63 Session
64 Quorum
65 Order of Business
66 Nominations and Elections
67 Constitutions, By-laws, Rules of Order, and Standing Rules
68 Amendments of Constitutions, By-laws and Rules of Order


63. A Session of an assembly is a meeting which, though it may last for days, is virtually one meeting, as a session of a convention; or even months, as a session of Congress; it terminates by an "adjournment sine die (without day)." The intermediate adjournments from day to day, or the recesses taken during the day, do not destroy the continuity of the meetings, which in reality constitute one session. Any meeting which is not an adjournment of another meeting commences a new session. In the case of a permanent society, whose by-laws provide for regular meetings every week, month, or year, for example, each meeting constitutes a separate session of the society, which session, however, can be prolonged by adjourning to another day.


In this Manual the term Meeting is used to denote an assembling of the members of a deliberative assembly for any length of time, during which there is no separation of the members except for a recess of a few minutes, as the morning meetings, the afternoon meetings, and the evening meetings, of a convention whose session lasts for days. A "meeting" of an assembly is terminated by a temporary adjournment or a recess for a meal, etc.; a "session" of an assembly ends with an adjournment without day, and may consist of many meetings. So an adjournment to meet again at some other time, even the same day, unless it was for only a few minutes, terminates the meeting, but not the session, which latter includes all the adjourned meetings. The next meeting, in this case, would be an "adjourned meeting" of the same session.


In ordinary practice a meeting is closed by moving simply "to adjourn;" the society meets again at the time provided either by the rules or by a resolution of the society. If it does not meet till the time for the next regular meeting as provided in the by-laws, then the adjournment closes the session, and was in effect an adjournment without day. If, however, it had previously fixed the time for the next meeting, either by a direct vote or by adopting a program of exercise covering several meetings, or even days, in either case the adjournment is in effect to a certain time, and while closing the meeting does not close the session.


In such common expressions as quarterly meeting and annual meeting the word meeting is used in the sense of the parliamentary session, and covers all the adjourned meetings. Thus, business that legally must be done at the annual meeting may be done at any time during the session beginning at the time specified for the annual meeting, though the session, by repeated adjournments, may last for days. The business may be postponed to the next regular meeting, if desired.


Under Renewal of Motions [38] is explained what motions can be repeated during the same session, and also the circumstances under which certain motions cannot be renewed until after the close of the next succeeding session.


A rule or resolution of a permanent nature may be adopted by a majority vote at any session of a society, and it will continue in force until it is rescinded. But such a standing rule does not materially interfere with the rights of a future session, as by a majority vote it may be suspended so far as it affects that session; and, it may be rescinded by a majority vote, if notice of the proposed action was given at a previous meeting, or in the notice of the meeting; or, without any notice, it may be rescinded by a majority of the entire membership, or by a two-thirds vote. If it is desired to give greater stability to a rule it is necessary to place it in the constitution by-laws, or rules of order, all of which are so guarded by requiring notice of amendments, and at least a two-thirds vote for their adoption, that they are not subject to sudden changes, and may be considered as expressing the deliberate views of the whole society, rather than the opinions or wishes of any particular meeting.


In case of the illness of the presiding officer the assembly cannot elect a chairman pro tem. to hold office beyond the session, unless notice of the election was given at the previous meeting or in the call for this meeting. So it is improper for an assembly to postpone anything to a day beyond the next succeeding session, and thus attempt to prevent the next session from considering the question. On the other hand, it is not permitted to move the reconsideration of a vote taken at a previous session, though the motion to reconsider can be called up, provided it was made during the previous session in a society having meetings as often as quarterly. Committees can be appointed to report at a future session.


NOTE ON SESSION. -- In Congress, and in fact all legislative bodies, the limits of the sessions are clearly defined; but in ordinary societies having a permanent existence, with regular meetings more or less frequent, there appears to be some confusion upon the subject. Any society is competent to decide what shall constitute one of its sessions, but, where there is no rule on the subject, the common parliamentary law would make each of its regular or special meetings a separate session, as they are regarded in this Manual.


The disadvantages of a rule making a session include all the meetings of an ordinary society, held during a long time, as one year, are very great. If an objection to the consideration of a question as been sustained, or if a question has been adopted, or rejected, or postponed indefinitely, the question cannot again be brought before the assembly for its consideration during the same session. If a session lasted for a long period, a temporary majority could forestall the permanent majority, and introduce and act on a number of questions favored by the majority, and thus prevent the society from dealing with those subjects for the long period of the session. If members of any society take advantage of the freedom allowed by considering each regular meeting a separate session, and repeatedly renew obnoxious or unprofitable motions, the society can adopt a rule prohibiting the second introduction of any main question within, say, three months after its rejection, or indefinite postponement, or after the society has refused to consider it. But generally it is better to suppress the motion by refusing to consider it [23].

64. A Quorum of an assembly is such a number as must be present in order that business can be legally transacted. The quorum refers to the number present, not to the number voting. The quorum of a mass meeting is the number present at the time, as they constitute the membership at that time. The quorum of a body of delegates, unless the by-laws provide for a smaller quorum, is a majority of the number enrolled as attending the convention, not those appointed. The quorum of any other deliberative assembly with an enrolled membership (unless the by-laws provide for a smaller quorum) is a majority of all the members. In the case, however, of a society, like many religious ones, where there are no annual dues, and where membership is for life (unless it is transferred or the names are struck from the roll by a vote of the society) the register of members is not reliable as a list of the bona fide members of the society, and in many such societies it would be impossible to have present at a business meeting a majority of those enrolled as members. Where such societies have no by-law establishing a quorum, the quorum consists of those who attend the meeting, provided it is either a stated meeting or one that has been properly called.


In all ordinary societies the by-laws should provide for a quorum as large as can be depended upon for being present at all meetings when the weather is not exceptionally bad. In such an assembly the chairman should not take the chair until a quorum is present, or there is no prospect of there being a quorum. The only business that can be transacted in the absence of a quorum is to take measures to obtain a quorum, to fix the time to which to-adjourn, and to adjourn, or to take a recess. Unanimous consent cannot be given when a quorum is not present, and a notice given then is not valid. In the case of an annual meeting, where certain business for the year, as the election of officers, must be attended to during the session, the meeting should fix a time for an adjourned meeting and then adjourn.


In an assembly that has the power to compel the attendance of its members, if a quorum is not present at the appointed hour, the chairman should wait a few minutes before taking the chair. In the absence of a quorum such an assembly may order a call of the house [41] and thus compel attendance of absentees, or it may adjourn, providing for an adjourned meeting if it pleases.


In committee of the whole the quorum is the same as in the assembly; if it finds itself without a quorum it can do nothing but rise and report to the assembly, which then adjourns. In any other committee the majority is a quorum, unless the assembly order otherwise, and it must wait for a quorum before proceeding to business. Boards of trustees, managers, directors, etc., are on the same footing as committees as regards a quorum. Their power is delegated to them as a body, and their quorum, or what number shall be present, in order that they may act as a board or committee, cannot be determined by them, unless so provided in the by-laws.


While no question can be decided in the absence of a quorum excepting those mentioned above, a member cannot be interrupted while speaking in order to make the point of no quorum. The debate may continue in the absence of a quorum until some one raises the point while no one is speaking.


While a quorum is competent to transact any business, it is usually not expedient to transact important business unless there is a fair attendance at the meeting, or else previous notice of such action has been given.


Care should be taken in amending the rule providing for a quorum. If the rule is struck out first, then the quorum instantly becomes a majority of all the members, so that in many societies it would be nearly impracticable to secure a quorum to adopt a new rule. The proper way is to amend by striking out certain words (or the whole rule) and inserting certain other words (or the new rule), which is made and voted on as one question.


NOTE ON QUORUM. -- After all the members of an organization have had reasonable notice of a meeting, and ample opportunity for discussion, if a majority of the total membership of the organization come to a certain decision, that must be accepted as the action or opinion of that body. But, with the exception of a body of delegates, it is seldom that a vote as great as a majority of the total membership of a large voluntary organization call be obtained for anything, and consequently there has been established a common parliamentary law principle, that if a bare majority of the membership is present at a meeting properly called or provided for, a majority vote (which means a majority of those who vote) shall be sufficient to make the act the act of the body, unless it suspends a rule or a right of a member (as the right to introduce questions and the right of free discussion before being required to vote on finally disposing of a question) and that a two-thirds vote shall have the power to suspend these rules and rights. This gives the right to act for the society to about one-fourth of its members in ordinary cases, and to about one-third of its members in case of suspending the rules and certain rights. But it has been found impracticable to accomplish the work of most voluntary societies if no business can be transacted unless a majority of the members is present. In large organizations, meeting weekly or monthly for one or two hours, it is the exception when a majority of the members is present at a meeting, and therefore it has been found necessary to require the presence of only a small percentage of the members to enable the assembly to act for the organization, or, in other words, to establish a small quorum. ln legislative bodies in this country, which are composed of members paid for their services, it is determined by the constitutions to be a majority of their members. Congress in 1861 decided this to be a majority of the members chosen. In the English House of Commons it is 40 out of nearly 700, being about 6% of the members, while in the House of Lords the quorum is 3, or about one-half of 1% of the members. Where the quorum is so small it has been found necessary to require notice of all bills, amendments, etc., to be given in advance; and even in Congress, With its large quorum, one day's notice has to be given of any motion to rescind or change any rule or standing order. This principle is a sound one, particularly with societies meeting monthly or weekly for one or two hours, and with small quorums, where frequently the assembly is no adequate representation of the society. The difficulty in such cases may be met in societies adopting this Manual by the proper use of the motion to reconsider and have entered on the minutes as explained in 36:13.