Appendix A: NOTES ON PARLIAMENTARY PRACTICE IN THE MLA BOARD
As outlined in MLA’s Constitution, the parliamentary authority for the Music Library Association is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR):
ARTICLE XI: PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORITY
The rules contained in the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised shall govern the Association in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with this Constitution and Bylaws and any special rules of order the Association may adopt.
It can be helpful to point to or extract specific passages from RONR
to save constant searching to understand MLA’s practices. In some cases, clarity comes from the Official Intrepretations on the RONR
), rather than directly from the RONR
Official Interpretation 2006-1 (and the Preface of the 11th edition of RONR) states that RONR Official Interpretations published on the Robert's Rules Association website are not “technically binding on an organization that has adopted Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised as its parliamentary authority, but they are nonetheless definitive interpretations of the work by the current authors and should therefore be treated as highly persuasive.”
In these cases, the Official Interpretation should guide procedure but not dictate it.
References below are from the 11th edition of Robert’s Rules (RONR11).
In RONR, “the chair” is defined as the presiding officer, the president in MLA (448, line 24).
Board Action Requests (BARs)
Board Action Requests, or BARs, are motions that come from a committee or member. A well-written BAR (or any motion, in fact) should cover one topic at a time to avoid confusion or disagreement about what topic is being voted on.
See RONR11 from page 27-29 for basic explanations of motions.
Why is it that some BARs are stated as motions and some are not in board meetings?
A recommendation that can be inferred from a committee’s report – such as a well-stated Board Action Request – can become an “assumed motion,” that is, a motion whose intent is clear from the context. BARs that come from board committees (Finance and Planning) do not need to be restated as motions (unless the substance of the request needs to be changed) because we assume that board committees have enough understanding of how we handle these to craft a useful BAR.
By this same logic, BARs in non-board committee reports do not necessarily require a formal motion, but as such requests often need restating to clarify the motion, it is a habit in MLA to create motions of all of them, as a matter of course.
RONR11, p. 507, line 24
...when the proper motion is a matter of clear-cut procedure and must necessarily be introduced to resolve the case, the chair may sometimes expedite matters by assuming the motion—that is, stating the question on it without waiting for it to be made—provided that the assembly is accustomed to this method.
Why do BARs from Board committees not require a second?
Just as BARs from board committees do not have to be re-introduced as a motion, they do not require a second because they are, in effect, motions made on behalf of the board.
RONR11, p. 507, line 4
Motions to Implement Recommendations. When a report contains recommendations...the reporting board or committee member usually makes the necessary motion to implement the recommendations at the conclusion of his presentation, provided he is a member of the assembly.... No second is required in these cases, since the motion is made on behalf of the board or committee (see p. 36, 11. 15-23) [emphasis added]
Why are motions (and BARs) always presented in the positive?
Motions and BARs should reflect action to be taken that would not be taken otherwise. For instance, if none of the members of the organization regularly eat persimmons, and a committee or board member thinks that it is wise that no members eat persimmons, it is unnecessary to present a motion suggesting that no members eat persimmons, because they are not eating them anyway. Action is not necessary, so no motion is necessary.
At the same time, motions expressed in the negative can lead to confusion in voting with the potential creation of a double negative. For example, if in agreement with a negative motion that members should not eat persimmons, does one vote with a yay or a nay? One can figure it out, but one should not have to.
RONR11, p. 104, line 32
A motion whose only effect is to propose that the assembly refrain from doing something should not be offered if the same result can be accomplished by offering no motion at all. It is incorrect, for example, to move “that no response be made” to a request for a contribution to a fund or “that our delegates be given no instructions,” unless some purpose would be served by the adoption of such a motion....
It is preferable to avoid a motion containing a negative statement even in cases where the effect of the motion is to propose that something be done, since members may become confused as to the effect of voting for or against such a motion.