Answers to questions submitted to Cagle's Parliamentary Procedure webpage.

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When a debate takes place on a motion do the rules of debate hold that the moving position is presented first and then has the

This question is not complete, but here are a few comments on what I think you may be asking:

After a motion has been moved &;seconded and the chair has stated the question before the group, the chair calls for debate. At that point, if the person who moved the motion asks to speak, then the chair must recognize that person to speak; the reason for this is tied to the rule that a person cannot give a speech and then make a motion. If the person hasn't asked to speak, then the chair simply recognizes someone else. In subsequent discussion, the mover is entitled to be recognized to speak in preference to other members if he/she has not already spoken.

Is this what you wanted to know?

Board Chair's Last Word and Closing Debate

In a club board setting, how would you handle a chair that uses the position to have the "last word" in a debate? More frequently than not, I find chairpeople using their position to "preach from the pulpit" or to impose their personal views to close a debate, when in fact, by the nature of their speach, it prolongs the debate. To make things worse they will not allow the debate to continue and they will call any member attemping to respond to their speach out of order. If you could give me the benefit of your experience on this subject, I apprecciate it. Thank you.

You won't like this answer, but here it is: In Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, in a board, the chair does has the authority to debate, make motions, and so forth. The idea that a chair doesn't debate relates to rules for assemblies or plenary bodies, not to boards or committees.

You will like this part: The chair is acting improperly in closing debate; he/she does not have that authority, and formally in a board or committee, believe it or not, even a motion to close debate is not in order. In practice, virtually all groups and organizations and board and committees do have motions to close debate. A chair can suggest that closing debate is a good idea, but cannot force it as you describe.

The remedy in parliamentary motions to this situation are motions such as point of order, appeal from the decision of the chair, adjournment, etc. Also, you could bring the problem up at a meeting of the plenary board which created the board.

What authority a board has, as well as its entire nature, is described in the bylaws which create it. Boards vary considerably from organization to organization and circumstance to circumstance. It is difficult to make generalizations that apply reasonably to them all.

Pros and Cons in Debate

When debating the pros and cons of a motion to be brought to the faculty for a vote does the pro position have the right to rebut after the con position is presented?

The major factor the chair uses to assign the floor is who, immediately following the last floor, has asked ("rises," "raises hand," etc.) to be recognized.

Among other things, the chair "should" attempt to recognize persons with "opposite opinions" and "should" let the floor alternate (p. 30 in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised), but should is not must.

In practice, it is hard to know in advance who has "opposite opinions," so it is not a "right to rebut," as you put it. I would not advise accepting that as a point of order in a meeting--at least, not taking the floor away from somebody else who is speaking.

Chairs use a variety of means to facilitate the fair allocation of the floor. For example, a chair can (but isn't required to) simply ask between speakers, "May I suggest an alternate speaker?" or something like that, but if someone is recognized from the same "side" as the last speaker, it is not a breach of rules.

Organizations sometimes adopt standing rules or special procedures to facilitate speaking, especially in large organizations.

There is no requirement that a motion have anyone speak on it, either for or against. The requirement is only that the chair provide opportunity for debate. If no one wishes to speak, so be it.

"Pros" and "cons" are an informal way of talking and are not directly in Robert's. The terms grow out of debate. Many of the people interested in parliamentary procedure have also been interested in argumentation and debate. Just thought I'd mention it.

Tape Recording Debate

Custom has been to tape meetings. Now one member objects. By majority vote, it was agreed meetings would not be taped. Minority still wishes to tape meetings to verify accuracy of proceedings. Is there recourse for minority?

What an interesting question!

As far as I know, the answer is not in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, nor in any of the other standard parliamentary procedure authorities. As the communications technologies become more and more omnipresent, probably 21st Century editions will have to cover such topics, including e-mail virtual meetings and so forth.

However, within the limits of what you said, it seems to me to have been properly handled. "Custom" is a significant factor in common law and gives organizations rights and privileges beyond the letter of its Constitution. "We've always done it like that" is a compelling argument in many court decisions.

In this case, when the practice was challenged, it was proper to put the matter to a vote of the group, which could either be a direct motion or as an appeal from a decision of the chair to allow the practice. In either event, a majority vote would be all that is required for adoption.

The minority has no right to have the tape recording (unless some law in the state's laws might provide for it, or in some other legal code, such as the Bylaws of the organization). No minority has a right to have a roll call vote either. While members of the organization might be concerned about disagreement within the organization on such a matter, the question is properly decided.

In the future, a motion to amend a motion previously adopted could properly introduce the question again for new discussion and a new decision; if previous notice is given, a majority vote would decide that question.

These seem to be the salient points to me. Good luck.

Speaking Order at a Convention

At a convention, members were lined up at a microphone waiting to speak. The motion to limit debate was in effect, and the time would expire after the next speaker. The present speaker was speaking for the motion. You were also for the motion. When you came to the microphone, the chair asked whether you were for or against the motion. You stated you were for the motion, and the chair said "the previous speaker was for the motion. Is there anyone who wishes to speak against the motion?" Was the chair correct?
Jacksonville, FL

A convention may establish rules and procedures which regulate the debate. In some cases, such rules may include the chair only allowing alternating speeches for vs. against the motion. Similarly, in an impromptu manner, a chair may inform the meeting how he/she is going to handle the problem of recognizing alternating positions (because it is hard for a chair to know in advance who wants to say what, and many times even hard for speakers to know in advance what they think until they start talking about it.) If there is no objection, then that informal procedure is a "consent" policy for the discussion. But it would need to be agreed to before the debate begins and certainly before enforcing it on someone who wished to speak.

Absent that, however,
the basic rule is that the chair recognizes the person who rises first (i.e., seeks recognition to speak and, in the case you mention probably, get in line to speak next). Robert's says that the chair "should" recognize alternative speakers to assure fairness, but should is not "must."
I would advise that the person at the microphone had the right to speak and the chair infringed upon it.

Even if that infringement was consequential, the only time to raise an objection to it is at the time. Later, it is too late.

Visitor Speaking Rights

Dear Sir,
My question is as follows:
Do visitors have the privilege to speak at a council meeting whether they address or do not address the chair. Or is the privilege given to members only? My research and experience is that only members may speak. Is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised my best reference. As it is silent on visitors, my interpretation is that visitors would not have the privilege of speaking.

You are correct that the topic is not covered generally in parliamentary manuals, but should be.

Only members have (a) the right to be at the meeting, (b) the right to speak, (c) the right to vote, etc. This principle is firm and clear.

Therefore, whatever "non-member" access is permitted is at the pleasure of the organization, committee, board, or whatever. Remember that organizations and committees must work within the context of federal, state, local, and bylaws or articles of incorporation, and all of them would have a higher authority than any parliamentary procedure manual. Sometimes out of this legal framework will come requirements for open meetings (e.g., a city council), even a requirement to provide some opportunity for the public (i.e., non-members) to speak on any issue on the agenda. Similarly, the practice and tradition of an organization may allow non-members to attend meetings and to speak and so forth. There is a strong "democratic" tradition in our country that gives people the idea they can speak anywhere, and out of this value people in groups often get indignant if told they aren't members and can't therefore speak. "But I'm a member of the country club!" they'll say.

The proper answer to your question depends on many facts and laws and traditions and personalities and even how much time the group has to solve a problem.

I recommend Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised as the best parliamentary authority for many reasons, but even that depends on the nature of the group. For example, for voluntary and informal organizations, Alice Sturgis's The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (now in a 3rd ed., new &;revised) is an excellent alternative.

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