ASUW Student Senate - Session XXIII

Parliamentary Procedure Code

Parlimentary Procedure Guide

Chapter 1: The Significance of parliamentary Law

Thus two justices of the Supreme Court of the United States voice this vital fact-both our freedom and our rights can exist only if they are safeguarded by sound procedures, rigidly enforced.

Parliamentary Law Safeguards Rights

When Winston Churchill, during the abdication crisis in 1936, rose before a shocked House of Commons to discuss the Constitutional question before a final decision was made, the House was in a hostile temper. A burst of disapproval greeted the great statesman. Churchill set his pugnacious jaw and, as the uproar subsided, declared:
“If the House resists my claim [to speak] it will only add more importance to any words that I may use.”
Here in the mother of Parliaments, which has lent its name to the system of rules by which assemblies are conducted, we see at work procedural safeguards and the fundamental principles of democratic discussion. Here is the right of free and fair debate, the right of the majority to decide, and the right of the minority to protest and be protected. Here also is a demonstration that the violation of rights in assemblies lends weight to the cause of the suppressed.
Here is the essence of the democratic procedure of a free assembly, whether a professional society, a political organization, a labor union, or a social club – a procedure based on what Thomas Jefferson called “equal and exact justice to all.”
Any right is only as strong as the procedures that enforce it. To vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right, but it is meaningless unless supported by procedures that ensure equal opportunity to vote, freedom of choice, absolute secrecy, and honesty in counting. Even though this right to vote has procedural safeguards, it still is meaningless if they are not observed.
Parliamentary law is the procedural safeguard that protects the individual and the group in their exercise of the rights of free speech, free assembly, and the freedom to unite in organizations for the achievement of common aims. These rights, too, are meaningless, and the timeless freedoms they define can be lost, if parliamentary procedure is not observed.
One of the basic concepts of freedom is the right of people to join together to achieve their common purposes. This concept includes the right to assemble and to organize, to propose ideas, to speak without fear of reprisal, to vote on proposals, and to carry out the decisions of the group. Parliamentary law provides the procedures that give reality to these democratic concepts. Parliamentary procedure is not an end in itself. It is, rather, the guardian of the freedom to band together, to discuss, to decide, and to act.

What is Parliamentary Law?

Parliamentary procedure is the code of rules and ethics for working together in groups. It has evolved through centuries out of the experience of individuals working together for a common purpose. It provides the means of translating beliefs and ideas into effective group action. It is logic and common sense crystallized into law, and is as much a part of the body of the law as is civil or criminal procedure. The rules of parliamentary procedure are found both in common law and in statutory law.
The common law of parliamentary procedure is the body of principles, rules, and usages that has developed from court decisions on parliamentary questions, and is based on reason and long observance. The common law of parliamentary procedure applies in all parliamentary situations except where a statutory law governs.
The statutory law of procedure consists of statutes, or law relating to procedures that have been enacted by federal, state, or local legislative bodies. These rules of parliamentary procedure apply only to the particular organizations covered by the law.
Parliamentary procedure is easy to learn, because it is essentially fairness and common sense. It gives confidence and power to those who master it, and it enables members and organizations to present, consider, and carry out their ideas with efficiency and harmony.
It is true that parliamentary law can be used to obstruct the will of the majority, as well as to implement it – but this can happen only when a majority of the members are ignorant of their parliamentary rights.

Requirements for a Parliamentary Authority

Each organization adopts, as a parliamentary authority, a code that governs the procedures of the organization in all situations not covered by rules from a higher source. Because of its importance to the organization, the parliamentary authority should be chosen with great care.
A parliamentary authority should be so clear and simple that anyone can understand it. It should be organized so that reference to the rules is quick and accurate, and it should be so complete that no other book or research is needed. It should omit needless or outmoded procedures, but should include all practical, businesslike procedures. It must present parliamentary law so accurately that the courts will uphold any action taken according to the rules it states. If the rules of the adopted parliamentary authority do not confirm the law, the organization that follows it may find itself in legal difficulties.
This Standard Code has been written to meet these standards, drawing its strength and completeness from the broad experience and sound judgment of leaders in many fields. It is truly a cooperative effort, for it embodies and reflects the experience and wisdom of hundreds of organizations and innumerable individual. These leaders and organizations have contributed to this code because of their conviction that voluntary organizations re the highest fulfillment of democracy.

Chapter 2: Fundamental principles of Parliamentary Law

A review of this chapter will force the conclusion that parliamentary law is fair and protects the rights of ideas and people. There are six themes for one to examine.

I. Equality of rights: All members have equal rights, privileges and obligations.

II. Majority Decision: The majority Vote decides.

III. Minority Rights: The rights of the minority must be protected.

IV. The Right of Discussion: Full and free discussion of every proposition presented for decision is an established right of members.

V. The Right to Information: Every member has the right to know the meaning of the question before the assembly and what its effect will be.

VI. Fairness and Good Faith: All meetings must be characterized by fairness and good faith.

The people of any democratic forum whether that forum be governed by common law or statute, need be respected at all times as equal members of a community. All members are assumed to be functioning in the best interests of that community, thus, fairness, equality, speech and understanding will be granted to every member.

Chapter 3: Presentation of Motions

Use these steps in presenting a motion on the floor of a democratic body:

I. A member rises and addresses the presiding officer.
i. Any member may address the presiding officer
ii. The member must use the correct title when addressing the officer, i.e. Mr. President, or Madam Chairperson.
II. The member is recognized by the presiding officer.
i. It is the discretion of the presiding officer in circumstances to deny a motion to a member who has repeatedly affirmed any particular motion.
ii. This step may also be averted if the officer recognizes the member prior to addressing the presiding officer.
III. The member proposes the motion.
i. The member states the type of motion he/she is presenting.
ii. The member states the body or reason for motion.
IV. Another member seconds the motion.
i. Any member that is not the presiding officer of the forum may second.
V. The presiding officer presents the motion to the assembly.
i. This may also be done by the secretary or clerk.

Chapter 4: Classifications of Motions

Motions are classified, according to their purposes and characteristics, into four groups:

I. Main Motions: most important and frequent motions in parliamentary procedure.
i. Reconsider – To require a vote of the body to re-examine a previous decision.
ii. Rescind – To reverse a motion.
iii. Resume Consideration – To un-table.
II. Subsidiary Motions: Affect the main motion, and may hasten or delay its consideration.
i. Postpone Temporarily – To table a motion for designated amount of time.
ii. Close Debate – To indefinitely limit time for debate.
iii. Limit Debate – To restrict a designated debate period.
iv. Postpone Indefinitely – To permanently table.
v. Refer to a Committee – To send a motion on return to a lower committee for review and process.
vi. Amend – To alter a motion.
III. Privileged Motions: These motions have no indirect action, they are cause for immediate consideration.
i. Adjourn – To close a meeting.
ii. Recess – To temporarily break from meeting for a designated time.
iii. Question of Privilege – To ask for immediate clarification before the body.
IV. Incidental Motions: These motions relate to the incidental conduct of the meeting. The “A” at the end of a definition signifies the necessity of a body vote and a “C” signifies the discretion of the Chair or presiding officer.
i. Appeal from a decision of the chair – Chair to grant a case suspension of rules for one member. A
ii. Consider Informally – To be granted at discretion the body. A
iii. Suspend the Rules – To halt order in favor of pending understanding or consideration. A
iv. Point of Order – Used by a member to signify that another member is out of order. C
v. Parliamentary inquiry – The body questions the presiding officer for clarification. C
vi. Withdrawal of a motion – A member may, at any point, rescind their motion. C
vii. Division of a question – To refer to source for clarification and agree by vote. C
viii. Division of the assembly – To require a numeric vote of the body for the purpose of clarifying a vote. C

Chapter 5: Precedence of Motions

The order of precedence is the priority which motions are given in a discussion. They must be made, considered and disposed of.

Order of Precedence:

Privileged motions

I. Adjourn

II. Recess

III. Question of Privilege

Subsidiary motions

IV. Postpone Temporarily, or Table

V. Close Debate

VI. Limit Debate

VII. Postpone Indefinitely

VIII. Refer to Committee

IX. Amend

Main motions

X. The main motions and specific main motions

Precedence Rules:

I. When a motion is being considered, any motion of higher precedence may be proposed, but no motion of lower precedence may be proposed.

II. Motions are considered and voted on in reverse order to their proposal. The motion last proposed is considered and disposed of first.

Chapter 6: Rules Governing Motions

(Refer to The Standard Code pp.23)

Rules governing motions are definite and logical. If you understand the purpose of a motion, you can generally reason out the rules governing it.
The rules you need to know about each motion are:

I. What is the precedence of the motion?
II. Can the motion interrupt a speaker?
III. Does the motion require a second?
IV. Is the motion debatable?
V. Can the motion be amended?
VI. What vote does the motion require?
VII. To what other motions can the motion apply?
VIII. What other motions can be applied to the motion?

The “How To” of making motions


MEMBER: (without waiting for recognition): ” I rise to a point of Order.” Or “Point of order!”

PRESIDING OFFICER: (without a second): ” State your point of order.”

MEMBER: “The member is inquiring to the details of the bill not to it’s genesis!”

PRESIDING OFFICER: “The point of order is well taken. The member will limit questions to the genesis of the bill.”


“Your point of order is not well taken. The question is regarding the genesis of the bill. The member will proceed with questioning.”


MEMBER: (without waiting for recognition): “I rise to a parliamentary inquiry.” Or “Parliamentary inquiry!”

PRESIDING OFFICER: (without a second): “State your inquiry.”

MEMBER: “Is an amendment in order at this time?”



MEMBER: “Could the page please close the blinds.”


MEMBER: (immediately after the vote has been taken or announced and without waiting for recognition): “Division!”

PRESIDING OFFICER: “Division has been called for. Those in favor of the motion last counted, please rise. (count) Be seated. Those opposed to the motion last counted please rise. (count) Be seated.” The Presiding Officer will announce the tally, and remaining persons will be seated. “The motion is carried!” or “The motion fails.”