This is our second Blog in this series where we are discussing good guidelines which can keep meetings efficient and effective. They are relevant whether you are part of a large organisational board, small community group or mid-sized school committee. Good guidelines can transform a meeting from ‘ground hog day’ agendas to meetings where issues and outcomes are carefully weighed, everyone’s view is considered and real progress is made through majority agreement on what is the appropriate next action.

The most effective transformation though, occurs when all members of the group understand their responsibilities, as well as the processes involved in coming to a conclusion.

In our first blog (available here) we discussed several things that should be considered in terms of a meeting agenda and the creation of a motion. Today we will be discussing making amendments to that motion and what you should consider when creating one.

Item 2 on the Agenda – Amendments to a Motion

An amendment is what allows the group that is meeting, to collaboratively come to the best conclusion they can (with the information available to them up to that point) when making a decision. An amendment is a proposal to alter the original motion but not defeat it entirely. It is an opportunity for the members of a board or committee to refine a motion and agree upon the most successful next step or outcome.

In some cases there may be multiple amendments to a motion. If this occurs the Chair may decide to hear and debate all amendments in the order determined by the Chair to be the most appropriate. This may be in the order in which they were received or in the order that affects the form and terms of the motion. Whilst it is desirable that only one amendment be debated by the meeting at a time, the meeting may debate all amendments together if they so desire.

When formulating an amendment, there are several things to consider beforehand to ensure that the amendment will be acceptable and thereby increase the likelihood that it will be considered by the Chair and bring about a successful resolution.

These things include the following desirable characteristics:

1. Word the amendment in a positive manner which allows a ‘yes’ vote, much like a motion. The aim is to get unanimous agreement not unanimous disagreement.

2. The amendment is a proposal to alter the original motion and should start with “I propose that…”

3. The amendment should be relevant to the original motion and crafted with the intent to facilitate a vote being finalized, it must not be contradictory to the original motion. (Otherwise, this defeats the purpose of an amendment.)

4. Word the amendment to reflect what has already been informally agreed or rejected up to that point in the meeting.

5. Word the amendment so it is consistent with previously passed resolutions that have been made at the meeting. This will increase the likelihood of your amended motion being successful.

6. Lastly, however tempting it might be – don’t offer an amendment “in a spirit of mockery.”

If you require any legal advice or have any further questions on this matter then do not hesitate to contact us Tri-meridian. Keep an eye open for the coming items on the agenda in this Blog series, discussing the process of debating a motion and its amendments.

Lang A D. (2010) Horsleys Meetings: Procedure, Law and Practice. Reed international Books Australia Pty Limited trading as Lexis Nexus. Australia. Chatswood NSW

For further information, please contact the author.

This article is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Tri-meridian Corporate & Commercial Law and is intended to be used as a guide only. It is not, and is not intended to be, advice on any specific matter. We do not accept responsibility for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of this article. Before acting on the basis of any material in this article, we recommend that you consult your professional adviser.