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July/August Issue

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Got a question about rules? Ask Mike Swift. He’s VVA’s parliamentarian. Answers are based on VVA’s parliamentary authority, Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th edition.

Q: Can an office, such as one of the vice presidents, be eliminated while a member is in office?
A: By amending the bylaws, an office can be eliminated, provided the method of amendment prescribed in the bylaws is followed. An amendment to the bylaws goes into effect immediately upon its adoption, but while the amendment is pending, an incidental motion can be adopted that it shall not take effect until the completion of the current term. Robert’s, page 579, line 23.

Q: Is a motion adopted by a committee valid if an adviser proposed it?
A: In committees, motions need not be seconded, and sometimes, when a proposal is perfectly clear to all present, a vote can be taken without a motion’s having been introduced. This is addressed by Robert’s, page 483, line 10, referring to page 470, line 17.

Q: Sometimes I hear members say they want to make a friendly amendment. Then they say if the maker and seconder accept the amendment, it is adopted. Is this correct?
A: Regardless of whether or not the maker of the main motion “accepts” the amendment, it must be opened to debate and voted on formally. It is handled under the same rules as amendments generally. Robert’s, page 154, line 30.

Q: Someone told me a motion couldn’t be referred to a committee until it is perfected. How much has to be done to a motion before it can be referred to a committee?
A: The subsidiary motion to commit or refer is generally used to send a pending question to a relatively small group of selected persons—a committee—so that the question may be carefully investigated and put into better condition for the assembly to consider. Robert’s, page 160, line 14. The motion to commit usually should include all necessary details about the committee. Robert’s, page 163, line 31.

Q: Should the quorum be a percentage of the members or a certain number of members? Why do some chapters and state councils make the quorum a very high percentage of the members?
A: Chapters need a provision in their bylaws establishing a relatively small quorum, considerably less than a majority of the members. Sometimes the specification of a quorum is based on a percentage of the membership; but such a method has the disadvantage of requiring re-computation and may lead to confusion when the secretary, or other officer who is in a position to certify as to the current number of members for purposes of the percentage calculation, is absent. The quorum should be as large a number of members as can reasonably be depended on to be present at any meeting, except in very bad weather. Robert’s, page 335, line 15.

If you have a question on parliamentary procedure, send it to Mike at

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