Parliamentary Procedure - BSC style
Parliamentary Procedure is a set of rules that governs the conduct of a meeting and the life-cycle of motions. Common procedures come from Robert’s Rules of Order. In 1990, Board began to use the “Pool Rules” of order – a simpler version of Robert’s Rules – in the manner described below. The intention behind using a simple parliamentary procedure is that anyone can understand our process by looking at a few pages (compare this to the full Robert’s Rules: 700 pages; and the Robert’s Rules in Brief: 176 pages). Complicated procedures have the capability to disenfranchise those unfamiliar with the process (which the board especially needs to be aware of given our vast membership and democratic values) and give undue power to those who are familiar with process.
The basic process for most agenda items is as follows: motion => discussion => amendments => discussion => a final vote signaling acceptance or defeat of the motion.
The facilitator has the right to determine process on a case-by-case basis if matters arise which are not covered in our by-laws or this document.
The sufficient number of Board members empowered to cast two-thirds of the total possible votes (equal to the total number of members in the BSC). If quorum is lost during the meeting, the meeting may continue as long as there are sufficient members present to cast one half of the total possible votes.
Conceptually, a “motion” is a statement symbolizing collective action, and Board “does” things by passing motions. These are the types of motions that come up during a Board meeting. Non-debatable motions are voted on immediately, while debatable motions can be discussed. Typically, motions are phrased as “I move to...” and usually require a “second” (another person who supports the motion) to be legitimate. The chair may rule any motion “out of order” if they feel that the motion is inappropriate or outside the scope of current discussion. Board may overturn the chair's decision with a 2/3 vote (known as "overruling the chair.")
- Main Motion: Action items begin with one main motion, which should be the focus of discussion. Main motions almost always pass by simple majority.
- Amendments: This is used to alter part of the main motion. If the amendment is relatively minor so as not to change the intent of the motion, it may be determined “friendly” by the mover of the main motion. If it is not friendly, it will be run separately as an amendment to the main motion. The Chair should focus the discussion on dealing with non-friendly amendments as they arise to keep the conversation moving.
- Competing Motion: A counter motion that contradicts the main motion may be made if changes are so big as to change the motion significantly, the amendment will be run as a COMPETING MAIN MOTION against the main motion. These are rare, and should be handled with precision to make sure the discussion stays focused.
- Extending or Limiting Debate: Motions to extend discussion by a specific length, or to cap the speakers list. These motions do not require a second, are not debatable, and require a super majority to pass.
**Note: motions cannot be made once the speaker’s list has been capped, or time for discussion has run out.**
- Postpone to a later time: This puts the main motion and any attached motions on a temporary hold. The member must make a motion to postpone (either to later in the same meeting or to another meeting); postponing discussion requires a simple majority vote. This motion requires a second and is debatable.
- Enter Executive Session: Executive session passes by a super majority and is considered a closed meeting, where only members of Board may be present. Only motions and votes will be made public record (i.e. the only part recorded in the minutes). Board may also designate other person(s) to stay with a super majority vote.
- Refer to Committee: If any Board Member feels that the action item is not fully developed and needs more work, they can refer it back to committee, with additional instructions. This is debatable and requires a majority vote.
- Reconsideration: If any member wishes to bring up an old issue that has already been voted on, they must make a motion to reconsider it. This is debatable and requires a super majority to pass.
- Overrule the Chair: If you feel the chair has made a procedural error, you may move to overrule the decision. Do this when the chair is wrong or has misused their authority, not when a decision is simply inconvenient for you. This is debatable (although debate should be limited) and requires a super majority to pass.
- Other Motions: Motions to adjourn, enter and exit executive session, and the like are necessary for running the meeting effectively. These are also known as "Incidental" or "Subsidiary" motions. The Chair may often prompt the group for one. These motions are non-debatable.
A tool for the Chair to organize the discussion efficiently, effectively and inclusively. The Chair should “check-in” periodically and collect names of those who wish to speak, indicated by making one of the gestures below:
- Motions are signaled by a thumbs-up. Motions generally take priority above questions and comments. “Action Items” always revolve around a prepared motion, usually to approve some policy, program, or action.
- Comments and rhetorical questions are signaled by making a “C” with your hand. Comments are for stating your opinion on the issue to persuade others to your line of thinking. If the discussion is monopolized by a few members of the board, the Chair may attempt to draw others into the conversation by hearing the comments of members who have not yet spoken. If there are many on the list, a 45-second time limit is recommended.
- Questions are signaled by a crooked index finger. They will usually receive priority above comments, but if the list is long the Chair may alternate between the questions list and the statements list in an equitable fashion.
- Points of Information are signaled by a raised index finger. These are for making brief statements of fact when you believes that the group is unaware of some critical piece of information.
- Procedural errors and questions about the facilitation process (e.g. “this needs to be a ⅔ majority” or “first the VPIA speaks, then questions”) are signaled by making a triangle with both thumbs and index fingers.
**note: Direct Responses and Points (of personal privilege, order) are not used at Board, as they are frequently abused.**
All agenda items are allocated a set amount of time. Typically the Chair or a Vice President will keep time for each item, and they will then be responsible for announcing when time is up. When time runs out, the Board will immediately vote on extending time by either 5 or 10 minutes, at the discretion of the Chair. If the vote fails, then any live motions will immediately be voted on. During discussion, members may motion to place or extend time caps on agenda items, or to cap the speaker’s list. All timekeeping motions cannot be debated and require a super majority vote.
If you feel the group is ready to vote with time remaining, you may call a vote in two ways:
- Call the Question: When one believes enough debate has occurred, s/he may “call the question” (call for a vote on the motion). Any member may call the question at any time; if there are any objections (just shout out “object!”), discussion continues down the speaker’s list. If there are no objections, discussion ends and we move to a vote. This is the “Hare” way of moving to a vote, fast but easily stopped.
- Move the Question: One must be on the comments list to move the question, and s/he may not make any other comment. This cuts off debate and causes an immediate vote on whether or not to end discussion and vote on the motions as they stand (a “vote to vote”). To end discussion requires a 2/3 majority vote. This is the “Tortoise” way of moving to a vote, slower but more stable.
Based on the situation, any of the following methods of voting may be used.
- Voice Vote: “All in favor say ‘aye’; all opposed say ‘nay’. All abstaining.” Used when the Chair believes there are few objections to the motion. Often used for approving minutes and agendas, and the consent agenda.
- Hand Vote: Used when things seem more contentious. Any member can request a hand vote as opposed to a voice vote. Each vote is equally weighted (as compared to a roll call vote).
- Roll Call Vote: Any 5 board members can request a roll call for any motion; any single non-board member can make this request. Board members receive a vote quantity equivalent to the number of members they represent from their unit. For example, if the occupancy of Cloyne is 151, two Board Members receive 50 votes and one receives 51. A Board Member cannot split his/her vote further (i.e. all votes are cast in a block). Any member may attend the meeting and cast their one vote on behalf of their representative. Elections are always held this way.
- Track Record: When one member calls out 'track record,' the Board AA shall announce the motion by number. Board members can choose to record how they voted on a slip of paper and pass it to the AA, who will record and publish the results. Hand votes will still be counted and will be the official recorded vote.
Different types of motions may have different requirements for passing.
- Simple Majority: More than 50% of the votes cast; does not include abstentions in the count. A simple super majority requires more than 2/3 of the votes cast. Almost all votes Board takes are “simple” unless said otherwise.
- Absolute Majority: More than 50% of all eligible votes. This includes abstentions (i.e. abstentions, for all intents and purposes, are counted as “no”). An absolute super majority requires more than 2/3 of all eligible votes.
The Board Administrative Assistant is responsible for taking and summarizing minutes. They are reviewed by the BSC President, then approved at Board where final edits to the minutes can be made.
Updated sp.2005 (Nick+Cookie)
Mildly Edited f.2005 (Johnny)
Updated f.2007 (Kate Sassoon)
Updated sp. 2008 (Patrick Ford)
Updated sp. 2011 (Daniel Kronovet)