The language of parliamentary procedure can sometimes be difficult to understand even for those of us that have been working with it for a long time. The following definitions will hopefully provide you with a better understanding of some of the common terms used in parliamentary procedure.
AdjournmentThe act of ending a meeting.
AgendaAlso known as the program, the agenda generally refers to the order of business that will be presented in a given meeting or convention. Unless a specific order of business is defined by an organization's bylaws, the order should be as follows:
- Reading and Approval of Minutes,
- Reports of Officers, Boards and Standing Committees,
- Reports of Special Committees,
- Special Orders,
- Unfinished Business and General Orders, and
- New Business.
AmendTo modify or change the meaning or purpose of a motion.
BylawsAlso known as an organization's constitution, the bylaws define the basic rules that an organization will follow.
ChairThe presiding officer and the position where the presiding officer is located during an assembly.
DebateAny discussion that takes place to determine the merit of a motion.
Deliberative AssemblyA type of gathering that generally requires parliamentary law to maintain order. This type of group generally has the following characteristics: members of the group are allowed to discuss the merits of items that the group should undertake as a whole, the group meets in a single area which allows each member to be heard individually, the group is large enough to require some type of formality in its meetings, and each member's opinion has equal weight in determining the direction of the group through a vote of the assembly.
Dilatory MotionsThese motions seek to obstruct the will of the assembly. The presiding officer should guard against this type of motion being introduced in order to prevent legitimate business from being conducted.
Division of a QuestionAllows a lengthy or complicated motion to be divided into separate motions that are debated and voted on individually.
Division of the AssemblyAny member of the assembly who doubts the outcome of a voice or show of hands vote may call for a division. This requires the vote to be retaken as a rising vote, as long as the division is not intended to thwart the business of the organization. If the outcome of the rising vote is still inconclusive, the vote should be retaken as a counted rising vote.
Ex-officio MemberA member of a board or committee whose membership on the board or committee is based on the fact that the member holds some other high-ranking position. For example, the president of an organization is often an ex-officio member of all committees (except the nominating committee), and has the same rights as other members of that committee.
GermaneIn debate, a member's comments must be relevant to the item being discussed. This also applies to amendments, which must be closely related to the motion being amended.
Incidental MotionsA class of motions which relate, in different ways, to the pending business or to business otherwise at hand. Some examples of incidental motions include:
- Point of Order
- Suspend the Rules
- Objection to the Consideration of the Question
- Division of the Question
Lay on the TableWhen the assembly should put aside the pending question to address more immediate business, someone may move to lay the motion on the table only to attend to the more important matter. This motion is often misused as a means to delay consideration of the pending business and should therefore only be allowed when an emergency or matter of utmost importance arises.
MinutesA record of all proceedings that take place during a meeting. The minutes should not contain all of the items discussed and all debate given about each topic, but should at least contain the items that the organization or committee decided to undertake as a result of the meeting.
MotionA formal proposal during a meeting that the organization take certain action. There are many different types of motions that represent the different types of actions the organization can take.
Obtain the FloorBefore a member may make a motion or speak in debate about the pending business, he must first be recognized by the chair as having the exclusive right to speak at that moment. This process of being recognized by the chair is called obtaining the floor.
PluralityAlso known as plurality vote, it is the largest number of votes given to any candidate or proposition when three or more choices are possible.
Point of OrderWhen a member thinks the rules of the assembly are being violated, he may call for a point of order which requires a ruling by the chair and enforcement of the regular rules.
Postpone IndefinitelyPostpone indefinitely is a motion that the assembly take no position on the main question. Its adoption effectively kills the main motion.
Presiding OfficerThe leader of the meeting who ensures that the organization's rules are observed. Often referred to as president or the chair.
Previous QuestionThis motion forces debate on the pending question to be ended and does not allow new amendments to the pending question. If forces an immediate vote on the pending question.
Privileged MotionsPrivileged motions are motions that do not relate to the pending business of the assembly. Following are the five recognized privileged motions in their order of precedence:
- Call for the Orders of the Day
- Raise a Question of Privilege
- Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn