This is our third 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 a majority agreement on what is the most 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 past blogs (available here) we discussed several things that should be considered in terms of a meeting agenda and the creation of a motion and amendments. Today we will be discussing the debating process for both the motion and any presented amendments.

Item 3 on the Agenda – Debating Motions and Amendments

Creating motions, and amendments to those motions is very important as discussed although this cannot be done without proper debate of the issues and the proposed solutions.

Debates can become very ugly very quickly depending on how sensitive the issue is that is being debated and what each member’s personal investment is in a particular outcome. Observing proper rules for debates can assist in preventing the discussion from being hijacked by the most vocal member who wants to ‘grandstand’ or worse, the discussion escalating from a robust argument into a full scale standoff.

Below is a list of several helpful rules for debates that if observed, should assist in maintaining clear and civil communication between all members and streamline the debate for the most efficient results:

When debating a motion:

• The ‘mover’ (the person who originally proposed the motion) can only speak in response to other members and at the discretion of the Chair,

• Each member should wait their turn to speak at the invitation of the Chair,

• Only one person should speak at a time (no interrupting),

• Each member should speak only once,

• It is the responsibility of the Chair only to provide additional commentary, to redirect and keep members on track and in line when speaking,

• The Chair may grant members the opportunity to speak a second time if necessary.

This is pretty straight forward, although lets now assume that an amendment has been proposed to the Chair, and the Chair has approved the amendment be presented in the meeting.

When debating an amendment:

• All debate on the original motion is superseded by the debate on the amendment to it. This means the amendment is debated first and allows the meeting to debate the refinement of the original motion up front.

• When debating the amendment the same rules apply as when debating the motion, such as the ‘one speech each’ rule, although the proposer does not reserve the right to reply as the mover of a motion would.

• If a person has moved or seconded the original motion they cannot do so for the amendment,

• If the amendment is ‘lost,’ and isn’t agreed upon then the debate returns back to the original motion.

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 process of voting and coming to a resolution.

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.