The Process of Amending a Motion

April 5, 2022

When the parliament is transacting its business, it must be guided by a set of rules and procedures. This is commonly referred to as the parliamentary procedure or rules of order. They are generally accepted procedures, practices, and precedents employed to guide deliberative gatherings like parliaments.

One of the most common procedures during house debates is amending a motion. If you want to amend a motion, there are several important steps that must be followed. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about amending a motion.

What is a Motion?

In a deliberative assembly, a motion is an official proposal tabled on the floor of the house for debate or decision. For a motion to go through or before it goes to a vote, it must be moved by one member of the assembly and seconded by another. The process of debating such a motion must be guided by the assembly’s rules of order.   

Almost all legislative assemblies around the world conduct their businesses using motions. 

Motions are also used in corporate boards, fraternal organizations, church vestries, and other deliberative gatherings. A motion can introduce a new business before the house or carry several other proposals to undertake certain procedural steps or actions concerning an unresolved proposal. For instance, you can table a motion seeking to postpone a pending motion to a later date or request the house to be adjourned.

There are different types of parliamentary motions, including legislative motions, petitionary motions, budgetary motions, and supplementary budgetary motions. In short, a motion is a basis for members of a deliberative gathering to make important decisions. Therefore, a motion should be expressed in a manner that allows the members to take an action like voting on a motion or giving their opinions.

How to Amend a Motion

Not all parliamentary motions can be amended and some motions are not subject to debate. For instance, a motion to adjourn the house can’t be amended. Furthermore, incidental motions, such as parliamentary inquiries, points of order, and appeals for decisions by the chair are not subject to debate nor amendment. Therefore, any amendment should be relevant to the original proposal.

If the motion to amend a motion is not germane to the original proposal, the chair may call the members to vote on whether the proposed amendment is relevant or should be ruled out of order. It is also important to note that a proposal or an amendment to a proposal can be amended as many times as necessary. However, only a single amendment to a proposed amendment should be pending at a particular time to avoid confusion.

The process of amending a motion follows the same five steps in presenting a motion. For instance, if you want to propose an amendment to a motion in the house, then you must be recognized by the chair for you to initiate the amendment process. To catch the chair’s attention, you can raise your hand or send an electronic signal to the chair’s desk if the house adopts the use of electronic systems.

Once the chair has recognized you and called you to the floor of the house, you should proceed to move the proposal to amend the motion by saying the following words, “I move to amend the motion by striking out, adding, or inserting the following words or phrases...” Your proposal must be seconded by another member of the house, who should rise on his or her feet once they are recognized by the chair and then say the following words, “I second the motion.”

The proposal to amend a pending motion may be debated and voted on. For it to pass, it must get a majority vote. When debating the proposal to amend a pending motion, the members of the house should only discuss issues that are germane to the proposed amendments. So, the chair may rule members who discuss the main motion out of order. The same rule applies to any motion to amend a motion.

Sometimes, a proposal may be amended by proposing a substitute motion. Just like any other proposed amendment, a substitute motion must be relevant to the theme of the main motion. Also, all motions and proposed amendments should be voted on in the order of their making, from the most recent to the original.

Lastly, the motion to amend a motion is probably the most utilized among all subsidiary motions allowed by Robert’s Rules. You should only use this motion when you want to remove, change, or add words to a pending motion, especially in the instance where it would help in making good ideas better.

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