--certainly applies to this case.

The rule on page 297 is unpersuasive. It is offered as an aside to another rule, refers only to the motion to Amend, only in the case where the scope of notice is exceeded, and only where such notice is required in the first place. Furthermore, it explicitly considers only the number of members present "at the time the vote is taken". It's hard to imagine support more tenuous than that.

As I see it, the principle of Quorum is the overarching rule that relates the number of people present to admissibility of business. If a quorum is present, and no business is on the floor, the introduction of a new main motion is then in order, and the vote threshold required by that motion is irrelevant to its admissibility. The presence of a quorum permits the introduction, debate, and voting on any main motion.

Of course if a motion requires the assent of a majority of the membership, and fewer than that number are present, it is impossible for the motion to pass, but as others have noted, passing and failing are not the only two fates the motion might meet. The motion might be postponed, it might be committed, in fact it's probably possible (mirroring the p. 297 situation) to concoct a scenario where the motion could be amended sufficiently that it would then require a lower vote threshold.

But none of that can happen if the motion can't be introduced or debated. The parliamentary situation is such that a vote at that time would certainly kill the motion. But that wouldn't make a vote improper either. It simply becomes one more way of killing the motion. Supporters of the motion would be seeking ways to delay the vote until a majority of the membership is present, or until the context changes sufficiently that a lower threshold applies.

None of this suggests that it would be absurd to move or to debate the merits of the question, merely that its adoption, if any, would have to wait. It would be particularly poor strategy for supporters of the measure to move the Previous Question . But it would certainly be rational for opponents to do so.

Referral or postponement certainly can.

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The single reference in RONR to notice that has been given but was not required also implies that there is at least one sort of motion whose introduction is out of order if a majority of the entire membership is not present—and does so without using the puzzling phrase “at the time the vote is taken”:

“If [the bylaws] do not [require previous notice] but notice has been given and a majority of the entire membership is not present, no amendment to a bylaw amendment is in order that increases the modification of the article or provision to be amended” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 576, l. 23-27).

Although the parliamentary situation at issue is unusual, the language quoted is unambiguous.

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“If [the bylaws] do not [require previous notice] but notice has been given and a majority of the entire membership is not present, no amendment to a bylaw amendment is in order that increases the modification of the article or provision to be amended” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 576, l. 23-27).

Although the parliamentary situation at issue is unusual, the language quoted is unambiguous.

Thanks. Now that the language has been cleared up, I do find Mr. Elsman's argument persuasive.

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Thanks. Now that the language has been cleared up, I do find Mr. Elsman's argument persuasive.

I think it's completely persuasive when applied as stated. But the parliamentary situation remains unusual, and the language remains tightly applicable only that situation, which is the motion to Amend Bylaws when, by exceeding scope of notice, the amendment would jack the required approval level up above the number present.

Its applicability to a new main motion is still not evident to me. But I'll survive.:)

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I think it's completely persuasive when applied as stated. But the parliamentary situation remains unusual, and the language remains tightly applicable only that situation, which is the motion to Amend Bylaws when, by exceeding scope of notice, the amendment would jack the required approval level up above the number present.

Its applicability to a new main motion is still not evident to me. But I'll survive.:)

You make a remarkably persuasive argument. My main objection to it is that I just don't much like the idea. :)

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The single reference in RONR to notice that has been given but was not required also implies that there is at least one sort of motion whose introduction is out of order if a majority of the entire membership is not present—and does so without using the puzzling phrase “at the time the vote is taken”:

“If [the bylaws] do not [require previous notice] but notice has been given and a majority of the entire membership is not present, no amendment to a bylaw amendment is in order that increases the modification of the article or provision to be amended” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 576, l. 23-27).

Although the parliamentary situation at issue is unusual, the language quoted is unambiguous.

No! - The introduction of the proposed bylaw amendment is not the thing being referred to in page 576!

Beware, Patrick W, that the cited text of page 576 refers to FIRST DEGREE and SECOND DEGREE AMENDMENTS to a proposed bylaw amendment.

Page 576 is not referring to the bylaw proposal itself.

Amending a Proposed Amendment to the Bylaws

While amendments to a proposed bylaw amendment

can be made in both the first and the second degrees (as ap-

plicable) and can be adopted by a majority vote without no-

tice, they are subject to restrictions on the extent of the

changes they propose.

If the bylaws require previous notice for their amend-

ment (as they should), or if they do not but notice has been

given and a majority of the entire membership is not pres-

ent, no amendment to a bylaw amendment is in order that

increases the modification of the article or provision to be

amended (see Standard Characteristic 6, p. 295). This re-

striction prevents members from proposing a slight change

and then taking advantage of absent members by moving a

greater one as an amendment to the amendment. Thus, if

the bylaws place the annual dues of members at $10 and an

amendment is pending to strike out 10 and insert 25, an

amendment to change the 25 to any number between 10

and 25 would be in order, but an amendment to change the

number to less than 10 or greater than 25 would be out of

order, even with unanimous consent. Had notice been given

that it was proposed to increase the dues to more than $25

or to reduce them below $10, members who opposed such

a change might have attended the meeting to vote against

the amendment. The same principle applies to an amend-

ment in the nature of a substitute for sections or articles

(short of a revision), as already indicated above; the pro-

posed substitute is open to amendments that diminish the

amount of change, but not to amendments that increase it

or that introduce new changes. Thus, if an amendment is

pending to substitute a new rule for one that prescribes the

initiation fee and the annual dues, and the substitute pro-

poses to alter the initiation fee but does not propose any

change in the annual dues, then an amendment which rec-

ommends changing the annual dues would be out of order.

See?

Keyword = "... no amendment to a bylaw amendment ..."

That's the subsidiary motion, as applied to the main motion.

Thus, the introduction of the proposed bylaw amendment is still in order, despite the number of members being less than "a majority of the entire membership", at the time of introduction of the proposed bylaw amendment.

The limits of page 576 refers to the subsidiary motion "To Amend".

The limits of page 576 does not refer to the bylaw proposal itself. (i.e., the main motion.)

And, by the way, if the limit is not exceeded (i.e., if the subsidiary amendment is within scope), then it is in order.

So if the subsidiary amendments are within scope, then the number of members who are present is a non-issue, as there is no voting, yet, on the main motion.

See? - Page 576 confirms that a mere majority vote is sufficient to adopt subsidiary amendments which are within scope.

To repeat paragraph #1 of page 576:

While amendments to a proposed bylaw amendment can be made in both the first and the second degrees (as applicable) and can be adopted by a majority vote without notice, they are subject to restrictions on the extent of the changes they propose.

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The sort of motion I have in mind is indeed a subsidiary motion to amend a bylaw amendment (in the particular circumstances described). Given the passage quoted (p. 576), the making of such a motion is out of order unless a majority of the entire membership is present.

Whether the making of an original or incidental main motion is ever out of order because too few members are present is evidently harder to document.

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I'm afraid that position is going to be difficult to reconcile with what is said in RONR (10th ed.), p. 297, ll. 13-22.

I don't find that applicable to this case. It notes that making such an amendment would be "tantamount to a motion to Postpone Indefinitely" (p. 297, l. 22). That would make the amendment "equivalent to a rejection of the original motion (p. 13), #2)," and as such improper.

In the initial example there is no attempt to adopt the motion as some form of the IMM to Postpone Indefinitely (though such a motion would be in order).

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The questions recently posted by Patrick W. are among the best posted to this Forum during the past decade. The notion that he may be in need of instruction in the difference between main motions and subsidiary motions is simply ludicrous.

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... Whether the making of an original or incidental main motion is ever out of order because too few members are present is evidently harder to document.

I think the Standard Descriptive Characteristics of MAIN MOTION are sufficient to show that there is no "attendance restriction" for introductions of Main Motions.

1. Takes precedence of nothing--that is, it cannot be

moved when any other question is pending. It yields to

all subsidiary, all privileged, and all applicable incidental

motions; that is, any subsidiary or privileged motion,

and any incidental motion that is applicable in the par-

ticular case at the particular time, can be moved while a

main motion is pending.

2. Can be applied to no other motion. All subsidiary mo-

tions can be applied to it. If it is postponed to a certain

time or laid on the table, it carries with it any subsidiary

motions that may also be pending. If it is referred to a

committee, the only subsidiary motions that it carries

with it to the committee are pending amendments (so

that a motion to Postpone Indefinitely, if pending, is

dropped). An Objection to the Consideration of a Ques-

tion can be applied only to an original main motion, not

to an incidental main motion.

3. Is out of order when another has the floor.

4. Must be seconded.

5. Is debatable.

6. Is amendable.

7. Requires a majority vote, except:

a.) when the motion proposes an action for which the

bylaws prescribe a requirement of more than a ma-

jority vote (such as a two-thirds vote, or previous

notice [pp. 116-18], or both)--as may be the case,

for example, for motions proposing admission to

membership, the purchase or sale of real estate, etc.;

b.) when adoption of the motion would have the effect

of suspending a rule of order or a parliamentary

right of members, in which case it requires a two-

thirds vote--as, for example, a motion to place a

special limit on the length or number of speeches

per member during a meeting or a session; or

c.) when adoption of the motion would have the effect

of changing something already adopted, as in a mo-

tion to postpone an event previously scheduled by

vote of the assembly, or to discharge a committee

(from an uncompleted task previously assigned to it

by means of a main motion, before the committee

is ready to report)--in which case the vote required

is as stated on pages 295-96 under Standard

Characteristic 7 of the motion that takes the form

either to Rescind or to Amend Something Previously

Adopted.

8. Can be reconsidered. (See, however, Standard Charac-

teristic 8 of the motion that takes the form either to Re-

scind or to Amend Something Previously Adopted, p.

296; with reference to the adoption of bylaws, see p.

542, l. 28-29, and p. 574, l. 5-6.)

Nothing there to suggest an attendance requirement.

Even if pages 576 and 297 have rules for subsidiary motions To Amend, (based on PREVIOUS NOTICE) those pages make no mention of a Main Motion being at risk of being out-of-order upon introduction.

I think Page 297 goes out of its way to include the phrase "at the time the vote is taken" to draw the distinction that there is no "introduction" phase involved for main motions regarding "attendance."

Apples and oranges.

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Such a motion does not have a rational, affirmative side.

I think there is good, and persuasive counter argument. The assembly may prevent a motion from coming before it, even if it has not been made.

Let's assume that the motion involved is Rescind and Expunge something from the 1/1/10 minutes and that currently there is not a majority of the entire membership (MEM) present.

The following incidental main motion would be in order, "That any motion to Rescind and Expunge any text from the minutes of the 1/1/10 be postponed indefinitely (pp. 63-4)." That would take a majority vote, but not a qualified one. It may, at some point in the future have a procedural effect, but it doesn't at the time the motion is made or adopted. If an MEM shows up later in that session, or in a future session, they will have to Rescind the motion or use the provisions of p. 244, b. if they want to Rescind and Expunge any text from the minutes of the 1/1/10.

At the time the motion "That any motion to Rescind and Expunge any text from the minutes of the 1/1/10 be postponed indefinitely," has no rational affirmative or negative side. The assembly, currently could not adopt Rescind and Expunge, but the motion is still in order.

The assembly might adopt a motion "That any motion that expresses an opinion of J. J. be postponed indefinitely," in anticipation of a motion that someone could make either praising or censuring me, even though not motion was ever pending.

Because RONR permits prospective actions, like postponing indefinitely something that isn't before the assembly, the principle would apply to introducing a motion. There may be a MEM when the assembly gets around to voting on the motion, just like there may be a motion expressing an opinion of J. J.

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There may be a MEM when the assembly gets around to voting on the motion, just like there may be a motion expressing an opinion of J. J.

Would you think differently if it is clear to the chair that it is impossible to obtain a MEM at this meeting?

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The questions recently posted by Patrick W. are among the best posted to this Forum during the past decade. The notion that he may be in need of instruction in the difference between main motions and subsidiary motions is simply ludicrous.

Thanks, Mr. Honemann, for encouraging this new member.

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Would you think differently if it is clear to the chair that it is impossible to obtain a MEM at this meeting?

I think at best it would be a judgment call, subject beyond question to an appeal, unless the chair has perfect precognition. Members might go out and start making phone calls, after overruling the decision of the chair, just to show up the presiding officer (I've spent entirely too much time this year with clients). :)

If the appear fails, and an MEM shows up, they could always Rescind the decision and then berate the chair (procedurally) for making such a "shortsighted" decision. :)

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Would you think differently if it is clear to the chair that it is impossible to obtain a MEM at this meeting?

I think at best it would be a judgment call . . .

I agree. I'm suspicious of anything that is "clear to the chair" but, presumably, not to other members.

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A brief recapitulation:

The motions that require a vote of a majority of the entire membership (MEM) for their adoption may be categorized as follows:

1. Rescind and expunge from the minutes

2. Adopt or amend special rules of order, or amend bylaws that do not require notice for their amendment—in cases in which

A. no notice has been given

B. notice has been given but amendment has gone beyond the scope of notice

The passages quoted from p. 297 and p. 576 suggest that a subsidiary motion to amend that would put an incidental main motion into category 2B is out of order if MEM is not present.

The reason such a subsidiary motion is out of order is the “practical matter” that an incidental main motion in 2B cannot be adopted in the absence of MEM. A motion to amend beyond the scope of notice in such cases amounts to a motion to postpone indefinitely.

Problematic issues:

(1) The number of members present when the subsidiary motion to amend is made might be significantly different from the number of members present when the incidental main motion is voted on, which might be much later and in a different session.

(2) Although the chair has the duty of determining whether the subsidiary motion is in order before he states it, it is unreasonable to require the chair to determine whether MEM is present at that time, and it is impossible for him to know whether MEM will be present when the vote is taken on the incidental main motion.

(3) The same practical matter that makes the subsidiary motion out of order presumably applies also to motions in categories 1 and 2A if they themselves are made in the absence of MEM, yet nothing in RONR makes their being in order dependent in any way on attendance.

(4) This practical matter also besets motions in categories 1 and 2A that come up as unfinished business (and the like) in the absence of MEM.

(5) It is unclear why an amendment that would have the effect of killing a main motion if that main motion were voted on immediately—and that is in a limited sense is equivalent to postponing indefinitely—is out of order on those grounds. Amending beyond the scope of notice does not make adoption of the amended question equivalent to rejection of the original motion; indeed, it would make adoption of the amended question equivalent to adoption of a motion broader in scope than the original motion.

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If you are the presiding officer at a meeting at which a motion is made that requires 50 affirmative votes for its adoption and there are only 25 members present, do the assembly a favor and rule it out of order. :)

...subject to appeal.

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