Refresher - How to Make and Consider a Motion

Earlier this week I described the five types of motions under Robert's Rules of Order: main, subsidiary, incidental, privileged and previous.

Some motions have their own specific requirements, which you can read about in detail in Robert's Rules of Order. Today, I will discuss the basic process for dealing with most motions that arise at condominium meetings. First, someone must make the motion (typically called the mover). Someone must then encourage the motion being brought before the meeting (typically called the seconder). It is noteworthy that the person seconding the motion need not agree with it; she may vote against it when it is time to vote. The chair should then state the question so everyone understands it and open the floor to debate (if there is any). Once the debate is finished, or the time permitted for such has passed, the chair should put the question to the members and give directions for voting.

The motion is complete when the chair announces the result. Example of a Main Motion John Smith (standing): I move that by-law no. 4 be approved as presented. Jane Doe (standing): I second that motion. Chairperson: The question is moved and seconded that by-law no. 4 be approved as presented. Peter Mohammed (standing): Madam Chair. Chairperson: Mr. Mohammed. Peter Mohammed (standing): The by-law is important as it sets out the governance process for our condominium. It also sets out our standard unit definition, which is very important for insurance purposes. Tai Wei (standing): Madam Chair. Chairperson: Mr. Wei. Tai Wei (standing): We already have a by-law. We don't need another one. This is just work the lawyer thought up to make himself busy! (Further debate). Chairperson: Is there any further debate? (pause). The question is that by-law no. 4 be approved as presented. If you are in favour of approving the by-law, check the box that states "in favour" on your ballot. If you are against approving the by-law, check the box that states "against". (Ballots and proxies are counted and a report is provided to the chairperson).

Chairperson: There were more votes in favour of the motion so the motion was successful. By-law no. 4 was approved as presented and it will become effective once registered by the condominium's lawyer. The example above is relatively straightforward; sometimes a motion will be more complicated. For instance, if an owner wanted to amend the motion to approve the by-law so that the standard unit definition included flooring (assuming it was not included in the presented version), the owner would move during debate of the main motion (to pass the by-law) to amend the by-law to include flooring. It would require someone to second it, debate of the proposed amendment, and a vote on the amendment. Each amendment must be voted upon before the final vote on the motion to approve the by-law. If a motion to amend is successful, the chair must state the question on the main motion (to pass the by-law) as amended. Debate of the main motion would then continue. Don't worry too much if you don't get every step in the process for every motion. Do your best, be fair, and listen to those present at the meeting and you should be fine.

If you are looking for more information, I suggest you visit Jim Slaughter's site for helpful articles and charts on parliamentary rules, including a very useful chart on the requirements for motions under Robert's Rules of Order.