Minority Report

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

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Minority Report

Is there a rule as to when a minority report should/must be submitted with respect to a special committee report? Is there a time after which (if no prior permission was given) that the report should not be considered? Can the minority report contain or reference information not considered by the committee as a whole? Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions.

A minority report is a privilege an assembly may allow, but it is not a right of the dissenting members to present it. In debate on the majority report, any member may express freely whatever dissenting views they may hold.

If the assembly permits it, the customary time for a formal presentation of a minority report is following the presentation of the majority report. The minority report is for information only. It can be acted upon by a motion to substitute it for the majority report.

I hope this information is useful to you. Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised discusses minority report details on pp. 519-521.

Minority Report from Self-Appointed Committee

My answers are embedded in the text of your questions (which are in bold): Dear Sir:

I am a professor of finance at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and have two technical questions which I believe you can help answer.

Assume the following facts as true:

A properly formed committee comprised of eight people has studied a subject and renders a written report to the main deliberative body. A majority of the committee (seven out of the eight) signs off on a report. The eighth member, having participated fully in all the discussions and deliberations of the committee, disagrees with the conclusions of the majority and writes a separate minority report, clearly labeled as such.

The majority report expresses regret that the dissenting member chooses to disassociate him(her)self from the majority report, but states in the majority report that all persons who read the majority report should also read and consider the minority report.

Question 1: Would the Report of the committee include both the majority and minority reports as posited above, or would the Report of the committee only be the majority report?

The only committee report is the majority report. However, it was not improper for the committee to point out that a minority report had been written and was available to the assembly (or plenary body) if it chose to receive it (which would be for information).

Question 2: Are all minority reports of committees, task forces, etc. a part of the reporting bodys Report?

Again, no, only the majority position is the report.

The reason I ask these questions is that I have been informed that only the majority report is the Committee Report, since a majority of the members have voted to write and deliver it. The committee in the above case is comprised of eight members. It would seem appropriate that any report of this committee should represent the views of the entire membership, otherwise it would not be a report of the entire committee.

It doesn't have to represent the entire committee--only the majority.

I also understand that one important part of good parliamentary procedure is to make certain that the rights of the minority are also protected.

The basic rule is that the majority decides, but doesn't oppress the minority.

Since a committee report is presented to a larger deliberative body for a final decision, which can include action, it would appear to me to be essential that the main body receive all viewpoints of the committee, including minority views.

No, the purpose of the committee is to consider "all viewpoints," research them, deliberate upon them, and decide on which is best to recommend to the assembly. That is what committees are for, unless the assembly directs a committee to prepare a list of all the possible viewpoints. This is especially important because the main body has not yet considered whether or not to accept the committees report, and may be persuaded to vote against the majority report by a different argument, such as one made in a minority report.

The committee presents a report with a recommendation. The assembly may permit (but does not have to do so) the presentation of a minority report(s) for information. Then the assembly should consider a motion to take some action with respect to the report and/or the recommendation. During the debate on the motion, it is proper for everyone to debate it, considering alternative viewpoints. A motion to substitute or amend the motion is appropriate, of course. In this phase the various viewpoints can be considered. Part of a report often is a section detailing alternatives which were rejected and the reasons for doing so.

While not at all specific to my questions, the recent action of the Senate Whitewater Committee puts a similar case fairly well. There were two reports delivered to the Senate: the majority report, written on behalf of the 12 Republican members of the committee, and the minority report, written on behalf of the 10 Democrat members. Clearly these two reports, when taken together, represented the output of the work of the committee, or the Committee Report. Neither the majority or minority reports, standing alone, were the Committee Report.

Congress has some ideosyncratic rules, but the committee report is the majority report. In the actions of the assembly, the members may take whatever action they deem appropriate. It is at that point a problem of persuasion and politics as to what action is taken--i.e., action as recommended by the majority report or some other.

I appreciate your assistance. If there is somewhere else I should go for a best answer, please let me know.

You can check around, but I'm rather sure what I've told you here is correct. I hope my comments clarify the issues for you. Good luck.

Thank you very much for your prompt answer. I understand the position, but, being an academic, I believe the search for the truth should always be the objective, and that the truth may not be found unless both sides of an issue are presented. In the instant case, the committee was self-appointed and one-sided. This can present a problem when searching for the truth, as I am sure you know.

I completely understand your position. I share your belief in the principle that a university should seek the truth and base its actions on what it best believes to be true--a matter complicated by the fact that reasonable people may disagree over the meaning of the same evidence. In Aristotle's Rhetoric this point was made quite clearly: "We must be able to employ persuasion, just as strict reasoning can be employed, on opposite sides of a question, not in order that we may in practice employ it in both ways (for we must not make people believe what is wrong), but in order that we may clearly see what the facts are, and that, if another man argues unfairly, we on our part may be able to confute him." Aristotle's statement leads to the principle that the goal of a committee is to place within the Senate's consciousness the full case so that the members of the Senate can make their own reasoned judgments.

Exactly what a committee ultimately reports and so forth is indeed directly related to such things as how and why it was created, who created it, and so forth. If I were advising the committee (which is as you say "self-appointed and one-sided") I would suggest that it should make the report as comprehensive as it could, listing alternatives for the Senate to consider and advantages and disadvantages of each. The committee could express its "majority" view by prioritizing a series of recommendations based on their analysis.

There is a political dynamic to how committees and human beings work that is a different topic from parliamentary procedure, but inextricably connected to how it works in practice. A "faculty for concerted action committee" galvanized by some issue or another is often not concerned with presenting a balanced academic view based on facts, but rather persuasively presenting a message to prompt a particular agenda of its own. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are not.

What I think you are reacting to is that committees sometimes cloak a political agenda under the appearance of a bona fide objective committee report to the Senate--sometimes consciously, sometimes not. It may well be that the members are sincerely doing their best and using the parliamentary procedures for submitting a report in good faith. I know from my own experience that it is hard for the participants in a conflict to sort this out.

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