Suggestions for organizing an effective committee of the whole

A new resource on how local government boards can use a committee of the whole for informal deliberations.

I recently produced guidelines for how a board can use a committee of the whole and posted it to the MSU Extension Parliamentary Procedure Resources website. The guide will help a board understand the difference between a regular committee and a committee of the whole and provides practical steps to integrate a committee of the whole structure into a meeting schedule.

A Committee of the whole is used primarily by legislative bodies. Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (11th Edition) provides a description of how a large board may use a committee of the whole as an opportunity for informal discussion during a meeting. In practice, committees of the whole have differed from RONR and have taken the form of a standing committee, for which boards have developed a regular schedule of meetings, order of business and committee rules of order. The most effective use of committee of the whole for county boards is to combine the practice of a stand-alone committee of the whole with the rules prescribed by RONR.

A committee format know as committee of the whole can be useful to a board if they find that issues coming before them require the attention of all members of the board. A committee does not carry with it the powers of the entire board, but can only carry out the functions that are prescribed to them by the board. According to RONR, “An assembly can also designate all of its members present to act as a committee, which is called a committee of the whole and is distinguished from an ordinary committee.” A committee of the whole is different than a regular committee because it includes all of the members of a board. It is like an ordinary committee in that the only authority a committee of the whole has is that which is assigned to it by the board. The purpose of such a committee is to allow all of the members of a board an opportunity to engage in informal discussion on ideas and proposals which may eventually result in a recommendation to the board.

This is one of several articles on parliamentary procedure and how to conduct more effective organizational meetings. For a complete list of resources visit the Parliamentary Procedure resource on the Michigan State University Extension website.

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