Make room for more voices in parliamentary procedure

Myles Alexander Mug2By Myles Alexander
Community, Natural Resources and Economic Development Educator
UW-Extension Oneida County
Phone: 715-365-2750


In August I promised a few suggestions for how other discussion methods may take place during a meeting run according to parliamentary procedure. It is simple. Make a motion to suspend the rules.

Appll good motions are simple and clear. To suspend the rules when acknowledged by the chair say, “I move to suspend the rules.” The motion requires a second. It is not debated and needs a 2/3 majority to pass. It is good to include a few details in the motion.

What is the purpose of the motion to suspend the rules? In government, Robert’s Rules limits the debate to the elected representatives. To give the public an opportunity for dialog and deliberation during the meeting the rules must be suspended. In that case a motion is made such as, “I move to suspend the rules for 30 minutes of small group discussion followed by 10 minutes for the results to be verbally reported.”

chairsIf a particular result is needed and time is not limited the motion may be made, “I move to suspend the rules for the public to discuss and agree on the top three criteria for our decision with the guidance of our guest facilitator Bob Smith.”

In many meetings member organizations that follows Robert’s Rule there is often a lot of information discussion. For example, someone may suggest a motion is in order. Then members talk about the issue to agree on the motion. That is not Robert’s Rules of parliamentary procedure. Disorder and confusion often result.

Instead, if no one is prepared to make a motion for a decision about the issue at hand, make a motion to suspend the rules, “I move to suspend the rules for 10 minutes for the purpose of informal discussion about the issue.” After the rule suspension time, return to parliamentary order and the secretary continues taking minutes, as motions are made. The period of rule suspension gives people informal time to talk and collect their thoughts. They can be more prepared to offer simple, decision oriented motions.

Finally, a motion should be well constructed but it need not be perfect when made. The body can amend a motion. Debate can be short and a motion defeated to make way for another, better amendment. It may be most efficient for several motions to fail rather than fuss over an initial motion until it is perfect.

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