Who Proposes Motions?

Besides coming from individual members, main motions can originate from a few other sources. Sometimes the business of a group or organization is “prepped” by a committee. Members of a committee can help save others a lot of time and energy and, more importantly, allow those who have some special expertise to oversee the preparation of documents and other business. If, after the committee has studied a matter for some time, it offers a motion to the membership, that motion is often considered more seriously than if it had been proposed by an individual member.


Unlike the group or organization chair (president), the chair of a committee may make motions and vote during committee meetings over which she presides.

An additional time-saver comes with the making of a motion by a committee: A main motion made by a committee does not require a second. (While this doesn't translate into a huge savings of time, in a long meeting, every little bit helps!) This not only prevents the need for someone to make a motion to second, but it also helps the motion attain more importance because it doesn't require a second.

Motions from Communications

Main motions can arise from the reading of communications at a meeting of a group or organization. For example, the national executive board of the local chapter of your group could send a letter urging your members to host the next national convention. A high school could write a fraternity asking for help mentoring students and raising funds for computers. Or a political action committee urges your group to support a moratorium on new building in the area.

It's not necessary to make a motion to receive the communication. The chair or secretary simply announces that a communication has been received and it will be read aloud to the membership. Then a member can make a motion in favor of or in opposition to the content of the communication, someone can second it, and debate and a vote follow — or the motion can die for lack of a second — the same procedure as with any other main motion.


It's not necessary to make a motion to receive a committee report. The usual procedure is for committee reports to be placed on an agenda, and the chair will call for the committee to present its report at the appropriate time.

Main Motions from Previous Actions

There are other ways that a main motion can come before a group or organization. A main motion could come up automatically at a particular time without anyone making a motion right at that moment if it's been previously postponed until this meeting. A special order could also have designated a particular time during this meeting for the main motion to be brought up, and the chair announces it at the meeting. Then the usual procedure (a member seconds it, debate and a vote follow, or the motion dies for lack of a second) takes place just as if the main motion had just been made.

Remember the Resolutions

Main motions can be resolutions, as mentioned briefly earlier. Never discount the value of a resolution. Your group might not have the funds to support a particular issue or event, but it can send a message with a resolution that says your membership is behind its aims. A resolution can be in the form of thanking someone or some group for doing something to better the community. Its possibilities are endless and the resolution costs nothing (except perhaps a minimal cost to print up a letter or fancy-looking proclamation to announce it!).


A resolution is a form of a main motion so it is dealt with in the same way as a main motion is. It must have a second unless it has been made by a committee, and it can be amended, debated, and voted upon.

We Interrupt This Motion to Say…

It's important to interrupt here with a cautionary note — while the content of main motions is usually extremely important to a group or organization, other motions — privileged, incidental, and subsidiary — take precedence over it. Confused? It's easy to be.

Briefly, privileged motions are important motions such as fix the time to adjourn, adjourn, rise to question of privilege, and call for the orders of the day. You can see that if there has been a motion to adjourn, it's more important than the motion a group has been debating (especially if there is some emergency reason to adjourn!). (Privileged motions will be discussed in detail in Chapter 8.)

Incidental motions do not deal with the main motion but instead are concerned with points of order — a member notices something is not happening as it should be or raises a parliamentary question. Someone might make a motion to refer the motion to a committee for further study. The member who made the motion could ask that it be withdrawn, and so on. These motions do not deal with the content of the main motion. (More on incidental motions in the Chapter 9.)

A motion to amend, to adjourn, and so on needs to be addressed before the original main motion is voted upon. So just keep in mind that while main motions are very important, these motions take precedence (have higher “rank”). The steps are:

  • The main motion is proposed.

  • It may be amended.

  • It could be referred to a committee for further study.

  • It could be postponed to a specific time or indefinitely.

  • It is then debated according to the rules of the group or organization.

  • There is a call for the previous question (call for the vote).

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  3. The Main Event
  4. Who Proposes Motions?
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