Leadership & Governance

Parliamentary Fundamentals


  • Justice and courtesy for all.
  • Do only one thing at a time.
  • The majority rules.
  • The minority must be heard.
  • Each proposition is entitled to full and free debate.
  • The desires of the individual must be merged into the larger unit.
  • The purpose is to facilitate action, not to obstruct it.

What is a Motion?

A motion is the form of procedure which Parliamentary Law requires for the transaction of business in a deliberative assembly.

How to Present and Dispose of a Motion

The proper presentation and disposition of a motion requires eight steps:

  • Member rises and addresses the presiding officer.
  • The member is recognized by the presiding officer.
  • The member proposes a motion; i.e., "I move that ... ."
  • Another member seconds the motion—not waiting to be recognized by the chair.
  • The presiding officer states the motion to the assembly.
  • The assembly debates or discusses the motion.
  • The presiding officer takes the vote on the motion.
  • The presiding officer announces the results of the vote.

Prior to Debate

  • There must be a motion.
  • It must be seconded (except those motions requiring no second).
  • The motion must be stated by the chair. This gives the question to the assembly and opens it for debate and the assembly may not consider any other business until this motion has been disposed of. In the alternative, the chair may rule the motion out of order.
  • Although no debate is permitted until stated by the chair, other members may suggest modifications and the mover (with the consent of the seconder) may modify or withdraw the motion. After statement by the chair, neither modification or withdrawal can be done without the consent of the assembly as the question belongs to them. When the mover modifies the motion, the seconder may withdraw the second.

Obtaining the Floor and Decorum in Debate

A member must obtain the floor before a motion can be made or addressing the assembly in debate.  This is done by rising after the floor has been yielded and addressing the chair by proper title; i.e., "President Jones."  If the member is entitled to the floor, the chair will recognize by stating member's name.  If a member rises before the floor has been yielded or is standing at the time, they cannot obtain the floor if someone else rises thereafter. It is out of order to be standing when another has the floor.

When two or more members rise more or less simultaneously to claim the floor, the chair should be governed by the following principles:

  • The member who brought the question to the floor has preference in speaking on it if they have not already done so.
  • No member who has already debated may be heard again if another member, who has not been heard, desires the floor and no member may be heard more than twice on the subject on any one day.
  • The chair should give preference to one speaking in opposition to the view of the preceding speaker, other things being equal, in order to provide for alternation debate.

When a member has been assigned the floor, interruptions by another member or the chair are allowed as follows:

  • Motion to reconsider.
  • Point of order.
  • An objection to consider the question.
  • A question of privilege.
  • Request that the question be divided where it consists of more than one independent resolution on different subjects.
  • A parliamentary inquiry.

The above are considered as interruptions only when the urgency is great enough to justify it. The one having the floor does not loose it, nor the interrupter acquire it, and the speaker resumes the floor after the question is decided.

One may not speak for an unreasonable length of time; five or ten minutes being the normal time limit.


Kinds of votes:

  • Majority—all that is required to carry most motions. One more than half of those present constitutes a majority.
  • Plurality—the largest of two or more numbers. A plurality never adopts a motion unless there is a special provision in the bylaws for it.
  • Two-thirds—some motions require a two-thirds vote in order to carry votes cast. For certain actions the bylaws may provide for votes of two-thirds of the members present or two-thirds of the members.

When the Chairman may vote:

  • When the vote is by ballot, the chair may always vote.
  • When there is a tie, the chair may vote with either side to break the tie.

Methods of voting:

  • By yeas and nays (viva voce).
  • Division of the house—either by standing or raising hands.
  • Silent consent—no members voice objection to routine matters.
  • By ballot—distributed and counted by appointees of the chair.


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