• First Oakville Toastmasters

How To Kill A Motion

Last night our parliamentarian suggest I post something about how to kill a motion that is before the assembly.

The particular motion in question was one that recommended that members wear pajamas to our festive Christmas party next week (Dec. 11 at the Holiday Inn across the road from our old meeting place the Quality Inn on Bronte Road).

The motion had been raised several weeks ago and had been seconded and debated.

Last night as the business meeting progressed in an orderly fashion, Orders Of The Day were called.

Had the chair followed her agenda and closed the business meeting the motion to recommend the wearing of pajamas would have died on the table as no resolution was completed prior to the event it affected was to have taken place.

Had that happened, the business meeting would have ended and all would have been in order.

Unfortunately, the chair decided to deal with the motion despite the calling of Orders of the Day (which has no legal force but only means the member who called it wanted to move on with the agenda).

Much confusion then broke out with various members offering their interpretations (usually wrong) about how to proceed.

Eventually I rose to a point of order.

(In my own defense I’d offer that as I do speak way too much during business sessions I normally do so only when the chair, the parliamentarian, or the assembly have become so hopelessly lost that an intervention would seem both inevitable and humane if we were ever to conclude the business session.)

My point of order was to insist that the chair consult with her parliamentarian instead of engaging with members offering their own opinions on how to proceed.

Somewhere in the middle of this action, the original mover of the motion rose to request permission to withdraw her motion.

(BTW it’s here where a reading of Robert’s Rules of Order At A Glance (the paperback booklet) differs from Robert’s Rules of Order (Newly Revised – 10th edition).

What the big book of RR of Order says is that if a mover requests their motion be withdrawn before it is stated by the chair then permission maybe granted immediately by the chair who would say something to the effect “the motion has been withdrawn.”

Sometimes a wise chair might say: “There being no objection, the request to withdraw the motion is granted* as this has the appearance of the chair at least attempting to determine the wishes of the assembly before moving on.

Like all decisions of the chair, this one is subject to appeal but generally this wouldn’t happen.

As was correctly stated (but wrongly understood) last night, any member can request the mover to withdraw their motion prior to it being stated by the chair.

At First Oakville we usually say that once any motion is moved and seconded (in other words at least one other person in the assembly wants to discuss the motion) then the motion now belongs to the club and not the member so the member loses the ability to unilaterally withdraw it.

Now that’s not to say there aren’t a bunch of other ways to kill a motion.

The easiest way was before us last night and that was just to let it die a natural death of the table as the event it affected would precede any resolution thus making the motion out of order and therefore defunct.

Another way to kill an unwanted motion is for someone to move that we table the motion. Requiring a seconder and a simple majority vote, there is no debating this motion and frivolous or unwanted motions can be killed in this manner.

We can move to postpone a motion to a future date or we can move to close debate (and vote). Sometimes you’ll hear people yell out to “call the question” which just means they want to vote and their request has no force of law.

One way to kill a motion but keep the content alive is to move to refer the  motion to a committee. That’s what happened to the First Oakville Toastmaster Promise which caused a stir in the assembly when it was presented to the members. It was referred to committee so it might be reintroduced at a future meeting likely as a new improved motion to hopefully adopt.

We can also move to reconsider a motion that has been voted into existence. This is helpful when wiser or cooler heads find other less legalistic ways of dealing with conscientious issues that affect the club.

The motion to reconsider can only be brought forward by someone who voted for the original motion as there is no way that voters who find themselves on the losing side can keep reintroducing their lost motions continually hoping for different results.

Finally if a motion to reconsider isn’t appropriate it is possible to move to rescind a motion. This requires a seconder and a two-thirds vote in favour or a majority vote in two successive sessions.

Motions to rescind are usually reserved when the assembly wishes to strike out an entire main motion, resolution, rule, bylaw, section or paragraph in a constitution or other official club document that had been previously adopted.

For example prior to 1984 (I think) there were no women members in our club. Let us pretend that some (male) member at a meeting way back in the dark dark ages had moved that no woman would be considered for membership. If the motion was seconded, debated and adopted it would require a motion to rescind to allow for women members in our newly enlightened era.

The trick to Robert’s Rules of Order is to use them to serve the desires of the club and not to obstruct the legitimate and necessary business of the club. They were designed to allow groups of adults to work together toward common aims ensuring that the desire of majority was realized while ensuring that the minority opinion was heard and considered.

It has been my experience that anyone who objects to the use of Robert’s Rules of Order whether in a Toastmaster club or any other club or work situation usually is afraid of losing personal control and has yet to learn how to work cooperatively with others.

The ability to work with RR of Order at a Toastmaster club will serve you at work or if you get involved with any board of directors or a school board or government-related agency.

* Note the use of the word “granted.”

The person in the chair rules in a similar manner in English Common Law as the king or queen rules and makes the same decisions and grants appeals or requests. The parliamentarian on the other hand has no such powers and can only offer opinion on what the chair should do.

In this way the parliamentarian never faces a challenge or an appeal. It’s up to the chair to rule and whether right or wrong there’s a saying that applies that a chair gets away with what a chair gets away with.

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Meeting Location

79 Jones St, Oakville, ON


L6L 3E6

Meeting Time

Every Thursday 7:15 pm- 9:30 pm EST

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