Robert's Rules of Order

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Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised is the title of a book written by Brig. Gen. Henry Martyn Robert containing rules of order intended to be adopted as a parliamentary authority for use by a deliberative assembly. The book is currently in its 11th edition and is one of the most popular rules of parliamentary procedure used in the English speaking world. These rules are what Senate uses to organize General Assembly.

Robert's Rules define in what order things are done in a meeting with the Orders of Business. The Rules also ensure that all opinions are heard while maintaining order and majority rule through motions. Finally, Robert's Rules gives guidelines for debate, voting, committees, officers and minutes.

Orders of Business

The Orders of Business, also known as the Agenda, for a deliberative assembly as defined by Robert's Rules are as follows[1]:


  1. Call to Order: This is the start of the meeting that is established by the Vice President or presiding officer. The minutes shall record the time that the Call to Order took place.
  2. Roll Call: The Secretary shall record attendance in the record, and ensure that quorum is met.
  3. Reading and Approval of the minutes: The minutes from the previous week will be reviewed by the Assembly and edited if necessary. After reading, the Assembly will vote to publish them in the public record.
  4. Officer Reports: At this time, the President Pro Tempore and Sergeant-at-Arms will make reports if they have any.
  5. Committee Reports: At this time, the committees will report any relevant recent activity to the Assembly.
  6. Special Business: Special business is not a normal order of business, and is only used in special cases when business is previously designated for consideration.
  7. Old Business: This is where unfinished business is completed, or brought back up.
  8. New Business: This is where all business is brought up for the first time, using motions.
  9. Announcements: Announcements are made here, after all business is complete. Announcements usually come from the Vice President, Officers, Dean of Students or others about important information, dates or activities.
  10. Open Forum: Open Forum is where anything that is not official business can be discussed freely. All non senators present are permitted to speak during this time.

Motions

Motions can be divided into four basic categories, each with different rules and objectives. The types of motions are:

  1. Main Motions: The purpose of a Main Motion is to introduce items, such as legislation, to the membership for their consideration. They cannot be made when any other motion is on the floor, and yield to privileged, subsidiary, and incidental motions.
    1. Motions That Bring a Question Again Before the Assembly: These are a specific type of Main Motion that brings legislation to the floor that has already been introduced.
  2. Subsidiary Motions: The purpose of a Subsidiary Motion is to change or affect how a main motion is handled, such as amending or postponing a motion, and is voted on before a main motion.
  3. Privileged Motions: The purpose of a Privileged Motion is to bring up items that are urgent about special or important matters unrelated to pending business. This kind of Motion can be used to keep the meeting on track or to end the meeting.
  4. Incidental Motions: The purpose of an Incidental Motion is to provide a means of questioning procedure concerning other motions, such as correcting a breach of rules, suspending the rules or appealing the decision of the chair, and must be considered before the other motion.

Different motions have different rules, for example some you can interrupt the speaker, most require a second, some motions are subject to debate or amending, and some require a super majority (two-thirds) instead of a simple majority. The following table shows the most common motions of each category in order of precedence.


Main Motions

Purpose: You Say: Interrupt Speaker? Need a Second? Is It Debatable? Is It Amendable? Type of Vote?
Bring business before assembly (a main motion) "I move that [or 'to'] ..." NO YES YES YES Majority
To reverse or amend something in the constitution "I move to rescind, repeal, or annul _________." or "I move to amend _________." NO YES YES YES 2/3


Subsidiary Motions

Purpose: You Say: Interrupt Speaker? Need a Second? Is It Debatable? Is It Amendable? Type of Vote?
End discussion on the Main Motion, without voting on the Main Motion "I move that the motion be postponed indefinitely." NO YES YES NO Majority
Modify wording of motion "I move to amend the motion by ..." NO YES YES YES Majority
Refer to committee "I move to refer the motion to the _________ Committee." NO YES YES YES Majority
Postpone the Main Motion to a later time "I move that the motion be postponed until _________." NO YES YES YES Majority
Limit or extend the limits of debate "I move to limit the debate." or " I move to extend the debate." NO YES NO YES 2/3
Close debate "I move the previous question." NO YES NO NO 2/3
Temporarily suspend talking about a motion "I move to lay the question on the table." NO YES NO NO Majority


Privileged Motions

Purpose: You Say: Interrupt Speaker? Need a Second? Is It Debatable? Is It Amendable? Type of Vote?
Set a time for the meeting to end "I move to fix the time at which to adjourn." NO YES YES YES Majority
End a meeting "I move to adjourn." NO YES NO NO Majority
Take a Break "I move to recess for..." NO YES NO YES Majority
Make a complaint "I rise to a question of privilege." YES NO NO NO VP Acts
Make sure the Assembly follows the agenda "I call for the orders of the day." YES NO NO NO VP Acts


Incidental Motions

Purpose: You Say: Interrupt Speaker? Need a Second? Is It Debatable? Is It Amendable? Type of Vote?
Suspend a rule held in the Bylaws "I move to suspend _________." NO YES NO NO 2/3
Request to take bake a motion "I move to withdraw the motion from the table." NO YES NO NO Majority
Correct someone who is going out of order "I rise to a point of order." or simply "Point of Order." YES NO NO NO VP Acts
Ask the VP or someone else about general information "I rise to a point of information." or simply "Point of Information." YES NO NO NO VP Acts
Ask the VP about parliamentary procedure "I rise to a point of inquiry." or simply "Point of Inquiry." YES NO NO NO VP Acts
To prevent a Main Motion from being considered "I object to the consideration of the motion." YES NO NO NO 2/3
To have the assembly vote by show of hands rather than by voice "I call for a division of the assembly." YES NO NO NO Majority
To divide a Main Motion into two or more motions "I call for a division of the question." NO YES NO YES Majority
To challenge the ruling of the VP "I appeal from the decision of the chair." YES YES YES NO Majority

Debate

Voting

Committees

Officers

Minutes

References

  1. [1]