Dr. Stephen Estock has graciously given Reasoning Together permission to publish his book, A Basic Guide to the PCA General Assembly. To date, we have published Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; today we add Chapter 6. We strongly encourage commissioners (especially first-time commissioners) to purchase their own copy; you may order here (Kindle edition, here).
And for a list of common PCA acronyms found in these articles, please click here.
VI. Some Basic Rules of Parliamentary Procedure1
Some refer to Robert’s Rules as “courtesy codified.” The rules are based on common sense and logic and are designed to protect the right of the majority to decide and the right of the minority to be heard.
Main motion = a proposal that the Assembly take an action or make a statement.
Ordinarily, before a motion can be considered by the Assembly (i.e., “brought to the floor”), it must receive a “second” from a member other than the person making the motion. A second is like saying, “Yes, I think we should consider this.” The person who seconds a motion may not agree with the action requested, and may actually vote against the motion; however, his “second” communicates he believes the Assembly should consider the motion.
At the Assembly, main motions most often come in the form of recommendations from a Committee of Commissioners. Since the motions originate from a committee, there is no need for the motion to be seconded.
Amendments to a main motion = a proposal to change the wording of a motion to make it clearer, more complete, or more acceptable before the motion is voted upon by the Assembly.
This is a type of secondary motion, which means that a member can make this motion while the main motion is under consideration. A motion to amend is also called a subsidiary motion because it relates directly to the main motion. There are three ways to amend a motion:
- Amend by adding = add words or phrases to the motion
- Amend by striking/deleting = remove words or phrases from the motion
- Amend by substitution = remove words/phrases and insert others; or substitute an entire paragraph or even a whole new motion.
Adopting an amendment is not the same as adopting a motion. Once a motion is perfected through amendment, the amended motion must then be adopted.
Further, only two levels of amendment are allowed. A member can offer an amendment (2nd level) to an amendment (1st level) to motion. However, no one can make an amendment (3rd level) to an amendment (2nd level) to an amendment (1st level) to a motion. When voting on amendments, the body works back to the main motion. In other words, first the body perfects the amendment; then it perfects the motion; then it approves the motion.
Appeal = an incidental motion to allow two members to object to what they believe is an incorrect or unfair ruling of the Moderator.
An incidental motion is one that arises out of the pending business and usually deals with questions of procedure that the Assembly must resolve before business continues. If a person calls for an appeal and the motion to appeal is seconded, the Moderator must submit his ruling to a vote of the Assembly. The body either sustains or overrules the Moderator by a majority vote.
“Call the question” or “Move the previous question” = this subsidiary motion cuts off debate and forces the group to vote immediately on a pending motion.
Ordinarily the person making the motion specifies which issue he wants to move to a vote (e.g., the motion to amend or all motions to amend as well as the main motion). Since this motion takes away a member’s right to debate, approval requires a two-thirds majority. This motion is not debatable – either the Assembly is ready to vote or not. This motion refers only to the debate. Approval does nothing to resolve the main motion.
Division = an incidental motion made by any member to demand that the Moderator verify a vote just taken.
When division is called (no second is needed), the Moderator must retake the vote in a manner in which the group can be assured of the correctness of his call.
Division of a Question = an incidental motion to divide an issue into parts in order to debate and vote on them separately. It must be seconded, is not debated, and is approved by a simple majority.
Point of Information = an incidental motion to obtain additional information on the subject being considered by the group.
Point of Order = an incidental motion that the Assembly is not operating according to the established rules of procedure.
This is an incidental motion that relates directly to procedure, rather than to the question on the floor, and requires immediate attention. The person making the motion is alerting the body to a violation of procedure and calling the Moderator to defend a ruling or an action.
Point of Personal Privilege = a privileged motion that enables a member to interrupt business on the floor to state an urgent request – usually touching on the comfort or safety of an individual in the group (e.g., “I am unable to hear the speaker.” “I did not receive the printed report.”)
A privileged motion does not relate to the business but rather has to do with special matters of immediate and overriding importance. At the PCA General Assembly, a member sometimes asks the Moderator, “Can I have a point of personal privilege?” when he desires to speak to the Assembly. If a member wants to address the Assembly, he should ask the Moderator for the privilege of addressing the body (RRO 33e).
Voting at the General Assembly
During the Assembly, the Moderator uses different methods of voting depending upon the issue and how close the vote appears to be. NOTE: only commissioners inside the voting areas designated in the Assembly Hall are considered in a vote.
1) Unanimous consent: the Moderator assumes approval in issues where there is unlikely to be opposition. The Moderator may say something like, “Unless there is an objection, the motion is approved.” If someone says “I object” or “no,” the Moderator calls for an audible/visual vote.
2) Voice vote: “All those in favor say ‘Aye;’ all those opposed say ‘Nay’.”
3) Voting cards: registered commissioners are given colored cards, which they raise when instructed by the Moderator
4) Standing vote: if the Moderator is unable to determine the outcome by looking at the raised cards, he may call for a standing vote.
5) Counted vote: if the Moderator is unable to determine the outcome by looking at those who stand, he will instruct the floor clerks to count those standing in order to tally the vote.
6) Ballot vote: as per RAO 1-4, a ballot is used to elect the Moderator at the beginning of the Assembly. The Moderator may choose to use this option in other votes, but it is rare outside the election of the Moderator
1Much of this material is taken from Robert’s Rules in Plain English by Doris P. Zimmerman, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.