Roberts Rules & Town Council


The article on Robert’s Rules of Order (Island Sand Paper September 2, 2016)  was informative.

In the context of the recent Town Council meeting during which their use was suggested, they did apply. Given that the previous question was moved (and seconded, I believe), the Chair should have ordered a vote on suspending further debate (in other words, shall we end debate and proceed to having a vote on the underlying proposition). That was the pending motion. Such vote requires a 2/3rds approval for adoption. In Council’s case, that would have required 4 “aye” votes. If that outcome had been obtained, the question that should then have been called immediately (i.e., with no additional debate) would have been to adopt or reject the underlying motion being debated (to table or postpone consideration of the stormwater plan/ordnance). If I understood correctly the sense of the Council at that point, I believe the order to call the question would not have achieved the requisite 4 votes in favor. Thus, debate would have continued, as it did anyhow.

During debates in the U.S. House of Representatives, the rules of debate in that body being the template used by (then) Major Robert in creating his rules, the parliamentary situation presented to the Chair (or Speaker of the House) when similar questions are raised are frequently referred to the Parliamentarian (during Floor debate) or the Committee clerk (during committee deliberations). Not all Chairpersons are expert (although some are gold-standard experts) at such rules and (in the appropriate circumstance) Floor parliamentarians or senior committee staff  are charged  with providing such counsel. That makes the conduct of business much more efficient and fair to all parties.


Ed Lombard
Fort Myers Beach