Simplified Robert’s Rules of Order for use at AA Business Meetings
Robert’s Rules of Order are used around the world to allow organizations to make decisions in a timely and mutually accepted manner. They are designed to allow groups with widely opposed factions to come to agreement. They are not the only kind of informal parliamentary procedure, but they are relatively simple and familiar in essence to many people.
This document presents a simplified version for use in the business meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12-step programs. This is not General Service Conference-approved A.A. literature, but it does reflect common practice.
We gather in a spirit of cooperation to discover our group conscience. We need never fear the conscience of the group.
For each discussion, everyone should have the chance to speak once before anyone may speak a second time.
Maximum of three speakers for each side of debate pro’s/con’s limited to 90 seconds
everyone has the right to know what is going on at all times.
The members discuss only one thing at a time.
Example, we must finish whatever business is being discussed prior to starting additional business.
The Chair performs an invaluable service by running the business meeting according to the rules of order. The Chair cannot vote, introduce motions, or participate in discussion. In general, no one should speak without first being recognized by the Chair, and if people start speaking out of turn, the chair will call for order.
The Secretary takes notes so that they can prepare the official written record of the meeting, called the “minutes.” Clear, accurate minutes are very important – they will be used to keep track of the group’s conscience, as well as unfinished business from previous business meetings.
The Secretary need not record everything that is said; the minutes are not a transcript. But they should include:
Officer’s reports, if any were made during the meeting.
The exact wording of any motions introduced, and their fate (passed, defeated, referred to committee, or tabled).
If motions were referred to committee, make sure the group specifies the duties of the committee and when their report should be delivered to the full business meeting.
If at any time the Secretary is unclear about something, he/she should ask for clarification immediately. The Secretary can vote, introduce motions, and participate in discussion.
A standard AA business meeting format
Most AA business meetings are run according to the following format:
1. Minutes of the previous business meeting should be read by the Secretary. After they are read, if there are no objections to the content, a motion to accept the minutes should be passed. Suggested by the chair.
2. Officers’ Reports. If necessary, trusted servants (at minimum the Treasurer) report to the group.
3. Old Business.
a. If there are any reports due from committees, they should be delivered during this phase of the meeting.
b. If there are any motions pending from a previous business meeting, they should be taken off the table for consideration at this time.
4. New Business. If any member wishes to bring up a new topic for the consideration of the group, it should be done during this phase.
ALL NEW MOTIONS ARE TO BE TABLED FOR THIRTY DAYS SO THAT ANNOUCMENTS CAN BE MADE AND PUT ON AN AGENDA
A main motion is the topic under discussion (e.g., “I move that we add a coffee break to this meeting”). After recognition by the chair, any member can introduce a main motion when no other motion is on the table. A main motion requires a second to be considered. A main motion must be disposed of (passed, defeated, tabled, referred to committee, or postponed indefinitely) before a new main motion may be considered.
A subsidiary motion affects the main motion under discussion (e.g., “I move that we amend the motion to specify that the break should be 5 minutes long”). After recognition by the chair, any member can introduce a subsidiary motion when another motion is on the table. Once a subsidiary motion has been seconded, it must be disposed of before returning to the main motion. Subsidiary motions can theoretically have their own subsidiary motions, each of which must be resolved in turn. The various kinds of subsidiary motions have different precedence and require different votes to pass (see next page).
Technically, once a motion has been introduced and seconded, it “belongs” to the group, not the person who introduced it. Instead of the mover “withdrawing” it, the group should amend it, or move to postpone the motion indefinitely (a way of killing the motion without voting it down).
To bring a new idea before the group:
After recognition by the chair, present your motion by starting “I move that we ___”. A second is required for the motion to go to the floor for discussion, or consideration. If a motion passes, it goes into effect immediately or at a specified time. Defeated motions cannot be reintroduced for 6 months.
To change or add to the wording of a motion under discussion:
After recognition by the chair, move to amend the motion by proposing a specific amendment. Most amendments are friendly, arising naturally out of the group’s discussion of the motion, and can be accepted by the original mover. But if the original mover objects, a majority vote will still amend the original motion. An amendment can completely reword or replace a motion without voting it down.
If you have heard enough discussion, either:
1. Move to close the discussion. This ends discussion and brings the assembly to a vote on the pending question only. Requires a 2/3 vote.
2. Move to limit discussion to a set period of time or to a
set number of speakers. EACH DICUSSION HAS A PRO SIDE THAT WILL BE HEARD AND A CON SIDE TO BE HEARD WITH A MAXIMUM OF THREE SPEAKERS, SPEAKING FOR A MAXIMU OF 90 SECONDS. THE PRO’S AND CON’S HAVE TO BE EVEN.
To recommend more study and/or investigation be given to a motion:
Move to refer to a committee. Refers a question to be investigated by a specified group, with a specified purpose, and a specified time to report back to the entire group. Requires a majority vote.
To end the meeting:
Move to close business meeting. All pending motions will be tabled until next biz meeting. This motion takes immediate precedence and is not discussed. It requires a majority vote to pass.
You are unsure that the Chair has announced the results of a vote correctly.
Without being recognized, call for a “division of the house.” At this point a standing vote will be taken. THE SECRATERY WILL KEEP TRACK OF THE VOTES FOR REFERENCE
If you are confused about a procedure being used and want clarification:
Without recognition, call for a “point of information.” The Chair will ask you to state your question and will attempt to clarify the situation. THIS WILL BE AT THE DISCREATION OF THE CHAIR PERSON.
You may influence WHAT the members discuss:
if you would like to discuss something - motion
if you would like to change a motion under discussion - amend
You may influence HOW and WHEN a motion is discussed:
if you want to limit discussion on something - limit discussion
if you think people are ready to vote – end discussion
if you want a committee to evaluate the topic and report back – refer to committee
if you want to discuss the topic at another time – table until later in meeting or next meeting
Precedence of Motions THIS IS AT THE DISCREGESSION OF THE CHAIR
Lower-numbered motions have precedence over higher numbers.
1. Close meeting - not debatable; goes to immediate majority vote.
2. Call for orders of the day – A demand to return to the regular order of business.
3. Table until later in meeting – This motion is only used to set aside the pending motion to take up something more urgent, with the full expectation of returning to the motion.
4. End discussion and vote - A motion to close debate immediately and vote now on the pending motion. Applies only to the motion on the floor. Not debatable; requires 2/3 vote.
5. Limit discussion - can be general, or for a specific time or number of speakers. Not debatable; requires 2/3 vote.
6. Table until next meeting – Postpones the current motion to the next session or to an adjourned meeting.
7. Refer to committee - applies only to the main motion.
8. Amend – if not accepted by mover, must be voted for by a majority to be considered and passed.
9. Kill Motion on the floor – Kills the motion without directly voting it down.
10. Main Motion - what it is you're debating and amending.
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