Deliberative Assemblies

In this section:
1. Introduction of Business
2. What Precedes Debate
3. Motions and Resolutions
4. Seconding Motions

Introduction of Business

An assembly having been organized as described in Organization and Meetings, business is brought before it either by the motion of a member, or by the presentation of a communication to the assembly. It is not usual to make motions to receive reports of committees or communications to the assembly. There are many other cases in the ordinary routine of business where the formality of a motion is dispensed with, but should any member object, a regular motion becomes necessary, or the chair may put the question without waiting for a motion.

What Precedes Debate

Before any subject is open to debate it is necessary, first, that a motion be made by a member who has obtained the floor; second, that it be seconded (with certain exceptions); and third, that it be stated by the chair, that is, by the presiding officer. The fact that a motion has been made and seconded does not put it before the assembly, as the chair alone can do that. He must either rule it out of order, or state the question on it so that the assembly may know what is before it for consideration and action, that is, what is the immediately pending question. If several questions are pending, as a resolution and an amendment and a motion to postpone, the last one stated by the chair is the immediately pending question.

While no debate or other motion is in order after a motion is made, until it is stated or ruled out of order by the chair, yet members may suggest modifications of the motion, and the mover, without the consent of the seconder, has the right to make such modifications as he pleases, or even to withdraw his motion entirely before the chair states the question. After it is stated by the chair he can do neither without the consent of the assembly as shown in Requests Growing Out of The Business. A little informal consultation before the question is stated often saves much time, but the chair must see that this privilege is not abused and allowed to run into debate. When the mover modifies his motion the one who seconded it has a right to withdraw his second.

Motions and Resolutions

A motion is a proposal that the assembly take certain action, or that it express itself as holding certain views. It is made by a member's obtaining the floor as already described and saying, "I move that" (which is equivalent to saying, "I propose that"), and then stating the action he proposes to have taken. Thus a member "moves" (proposes) that a resolution be adopted, or amended, or referred to a committee, or that a vote of thanks be extended, etc.; or "That it is the sense of this meeting (or assembly) that industrial training," etc. Every resolution should be in writing, and the presiding officer has a right to require any main motion, amendment, or instructions to a committee to be in writing. When a main motion is of such importance or length as to be in writing it is usually written in the form of a resolution, that is, beginning with the words, "Resolved, That," the word "Resolved" being underscored (printed in italics) and followed by a comma, and the word "That" beginning with a capital "T." If the word "Resolved" were replaced by the words "I move," the resolution would become a motion. A resolution is always a main motion. In some sections of the country the word "resolve" is frequently used instead of "resolution." In assemblies with paid employees, instructions given to employees are called "orders" instead of "resolutions," and the enacting word, "Ordered" is used instead of "Resolved."

When a member wishes a resolution adopted after having obtained the floor, he says, "I move the adoption of the following resolution," or "I offer the following resolution," which he reads and hands to the chair. If it is desired to give the reasons for the resolution, they are usually stated in a preamble, each clause of which constitutes a paragraph beginning with "Whereas." The preamble is always amended last, as changes in the resolution may require changes the preamble. In moving the adoption of a resolution the preamble is not usually referred to, as it is included in the resolution. But when the previous question is ordered on the resolution before the preamble has been considered for amendment, it does not apply to the preamble, which is then open to debate and amendment. The preamble should never contain a period, but each paragraph should close with a comma or semicolon, followed by "and," except the last paragraph, which should close with the word "therefore," or "therefore, be it." A resolution should avoid periods where practicable. Usually, where periods are necessary, it is better to separate it into a series of resolutions, in which case the resolutions may be numbered, if preferred, by preceding them with the figures 1, 2, etc.; or it may retain the form of a single resolution with several paragraphs, each beginning with "That," and these may be numbered, if preferred, by placing "First," "Second," etc., just before the word "That." The following form will serve as a guide when it is desired to give the reasons for a resolution:

Whereas, We consider that suitable recreation is a necessary part of a
rational educational system; and

Whereas, There is no public ground in this village where our school children
can play; therefore

Resolved, That it is the sense of this meeting that ample play grounds
should be immediately provided for our school children.

Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed by the chair to
present these resolutions to the village authorities and to urge upon them
prompt action in the matter.

As a general rule no member can make two motions at a time except by general consent. But he may combine the motion to suspend the rules with the motion for whose adoption it was made; and the motion to reconsider a resolution and its amendments; and a member may offer a resolution and at the same time move to make it a special order for a specified time.

Seconding Motions

As a general rule, with the exceptions given below, every motion should be seconded. This is to prevent time being consumed in considering a question that only one person favors, and consequently little attention is paid to it in routine motions. Where the chair is certain the motion meets with general favor, and yet members are slow about seconding it, he may proceed without waiting for a second. Yet, any one may make a point of order that the motion has not been seconded, and then the chair is obliged to proceed formally and call for a second. The better way when a motion is not at once seconded, is for the chair to ask, "Is the motion seconded?" In a very large hall the chair should repeat the motion before calling for a second in order that all may hear. After a motion has been made no other motion is in order until the chair has stated the question on this motion, or has declared, after a reasonable opportunity has been given for a second, that the motion has not been seconded, or has ruled it out of order. Except in very small assemblies the chair cannot assume that members know what the motion is and that it has not been seconded, unless he states the facts.

A motion is seconded by a member's saying "I second the motion," or "I second it," which he does without obtaining the floor, and in small assemblies without rising. In large assemblies, and especially where non-members are scattered throughout the assembly, members should rise, and without waiting for recognition, say, "Mr. Chairman, I second the motion."

Exceptions. The following do not require a second:1

Question of Privilege, to raise a Section 19
Questions of Order Section 21
Objection to the Consideration of a Question Section 23
Call for Orders of the Day Section 20
Call for Division of the Question (under certain circumstances) Section 24
Call for Division of the Assembly (in voting) Section 25
Call up Motion to Reconsider Section 36
Filling Blanks Section 33
Nominations Section 33
Leave to Withdraw a Motion Section 27
Inquiries of any kind Section 27


1. In Congress motions are not required to be seconded.

Additional Secions Relating to Robert's Rules for Deliberative Assemblies:
Stating the Question, Debate, Secondary Motions, and Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote
Obtaining the Floor
Proper Motions to Use to Obtain Certain Objects