ASK THE PARLIAMENTARIAN
BY MIKE SWIFT, CHAIR
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org