Suspend the Rules

Is there a reason that your group or organization wants to take up business out of its usual order on the agenda? There may be a reason for discussing new business before old business is addressed. Perhaps it's getting late and there's a general feeling that the membership doesn't want to debate a particular motion and prefers to suspend the rules of the assembly about debate.

Rules That Cannot Be Changed

There are certain things that cannot be changed by a suspension of the rules. Bylaws can't be changed except by special meeting (see Chapter 2). Corporate charters and parliamentary procedure can't be changed. Any rule that protects the rights of individual members, especially members who are absent, can't be set aside by a suspension of rules. A suspension of the rules isn't intended to “sneak in” and change the fabric of integrity in the group or organization. It should be used only for setting aside rules that pertain to normal business.

How to Make the Motion

If a member wants to suspend the rules, she should say, “I move to suspend the rules and take up [another matter].” There must be a second. Then the chair should call for a vote; passage requires a two-thirds majority vote in favor of suspension. Or the chair can use general (unanimous) consent by saying, “Is there any objection to suspending the rules and taking up [the other matter]? Hearing none, the rules are suspended and the next item on the agenda is [new matter].” If there is an objection, there must be a vote.

Incidental motions help enforce correct procedures in your group or organization meeting. Some, like the motion to object to consideration of a question, can save you and others so much time and aggravation. Knowing how to appeal a decision of the chair or how to challenge a vote that doesn't seem correct provides checks and balances to keep things democratic. Aren't you glad you're becoming more knowledgeable about Robert's Rules? (Do we hear a nomination for you as an officer? Hmm?)

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