Key Points from the Parliamentary Procedure Presentation at the 123rd VFW National Convention
By Charles M. Pickett
VFW National Parliamentarian Joshua N. Schreck and Director of Administrative Operations Johnathan R. Duncan gave a joint Parliamentary Procedure presentation at the 123rd VFW National Convention. The slides and video of the session are available at VFW.org in the training section and a series of informative videos are available on an unlisted YouTube playlist (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS17GMBrjUlYMB-LKropgORgLMfpNlIKE).
Here are sixteen Robert’s Rules takeaways:
- VFW Posts “shall” make bylaws—just approved.
- A one word change from “may” to “shall” now compels posts to adopt Bylaws according to Sec. 202. In a subsequent email, Duncan said the Post Bylaws template on VFW.org will be updated in early fall 2022. Be aware, there is a 20-day notification window detailed in Sec. 202
- Commander is a member of the body (can vote, discuss, and make motions from podium)
- There is a misperception the commander can’t make motions from the podium; however, commanders should maintain an air of impartiality
- The commander directs the traffic of the meeting
- Nobody likes meetings that drag on. Commanders can set the agenda by asking committee chairmen beforehand if they have anything to report or recommend. If not, just don’t call on them.
- Division is when one person can call for an alternate to viva voce vote
- One member in good standing can just exclaim “division” and the chairman should call for an alternative voting method (show of hands, standing vote, counted standing vote, ballots)
- Second just means people want to discuss;
- If the body jumps right into discussion–other than the motion maker–then it is self-evident the members want to discuss the topic. But there is nothing like a motion dying for a lack of a second
- Point of order must be recorded
- It stinks for adjutants, but a point of order and how it is dispensed (well taken; not well taken) by the chair must be recorded
- Ad Hominem attacks on other member while in discussing a motion or at anytime when the meeting is in order, may result in removal from meeting
- If a speaker insults a fellow comrade, it is right and just to declare “Point of order, ad hominem attack.” The chair should admonish the speaker. If the speaker continues to argue against a person instead of the position, the chair can rule the “discussion” (not the person) is out of order and to relinquish the floor. A motion to postpone or even recess “until the chair calls the meeting back to order” is sometimes a good idea when it gets hot.
- Motions can be make in the good of the order.
- Shocking! It happens that someone forgets to make that appropriations motion. Schreck said just make it and record it under good of the order–do not jump through hoops and vote to go back to new business.
- Do not suspend regular business—it is not a thing in Robert’s Rules
- Have you ever suspended regular business to hold elections or greet a guest or speaker? Suspend regular business is not a thing in Robert’s Rules. Elections and nominations just fall under new business. If you want to have the speaker jump up in the agenda order, just say “if there are no objections, I would like to introduce our featured speaker.” The “no objections” line is a time saver.
- Conduct a pre-meeting with officers to bang out agenda; prepare the members for the business coming up
- Chairmen can talk to the committee chairs if they have something to report or recommend. They can skip over the “nothing to report” and salute drill. Chairmen can also preview topics with the body before the meeting officially starts to give background information.
- Agendas should be prepared before the meeting
- This was something Schreck reiterated a few times. Email or hand out the agenda before the meeting as it will save time later.
- Table is to stop meeting immediately to address whatever
- Many people think to table a motion is to kill it. Instead, it is a privileged motion to stop the meeting (for a fire alarm or important visitor), but can be easily taken from the table by a subsequent motion (I move to take from the table the motion on ….).
- Postpone is to give someone more time on a motion
- A good example is when a complicated resolution needs an explanation, and the resolution maker can’t remember or find a key detail, a motion to “postpone to the end of new business” gives the maker a minute to gather information.
- Additionally, if a motion can be postponed to a set time, date, or meeting such as “I move to postpone the motion until the next meeting.” Then it would come up under old business.
- A motion to postpone indefinitely is to kill a motion if the maker gets a second, it’s debated, and adopted.
- Lastly, a close cousin is to not postpone but to commit or refer to a committee. As in, “I move that the motion be referred back to the community service committee.”
- Minutes are legal records not newsletters
- Adjutants, UNITE! Minutes should be to the point. Committee recommendations and motions must be carefully documented. Minutes are what is decided not what is said.
- Amendments to motions. Schreck detailed two options with the second using the magic “any objections” line:
- Hard: motion made, second, debate, amendment made, second, debate, vote on amendment, main motion discussion, vote on main
- Easy: “any objections to amending the motion?” (If any, go to hard)
- Say “NO.”
- Schreck said parliamentarians hate the widespread use of “nay” when voting. Instead it should be “Those in favor of the motion, say aye. Those opposed, say no. The ayes have it and the motion is carried.” Or the “The nos have it and the motion is lost.”