A Synergic Version of Robert’s Rules of Order
Robert’s Rules of Order
(RR) were originated in to facilitate the decision-making process for groups of humans. They were used to ensure that discussion was clear, and that the rights of both the majority and the minority were protected. What follows is an abbreviated version of RR modified to serve synergic consensus and the synergic veto. The original RR were to help meetings run more smoothly and keep discussion on track. The rules, however, were not meant to disrupt or hold-up a meeting, and could be suspended if a member was using them for those purposes. There was provision within RR to suspend the rules, and often at the committee level a consensus decision-making process was employed.
Each meeting is facilitated or guided by a speaker or chairperson. S/he is responsible for ensuring that the meeting runs smoothly and fairly. Since synergic consensus is the goal, the chairperson may participate in the discussion as a full equal. The chairperson is not the final arbitrator of all decisions: the assembly ultimately has the authority and the responsibility to decide how the meeting should run.
The basis for discussion is a formal motion. The motion is put forward of being ‘moved’ by a deciding member of the assembly to focus discussion. Motions are one of two types: 1) To discuss a problem facing the group. Or 2) To propose group action to solve a problem. Each new motion must be stated clearly and briefly. The Chairperson, then calls for any vetoes to the motion being brought to the floor. A veto can only be used to prevent loss. If no vetoes are heard, the motion is put ‘on the floor’ for discussion, discussion must focus on the substance of the motion. All other discussion is out of order and not allowed. A main motion may not be introduced if there is any other motion on the floor. The mover must state the motion before speaking and motions could be written out and handed to the chair so that everyone is clear on what is being discussed.
Once a motion is introduced, the chairperson will maintain a speaker’s list to allow for discussion in an orderly manner. To ensure that all members of the assembly have an equal opportunity to speak, the chairperson will allow speakers on the list who have not yet spoken before those who already have spoken.
At any time, a person who has the floor can introduce an amendment to the main motion being debated. An amendment is a motion that alters, adds to, subtracts from, or completely changes the main motion. Once an amendment has been moved, discussion must be on the substance of the amendment. For an amendment to be adopted, the question must be called. The chairperson will then ask for vetoes. If there are none the amendment is adopted. Once an amendment has either been adopted, vetoed, or withdrawn, discussion reverts back to the main motion, taking into account whether or not the amendment passed. Complex or lengthy amendments could be written out for the chairperson to be able to read back to the assembly.
Point of Order:
If a member feels that the rules of order are being broken, s/he can immediately raise a ‘point of order’, and state what rule has been broken or not enforced by the chair. A point of order can interrupt a speaker. It cannot be used as an opportunity to get around the speakers’ list – it can only be used to ask the chair to enforce the rules. The chair decides if the point is valid or not, and proceeds accordingly.
Point of Privilege:
A point of privilege can interrupt the speaker. A member who feels her/his right or privileges have been infringed on may bring up this point by stating their problem. Privilege refers to anything regarding the comfort of accessibility of the member (i.e. too much smoke, too much noise, fuzzy photocopies, etc.), or to the right of the member not to be insulted, misquoted, or deliberately misinterpreted. Again, the chair decides if the point is valid or not and proceeds accordingly.
Challenge the Chair:
If a member feels her/his point of order or privilege has been ruled on unfairly by the chair, s/he can challenge the chair/speaker. The chair then must modify her/his ruling until the challenger is satisfied. This challenge is a synergic veto. If the challenger feels they are losing, that loss must be repaired. If the challenger cannot be satisfied, the chair/speaker can pass the chair to another member of the group who can then have a try.
Point of Information:
A point of information is a QUESTION. A member may interrupt the speaker to ask her/his question, but the speaker who has the floor has the privilege to refuse the question. The chair will ask the speaker if s/he wishes to entertain a question at that time. A point of information is not an opportunity to bring forward information, jump the speakers’ list, harass another speaker, or generally disrupt the proceedings – IT CAN ONLY BE A QUESTION.
Debate may end in several ways. If a member feels that a decision on a motion needs to be postponed for some reason, then s/he can move to ‘table’ the motion. A member may not move to table a motion at the end of a speech, only at the time they are recognized by the chair. A specified time may be put on the tabling or the motion may be left indefinite. The only debate allowed is as to the length of tabling, or the time-line involved. A motion to table requires only the absence of a veto.
Calling the Question:
If a member feels that further discussion is unproductive, s/he may ‘call the question’, requesting the discussion be ended. If there is no objection-veto, the meeting proceeds to the main motion. If there is an objection-veto to ending the discussion, then chair must satisfy the objector-vetoer, or the discussion will continue. If the ‘call’ passes, a vote on the main motion is immediately taken, without any further debate. All votes are simply calls for veto. If there are no vetoes, the motion carries. The only basis for veto is loss. A veto may be challenged by any member calling CHALLENGE, the member vetoing must then explain how the motion would cause loss.
A motion to rescind another motion is in order if it refers to a motion passed at another meeting on another day. This cannot be applied to actions that cannot be reversed (i.e. things that have already been carried out). This requires explicit absence of veto.
A motion to reconsider is applicable to a motion that was passed at the same meeting. It only requires the absence of veto. And, any motion can be challenged for explanation.
Suspension of the Rules:
A motion to suspend the rules of order (so that the assembly may do something not allowed in the rules) passes with absence of veto, it is not debatable, cannot be amended and cannot be reconsidered at the same meeting.
This motion takes precedence over all others, except to ‘fix the time to adjourn’, to which it yields. It is not debatable, it cannot be amended, nor can a vote on it be reconsidered. A motion to adjourn cannot be made when another has the floor, nor after a question has been put and the assembly is engaged in voting.
Refer or Commit:
This motion is generally used to send a pending question to a committee so that the questions may be carefully investigated. This motion is debatable, but the debate can only extend to the desirability of committing the main motion, not to the substance of the main motion itself.
Committee of the Whole:
At some point the assembly may wish to informally consider a motion or a group of motions before having to deal with them in a ‘one at a time’, debate fashion. Votes may be taken in committee but are not binding on the assembly unless ratified when the group re-enters the regular session. Motions are required to move in and out of committee of the whole.
The numbering of motions always is by date, and then by when the motion arose in the meeting (YEAR/MONTH/DAY:NUMBER IN ORDER). So the fourteenth motion during the February 02, 2002 meeting would be numbered like: 02/02/02:14.