Rules of Order

Parliamentary Procedure Resources

This is not a complete reference to cover every situation in a meeting. The intent is merely to present some of the basic principals involved in parliamentary procedure and municipal officials should be advised to have access to some manual on parliamentary procedure in order to answer particular questions as they arise during the meeting.

Fundamentally, under the rules of parliamentary procedure, a deliberative body is a free agent - free to do what it wants to do with the greatest measure of protection to itself and of consideration for the rights of its members.

Before examining the more important points of parliamentary procedure, it is necessary to establish a format for conducting the meeting. The customary order of business and an explanation of each area is as follows:

1) Call to Order
Since statute requires that no business can be conducted by a governing body unless a quorum is present, it would be useless to call the meeting to order without a quorum. (§§ 9-7-7, 9-8-8, and 9-9-14) These statutes define a quorum to be a majority of the members of the governing body irrespective of whether the governing body is the town board of trustees, the city council, or the city commission.

After determining if a quorum is present, and when it is time for the meeting to begin, the mayor, acting mayor or president of the board of trustees calls the meeting to order by saying, “The Council (Board or Commission) will come to order.

2) Calling the Roll
Statute requires the finance officer to record and publish the proceedings of the governing body. (§9-14-17) The rules established by a governing body may require the finance officer to call the roll. The presiding officer begins the roll call by saying “The finance officer will call the roll.” The finance officer then reads the names of the members in alphabetical order and records their absence or presence accordingly. It is customary to place the presiding officer at the end of the roll call. It is also customary for the finance officer to report the number of members present and absent in the following manner: “(Mr.)(Madam) Mayor (or (Mr.)(Madam) President) all members are present,” or “(Mr.)(Madam) Mayor (or (Mr.)(Madam) President) there are_____members present and_____members absent.”

3) Reading the Minutes
After the call to order and the roll call, the presiding officer then directs the finance officer to read the minutes of the last meeting by saying, “The finance officer will read the minutes of the last meeting.” The minutes are then read. If there has been a special meeting of the governing body since the last preceding regular meeting, the Finance Officer should read the minutes of the last regular meeting and then read the minutes of the special meeting.

The presiding officer should then ask, “Are there any additions or corrections to the minutes?” If there are no additions or corrections, the presiding officer should then declare, “The minutes stand approved as read.” If there are any additions or corrections, before proceeding any further, the presiding officer should ask, “Are there any further additions or corrections to the minutes.” If there are no further additions or corrections, the presiding officer may then add, “The minutes stand approved as corrected.” If there are any additions or corrections to the minutes, the auditor or clerk should note the corrections in the minutes for the current meeting.

The rules may provide that the finance officer furnish each member of the governing body with a copy of the minutes before the next regular meeting. If this is the case, then the minutes are usually not read and the presiding officer may simply request corrections to the minutes.

The minutes serve the function of being the permanent record of the proceedings of the governing body and are therefore, the source document concerning all business discussed and actions taken by the governing body. As such, the minutes should give a complete and objective account of what happened at a particular meeting. This does not ordinarily mean that actual discussion should be summarized and included in the minutes. It does mean that every main motion whether adopted or rejected should be recorded along with the name of the maker, the seconder, the results of any action and usually the members who voted in favor and the members who voted against the motion.

4) Committee Report - Reports of City Officers
If a municipality has any standing or special committees their reports or findings are usually presented after the minutes have been read and approved. The reports of the municipal officers and the various boards should also be presented at this time.

5) Notices and Communications
The petitions for initiated or referred ordinances are, as a matter of custom, presented after the reports of the city officers or boards. Also any memorials, proclamations or other communications, such as notice of pending civil action, should be presented at this time.

6) Presentation of Claims and Authorization of Warrant Issuance
Claims against the municipality, such as payments due on contracts or bonds or anything which in general constitutes an indebtedness of the municipality, should be presented before consideration of unfinished or new business as a matter of courtesy.

7) Unfinished Business
Since there are usually several items before a governing body which are held over from the previous meeting, it is customary to give consideration to these matters before introducing new business.

8) New Business
Ordinances and resolutions should be introduced and given consideration under new business at the initial reading of the ordinance or resolution. At subsequent meetings it would be permissible to continue discussion on the ordinance or resolution and treat it either as old or new business.

9) Adjournment
After considering all of the business before it, or in most instances the major share of it, the governing body adjourns the meeting.

There is nothing which requires the meeting to be conducted exactly in the manner prescribed above. The rules can be suspended and consideration can be given to an item on the agenda which does not follow according to the format which was presented here. In many instances circumstances will arise which necessitates giving consideration to one item on the agenda before other items should be considered. However, discretion should be used when changing the order of business, and meetings should be conducted in generally the same form as presented above.

In many instances, the governing body will find it advisable to refer to a standard document on parliamentary procedures in order to determine the proper order of business and other matters relating to parliamentary procedure in general. Questions often arise as to whether or not for example, a motion is debatable, or requires a second, and which motions take “precedence” over other motions. In many cases, depending upon which standard rules, and even which edition of the same rules, on parliamentary procedure is used to govern the proceedings of the meeting, the answers to specific questions about certain motions, will vary. Should any problems arise concerning a particular motion, municipal officials should refer to the standard work on parliamentary procedure which has been accepted by the governing body.

However, there are some procedures which are accepted in all of the major works on parliamentary procedure. The steps to be followed in making most motions are followed with an explanation of each step.

The Maker
1)  Addresses the Chair

The “chair” refers to the presiding officer of the meeting. The rules may require that a member, previous to speaking, shall rise. The member should address the chair as “Mr. Mayor (Mr. President).”

2) Waits for Recognition

3) Makes the Motion
Motions constitute a formal procedure for taking action. They are used in adopting or amending ordinances or resolutions. Usually motions are not required to be submitted in writing, but are written down for the record by the finance officer at the time the motion is made. Motions should be made in a form similar to “Mr. Mayor (Mr. President), I move that_______________.”

The Seconder
4) Seconds the Motion

Seconding the motion, when required, should be made in the following manner, “Mr. Mayor (Mr. President), I second the motion.”

The Presiding Officer
5) States the Motion

After a motion has been made and seconded, the presiding officer should restate the motion by saying, “It has been moved and seconded that _____.”

6) Calls for Debate
The presiding officer should then, if the motion is debatable, ask if there “Are there any remarks?” or “The floor is now open for debate.”

7) Calls for a Vote
After the discussion has ended, the presiding officer can call for a vote on the motion by saying, “The question is (restate the motion), all those in favor say ‘aye’, all opposed say ‘nay’.” The minutes shall record the names of each person voting ‘aye’ and each person voting ‘nay’.

8) Takes the Vote

9) Declares the Result
Immediately after the vote is taken the presiding officer should declare the result by saying, “The ayes have it and the motion is carried,” or “The nays have it and the motion is defeated.”

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