The contents of the current (11th) edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), published in 2011, include details on the types of groups that use the book, the ways that decisions could be made, and the various situations in which decisions are made.
The introduction in the book provides a history of parliamentary procedure and includes the background and history of Robert’s Rules of Order. Rules in the book are based on the rights of the majority, of the minority (especially a strong minority that is greater than one third), of individual members, of absentees, and of all these together. Some fundamental principles upon which the book is based include: one question at a time; one person, one vote; and a vote being limited to members present.
A group that uses the book is called a deliberative assembly. The types of deliberative assemblies are a mass meeting, a local assembly of an organized society (local club or local branch), a convention, a legislative body, and a board. An organization may have rules which could include a corporate charter, a constitution or bylaws, rules of order (special rules of order and parliamentary authority), standing rules, and customs. To conduct business, groups have meetings or sessions that may be separated by more than or be within a quarterly time interval. The types of meetings are a regular meeting, a special meeting, an adjourned meeting, an annual meeting, an executive session, a public session, and electronic meetings.
A member of a deliberative assembly has the right to attend meetings, make motions, speak in debate, and vote. The process of making a decision is done through a motion, which is a proposal to do something. The formal steps in handling a motion are the making of a motion, having a second, stating the motion, having debate on the motion, putting the motion to a vote, and announcing the results of the vote. Action could be taken informally without going through these steps by using unanimous consent. When making a choice, the basic principle of decision is majority vote. In situations when more than majority vote is required, the requirement could include a two-thirds vote, previous notice, or a vote of a majority of the entire membership.
The book provides details about main motions including the motion to ratify. In addition, the book lists other motions and provides details (including explanations, forms, and examples) on these motions which include:
◾Subsidiary Motions – Postpone Indefinitely, Amend, Commit or Refer, Postpone to a Certain Time, Limit or Extend Limits of Debate, Previous Question, and Lay on the Table
◾Privileged Motions – Call for the Orders of the Day, Raise a Question of Privilege, Recess, Adjourn, and Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn
◾Incidental Motions – Point of Order, Appeal, Suspend the Rules, Objection to the Consideration of a Question, Division of a Question, Consideration by Paragraph or Seriatim, Motions Relating to Methods of Voting and the Polls, Motions Relating to Nominations, Request to Be Excused from a Duty, and Requests and Inquiries (Parliamentary Inquiry, Request for Information, Request for Permission (or Leave) to Withdraw or Modify a Motion, Request to Read Papers, and Request for Any Other Privilege)
◾Motions That Bring A Question Again Before An Assembly – Take from the Table, Rescind/Amend Something Previously Adopted, Discharge a Committee, and Reconsider
Details for each motion include its purpose, when it could be made, if it is debatable, if it is amendable, the vote required for adoption, and if it could be reconsidered. The “order of precedence”, or rank, of the motions is also described in detail.
The second half of the book covers various topics in detail. Brief summaries of these topics are as follows:
Depending on the situation, motions could be renewed, or made again. On the other hand, members should not use legitimate motions for dilatory and improper purposes to waste time.
A quorum, or minimum number of members, is required to be present at a meeting in order to validly conduct business. The business that is to come up in a meeting could be listed in an order of business or an agenda.
Each member could get a chance to speak through assignment of the floor and debate. Debate may be limited in the number of speeches and time and should be respectful to others at all times. Voting takes place to decide the course of action and it could be done in a multitude of ways, such as voice vote, standing vote, and ballot vote.
Officers in an organization could be elected through the process of nominations and elections. Each organization decides for itself which officers to have, but the minimum officers in a deliberative assembly are a presiding officer (usually “president” or “chairman”) and a secretary. The secretary keeps the minutes, or the official records of the proceedings, for each meeting. As part of their duties, the officers may have reports to give, such as a financial report given by the treasurer. In addition, an organization may have a board to handle business on behalf of the organization. Officers and boards only have such authority and powers that are given to them in the governing documents of the organization. There may also be committees that are formed to assist the organization. The boards and committees may have reports to give as well.
People may gather in mass meetings for a specific purpose or cause. One such purpose of the mass meetings could be for the intent of organizing a permanent society.
Each organization has its basic rules contained in its bylaws. The bylaws could describe the name of the organization and its purpose, the requirements to be a member or an officer, how meetings are scheduled, if there are boards or committees (or both), its parliamentary authority, and how to amend the bylaws.
Representatives from constituent groups may gather as delegates in conventions to conduct business on behalf of the organization. Conventions may consist of several meetings and may last for several days or more on an annual basis or other such infrequent interval.
If members do not act according to the organization’s rules, they could be subject to disciplinary procedures. Such action could range from censure to the extreme of expulsion from the organization. Officers could be disciplined by removal from office.
Charts, tables, and lists
The tinted pages (pages marked by a gray band along the outer edge) in the rear of the book contain the following charts, tables, and lists: (1) Chart for Determining When Each Subsidiary or Privileged Motion Is In Order, (2) Table of Rules Relating to Motions, (3) Sample Forms Used in Making Motions, (4) and (5) Motions and Parliamentary Steps, (6) Motions Which Require a Two-Thirds Vote, (7) Motions Whose Reconsideration Is Prohibited Or Limited, and (8) Table of Rules for Counting Election Ballots.