Parliamentary procedure: Frequently asked questions

Following correct procedure during meetings can help keep the meeting on track, on time and productive, but it can get confusing.

Meeting using parliamentary procedure
Photo by Michigan State University Extension

Michigan State University Extension has created a list of frequently asked questions during 4-H Parliamentary Procedure Trainings. Correct parliamentary procedure during meetings can help keep the meeting on track, on time and productive. Follow this list to avoid confusion.

When does the president vote?

Groups need to refer to their by-laws to determine this. If the president is named as a full member then they would have voting rights on all issues. However if the by-laws do not state any guidelines then they would vote only to break a tie, create a tie or in the case of elections.

Why would a president want to vote to create a tie?

Creating a tie causes the motion to fail. It is the president’s job to make sure decisions are being made fairly and for the good of the organization. If a vote is so close that the president can make it a tie, then maybe the issue needs more research or more time for the membership to consider the issue. The president can make the vote a tie, announce that the motion fails due to the tie vote and then turn it to committee for further research. When the committee brings it back to a later meeting, the motion needs to be a new and different motion but can be around the same issue or topic.

Can the president make a motion?

Technically the president can make a motion, but since they are supposed to remain impartial it isn’t good practice to do so. However, the president can say, “I will now entertain a motion to…” This is a way to guide a motion without actually making it and can often get the same result. The president can assume a motion. For example, they may adjourn the meeting by stating, “If there isn’t any further business, this meeting will adjourn. Hearing none, this meeting is adjourned.”

Can the president enter a debate?

The primary role of the president is to facilitate discussion; remaining impartial and not giving their personal input is important to that discussion. To enter a debate, the president may choose to pass the role of president off to the vice president or another member that does not wish to speak on the issue. Best practice is to let the member who has assumed the presidential duties continue in this role for the remainder of the meeting.

Why do groups say the pledges at the beginning of a meeting?

Pledges at the beginning of a meeting are not a requirement. However, saying the Pledge of Allegiance and then the 4-H Pledge brings the group together before starting the meeting. They are pledging these things together and it sets the scene for the meeting to be guided by these principles. 4-H members and leaders should always be thinking of their head, heart, hands and health when doing 4-H business and saying the pledge together at the beginning of a meeting sets that tone.

Do you have to read the minutes before they are approved?

You do not have to read the minutes if they have been provided to the membership in advance. If a copy has not been provided prior to the meeting, then the secretary needs to read the minutes before the president asks for a motion to approve.

Do you have to vote on accepting the minutes?

A motion should be made to accept the minutes, be supported by a second and voted on. The president should ask for corrections to the minutes before a motion is asked for; if a motion is made and seconded, they can ask for discussion, so members have an opportunity to offer corrections during that time. If corrections are made after the motion is made, then an amendment to the motion must be made first before voting on the previous motion to accept. Otherwise, the person making the motion could say, “I move to accept the minutes as corrected.”

Do you record who makes and seconds the motion in the minutes?

The person who makes the motion must be recorded as they are in support of the motion. The person who seconds the motion does not need to be recorded. The person seconding the motion may not actually support it, but merely wanted to move it forward for discussion.

Can minutes be corrected even after they have been adopted?

Minutes can be corrected even after approval for an unlimited time. To be corrected after they have been accepted requires a motion to amend minutes previously adopted. This requires a two-thirds vote or a majority vote with proper prior notification to the membership that corrections were going to be presented.

Do you have to vote on accepting the treasures report?

The treasurers report is a statement of indisputable numbers (e.g., expenses, income, balance, etc.). It cannot be contested by the membership, therefore it is placed on file or received and not voted on. For example the chair or president would say,” The treasurer’s report has been placed on file.” Treasurer reports should be sent to audit annually and then the annual audit may or may not be approved by the membership.

Should the person who makes the motion vote in favor of the motion?

Yes, the person presenting the motion is basically stating they are in favor of it. If after discussion takes place they are no longer in favor of the motion, they should withdrawal the motion or amend the motion to be something they would support.

What is the proper procedure when someone “calls the previous question?”

The president will acknowledge the individual’s request, ask for a second and if a second is received, call for an immediate vote as this motion is not debatable. If a two-thirds vote is achieved, then all discussion must end and the group will vote on the previous motion. If a two-thirds vote or a second is not achieved, discussion may continue.

When do you remove something that has been tabled?

An item can be removed from the table at the same meeting it was placed there provided other business takes place first or before the end of the following meeting. Placing something on the table may be done for many reasons. For example, there may be other pending business that must be done and this item is requiring more time than allowed. A motion may be made to table the item and then when other business is finished it can be taken back up from the table if time permits. In other cases, it may be tabled to find out more information before the next meeting and therefore wouldn’t be taken back up from the table until the following meeting. Any item not taken off the table at the conclusion of the next regularly scheduled meeting fails. Best practice is to postpone items instead of tabling and give a specific date that they will be again addressed.

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