Joy Class Androids

Bob's Rules of Order

(By Joy Seven & Chairman Blurash)

This is a short informal introduction to Roberts' Rules of Order. This is not the full rules. It should, however, be sufficient to get us through most sims. Other types of motions not included below might be used, but let's not get too fancy, folks? I'll try to work from the basics towards the exotic. For the most part, we've done fine working in blissful ignorance of the formal rules. It's only when we try to get exotic that we seem to get in trouble.

The words "by tradition" or use of a blue font imply a Federation Council sim tradition that conflicts with the official Robert's Rules of Order. These are generally time saving informal short cuts. The formal rules might take precedence, but unless it is really important, let's go with the flow and take things easy, OK?

This is also the Rules of Order, not the Federation Constitution. At some future time we might generate another document that specifies the powers of Council, powers of the Chair, the Guarantees, etc... This ain't that.

The types of motions generally used are...

Main Motion. Example: "I move that we authorize Starfleet to use force against these bad guys." One needs the floor to make a main motion, needs a second, and a majority to pass (with the Chair breaking ties). Main motions are debatable, amendable, and reconsiderable. Making a main motion is not in order when another main motion is already under debate. One must first vote on the prior main motion, or table it. The Chair might take note that another main motion has been made, and bring the new motion to the floor after the current motion has been resolved.

Motion to Impeach: Motion to admit a new Federation member. Motion to permanently expel a Federation member. These are main motions, but under the Constituion they require a 2/3rds majority. One should vote to impeach only if one believes the person guilty beyond reasonable doubt of "treason, high crimes or misdemeanors," though this phrase is notoriously ambiguous. I vaguely recall that there are other motions requiring 2/3rds majority, but can't think of them off hand.

Motion to amend: Example: "I move to amend the motion authorizing use of force such that Starfleet must cease use of force should the bad guys release the hostages and withdraw from Federation space." Need the floor, a second, a majority. Debatable, amendable, and reconsiderable. One can amend an amendment. One cannot amend an amendment to an amendment. There must be a main motion on the floor to propose an amendment. All amendments to a main motion must be voted on before a vote on the main motion itself can be taken.

Call for a vote: (One might also "call to end debate" or, to use the formal phrase from Roberts, "motion to order the previous question.") Need the floor, need a second, need majority. (Official RROO requires 2/3rds vote to close debate, but Council sim tradition is for a simple majority.) Not debatable, not amendable, reconsiderable. By tradition, when a main motion is on the floor, but no one has requested the floor to debate, the Chair will informally close the debate and initiate a vote. A call for a vote is only required if the motion is debatable. Should the Chair should call for an immediate vote on a debatable motion, and one wishes to speak on the issue, say "Point of order! That is a debatable question, and I wish to speak."

Motion to table or to remove from the table: Example: "I move that we table the bill authorizing use of force until the bad guys reach the Eta Doorsteppi or Gamma Mybackyard." Need floor, second and majority. Not debatable, is amendable, is reconsiderable. Tabling a measure ends debate on an issue without resolution. One can specify how long an item is to be tabled, or specify a condition under which the issue might be returned on the floor. Any issue tabled can be later removed from the table for further debate.

The Line

The prior motions, above the line, are all one really needs nine sessions out of ten. All of the above are fine and normal. Any procedure "below the line" is unusual, and should not be used lightly.

Motion to Recess, Adjourn, or enter informal session. By tradition, the Chair will declare a recess without a vote at 11 PM Eastern. Thus, it is seldom necessary for players to use these motions. The Chair, acting out of character, may also halt a session for game reasons by typing the words 'pause sim.' Need floor, need second, need majority. Not amenable, not debatable, not reconsiderable. All three of these motions end a formal session. A recess is "time for lunch" or "time to go to bed." A motion to adjourn ends a session. The agenda is cleared, and Council members in character are free to leave San Francisco and go on a minor vacation. An informal session opens the floor to free form discussion. The Chair puts down the gavel and leaves the podium. Members are free to discuss issues without formalities, but may not make formal motions. The only motion that is in order during informal session is a motion to resume formal session.

Motion to reconsider. Example: "I move that we revoke our previous authorization for Starfleet to use force." Need floor, second, and majority. Debatable, not amendable, can be reconsidered. If no significant news has changed the situation, a motion to reconsider may only be made on the same day, or the day (week) following the vote to be reconsidered. One may only move to reconsider if one voted with the majority when the item was originally considered. On the other hand, if a major occurrence happens which significantly changes a situation that was once considered settled, it is quite proper that an old item might be returned to the agenda. The Chair frequently returns old plot lines to the floor after adding a new plot twist. If one reads in Galactic Network News that Council's solution to an old problem isn't working, a motion to reconsider might be appropriate. Also, one should avoid a motion to reconsider a tabled item. One should instead move to removed the question from the table.

Point of Order: This is objection that the rules are being violation, and a call for the Chair to correct the error. Example: "Point of order! The motion on the floor is not debatable. The Chair should call for an immediate vote." Does not need the floor, a second, or a majority. The Chair rules on the point of order, saying "The point of order is well taken" or "The point of order is not well taken" with a brief explanation of why. Not amendable or reconsiderable. A ruling by the Chair can be appealed, at which point the point of order becomes debatable and a majority will rule, but I have never seen a point of order appealed in a Council sim. The Chair's obligation is to impartially enforce Robert's Rules and the Federation Constitution. In theory, points of order enforce the rules. In practice, they can become political, as sometimes people's opinions of the rules vary depending on whether enforcing the rule results in political advantage.

Point of Order, decorum:* Example: "Point of order! The word 'robot' implies lack of sentience or primitive construction. It is the equivalent of a racial slur. Mr. Chairman, please instruct the honorable member to use the term 'android.'" One may not insult or abuse another member of Council, nor attribute dark motives for another's actions. "It is not allowable to arraign the motives of a member, but the nature or consequences of a measure may be condemned in strong terms." (RROO) If the Chair upholds a decorum point of order, the individual who spoke ill is required to apologize. A refusal to apologize or an appeal of a Chair's judgment that no disorderly words were spoken could bring the Council session to a screeching halt. The abuser and the abusee must leave the chamber. The rest of the Council decides if there was or was not a breech of protocol. If there was a breech of protocol, the abuser cannot resume his seat until an apology has been given. By tradition, a few good natured insults in good fun are allowed, but when the insults and abuse begin to ruin enjoyment of the game, the Robert's Rules mechanism is in place.

Point of Order, limited debate: Example: "Point of order! The honorable ambassador has exceeded the time allowed in debate." An individual cannot hold the floor for more than five minutes at a time. Official Roberts allows one to keep the floor ten minutes at a time, but only allows one to speak twice on a given motion on a given day. If the debate is still fun, we allow it to continue indefinitely, and members may ask for and receive the floor any number of times. If the debate is over long, if everything has already been said twice, consider a motion to table or a motion to close debate.

Motion to extend debate time: Example: "I move that we allow individuals to speak for ten minutes at a time." Need the floor, need a second, need 2/3rds majority, amendable, not debatable, can be reconsidered. As we do not limit the number of times a speaker may speak on a given motion, let's not bother with this one. A motion to enter informal session is another way to loosen up debate. It requires only a majority vote, and the time limits on debate are suspended.

Call for the Orders of the day: Example. "We are off the agenda. The honorable ambassador is not addressing the motion on the floor. I call for the orders of the day." Do not need the floor or a second. Not amendable. Not reconsiderable. Does not need a majority or the Chair's approval. This one automatically passes. If someone ignores the agenda and the motion under debate, this motion is intended to bring things back on track. Blu asked for a suggestion of what 'consequences' might apply if an ambassador repeatedly ignores a call for the orders of the day. I would suggest using 'point of order, decorum.' The ambassador must either appologize and comply with the rules, or leave the chamber. As in other points of order, the Chair makes the initial ruling, but the Chair's ruling can be appealed to a majority vote of Council.

Motion to end consideration: Example. "The Federation does not assassinate foreign heads of state! I move that we should not consider this abhorrent proposal." Need the floor, a second, and a majority. Not debatable or amendable. If it passes with a 2/3rds majority, it cannot be reconsidered. This is the equivalent of tabling a measure, but with extreme prejudice. If a motion to end consideration passes, the fact that the killed motion was made is removed from the meeting minutes. This should be used if an illegal, immoral, politicitically incorrect or otherwise improper proposal is put on the floor.

Motion to withdraw or modify a motion: The official Roberts' Rules get messy on this one. Just to keep it simple, by TFC tradition, if the person who made the main motion currently under debate wishes to withdraw or modify a motion, the Chair asks if anyone objects. If there is an objection, the author can use a motion to table or a motion to ammend.

There are other motions in Robert's Rules which might possibly be useful, but these should suffice, and the last few are starting to get redundant.

*Louse in the House

(A real world example of point of order, decorum.)

In 1947, Hugh Gaitskell, the Socialist Minister of Fuel, in a speech in the House of Commons asked the nation to take fewer baths to save coal. "As a matter of fact, I have never had a great many baths myself."

Churchill, as the Leader of the Conservative Party Opposition, interrupted to say, "When Ministers of the Crown speak like this on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the Prime Minister and his friends have no need to wonder why they are getting increasingly into bad odor.

"I have never asked myself, when meditating on these points, whether you, Mr. Speaker, would admit the word 'lousy' as a Parliamentary expression in referring to this administration, provided, of course, it was not intended in a contemptuous sense but one purely as one of factual narration."

(From The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill, by James Humes.)

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