RULES OF ORDER FOR THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
"The great lesson for democracies to learn is for the majority to give to the minority a full, free opportunity to present their side of the case, and then for the minority, having failed to win a majority to their views, gracefully to submit and to recognize the action as that of the entire organization, and cheerfully to assist in carrying it out, until they can secure its repeal."
-Gen. Henry Martyn Robert -- Author, Robert's Rules of Order
Henry M. Robert, the original author of today's most used parliamentary authority, Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) is quoted in the current edition of RONR:
Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of liberty.
Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised
The National Association of Parliamentarians bases its opinions and instruction upon Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. The following sections are from Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 9th edition (1990).
The term rules of order refers to written rules of parliamentary procedure formally adopted by an assembly or an organization. Such rules relate to the orderly transaction of business in meetings and to the duties of officers in that connection. The object of rules of order is to facilitate the smooth functioning of the assembly and to provide a firm basis for resolving questions of procedure that may arise.
Principles of Parliamentary Procedure
The purpose of parliamentary procedure is to make it easier for people to work together effectively and to help groups accomplish their purposes. Rules of procedure should assist a meeting, not inhibit it.
1. A meeting can deal with only one matter at a time. The various kinds of motions have therefore been assigned an order of precedence.
2. All members have equal rights, privileges and obligations. One of the chairperson's main responsibilities is to use the authority of the chair to ensure that all people attending a meeting are treated equally--for example, not to permit a vocal few to dominate the debates.
3. A majority vote decides an issue. In any group, each member agrees to be governed by the vote of the majority. Parliamentary rules enable a meeting to determine the will of the majority of those attending a meeting.
4. The rights of the minority must be protected at all times. Although the ultimate decision rests with a majority, all members have such basic rights as the right to be heard and the right to oppose. The rights of all members--majority and minority--should be the concern of every member, for a person may be in a majority on one question, but in minority the on the next.
5. Every matter presented for decision should be discussed fully. The right of every member to speak on any issue is as important as each member's right to vote.
6. Every member has the right to understand the meaning of any question presented to a meeting, and to know what effect a decision will have. A member always has the right to request information on any motion he or she does not thoroughly understand. Moreover, all meetings must be characterized by fairness and by good faith. Parliamentary strategy is the art of using procedure legitimately to support or defeat a proposal.
Principles Underlying Parliamentary Law The rules of parliamentary law are constructed upon a careful balance of the rights: of the majority, of the minority, especially a strong minority-greater than one third, of individual members of absentees, and of all these together. Fundamentally, under the rules of parliamentary law, a deliberative body is a free agent-free to do what it wants to do with the greatest measure of protection to itself and of consideration for the rights of its members.
A deliberative assembly--the kind of gathering to which parliamentary law is generally understood to apply--has the following distinguishing characteristics: It is an independent or autonomous group of people meeting to determine, in full and free discussion, courses of action to be taken in the name of the entire group. The group is of such size-usually any number of persons more than about a dozen-that a degree of formality is necessary in its proceedings. Persons having the right to participate-that is, the members-are ordinarily free to act within the assembly according to their own judgment. In any decision made, the opinion of each member present has equal weight as expressed by vote-through which the voting member joins in assuming direct personal responsibility for the decision, should his or her vote be on the prevailing side. Failure to concur in a decision of the body does not constitute withdrawal from the body. If there are absentee members-as there usually are in any formally organized assembly such as a legislative body or the assembly of an ordinary society-the members present at a regular or properly called meeting act for the entire membership, subject only to such limitations as may be established by the body's governing rules.
Types of Deliberative Assembly
The deliberative assembly may exist in many forms. Among the principal types are: The Mass Meeting, The Local Assembly of an Organized Society, The Convention, and The Legislative Body
Material adapted from the National Association of Parliamentarians