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THE basis for business, and the point for decision, is called the motion. In other words, a motion is a formally worded proposition presented in a deliberative body for its consideration, and for its decision by vote. So it has been defined as "A proposal looking to action or progress; especially, one made in a deliberative assembly," and, in a parliamentary sense, to move is "To propose; recommend; specifically, to propose formally in a deliberative assembly for consideration and determination."
A member having a suggestion to which he desires the meeting to agree, arises, and, being duly recognized, makes a motion touching the matter. Thus he may say, "Mr. President, I move—thus and so," or "Mr. Chairman, I make the following motion," and the motion is the thing proposed.
A simple motion may be independent of other propositions and complete in itself, or it may bear upon some other proposition before the body, and may suggest a disposition of the other proposition. Thus one may make a simple motion to adjourn, or, a paper having been presented, it may be moved to refer it to a committee.
Brief routine motions may be merely oral, and, being short and easily understood, are taken down at once by the secretary, but longer motions, embracing matter less easily understood or remembered, should generally be offered in writing, and they must be written out on the request of the presiding officer, or on the demand of any member. This avoids misunderstanding, prevents confusion, and frequently saves much time. The clerk may assist in reducing the motion to writing.
A more formal kind of motion is called a Resolution,
and begins with the word Resolved. A resolution is supposed to embrace matters of greater importance than does a simple motion. A mover of a resolution is expected to put it in writing before he presents it. It is also usual for him to sign his name and, under his name, to have the signature of another who seconds the motion, and, not infrequently, several names are appended. When a second name is appended the resolution is seconded, and it is not necessary that there should be a vocal second.
Sometimes there may be a series of resolutions, which should be numbered in their order, and sometimes they are preceded by an introductory paragraph called a Preamble, beginning with the word Whereas, which preamble recites the occasion or reason for the resolution or resolutions.
When the body is considering a resolution, or a series of resolutions, with a Preamble, the action is first upon the resolution or resolutions, and then upon the preamble. When there are several resolutions they may be acted upon together by one vote, or someone may move that they be taken up seriatim, that is to say, in regular order, one after another, beginning with the first. The established order of consideration and action on a report or other paper containing two or more paragraphs, sections, or resolutions, is for the whole paper to be read by the clerk, after which reading the president should read, or cause it to be read by paragraphs, or one resolution after the other, pausing at the end of each, and asking, "Are there any amendments proposed to this paragraph?" If there is a motion to amend, that should be acted upon, but at this stage there should be no vote taken on the adoption of the paragraph or resolution. If no amendment is offered, the chairman says, "No amendment being offered to this paragraph, the next will be read." Thus he proceeds to the last, when he states that all the resolutions have been read and are open to amendment. Finally he puts the question on agreeing to or adopting the whole paper as amended. If each paragraph or section is
adopted separately, as is sometimes done, it is unnecessary and improper afterward to vote on the adoption of the whole report, because this would be voting to adopt what has already been adopted in detail. Such action would make further and desirable amendment difficult, as it would necessitate a reconsideration.
If the resolutions fail, the preamble is not read, but goes with them; but if they are adopted, it is read and acted upon after the last paragraph.
When a motion or resolution is regularly before the body no other principal motion or main question can be received, for it would create confusion to have two such propositions before the house at the same time, but various other motions which are intended to affect the original motion, and which should be considered before it (and hence are said to be previous in their nature), may be made, and, if made, must be considered and voted upon before the vote is reached on the original motion.
Every new motion is a new question, though it bears upon the same general subject, and, with the exception of undebatable questions, a member can speak to these motions as though he had not spoken on the main question.
In voting upon motions when two or more are pending, the rule is, Last made, first put.
Again, it should be remembered constantly that to prevent mistakes every lengthy and formal motion, as well as resolution, should be presented in writing, though the less elaborate motion may be taken down by the secretary, and, for this reason, the common rule is that all Principal Motions, Resolutions, Amendments, and Instructions to Committees should be in writing, if required by the presiding officer. A resolution must be put in writing at the request of any member.
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION OF MOTIONS
MOTIONS are of many kinds with different characteristics, and yet some have a similar general purpose or relation, and so may be classified together or placed in groups. These different classes are grouped under various heads suggestive of their general character. Thus there are Principal Motions, Subsidiary Motions, Incidental Questions, Privileged Questions, and Miscellaneous Motions.
The principal motion is the original, or primary, motion on the subject, by which the matter is brought before the body, or, in other words, the fundamental motion by which the subject is introduced for the consideration of the assembly.
Being the first introduced on the matter in hand, it is the chief motion. Ordinarily it is the motion or the question.
If other motions are introduced which bear upon the primary motion then it becomes and is technically characterized as the Main Question.
The primary, or original, motion may be followed by other motions which directly relate to, or bear upon, it. These later motions are made for the purpose of modifying or disposing of the principal motion, or main question, in a way somewhat different from that originally implied in the presentation of the principal motion.
As these later motions follow the primary motion, they are called secondary motions. Because they cannot exist without the previous existence of principal motions to which they relate, or upon which they depend, and in the modification or disposal they are intended to have a part, they are called subsidiary motions. It may make the idea clearer to remember that the word "subsidiary" is from
the Latin subsidiarius, "belonging to a reserve," from the Latin subsidium, referring to the troops stationed in reserve behind the principals in the Roman army. So subsidiary motions are the reserve motions which follow the principal motions. It happens, however, that sometimes they are used to destroy rather than to support. Because of their bearing upon the principal motion they must be decided before the main question to which they relate.
Then there is a third class of motions, called Incidental Questions because they happen without any regularity, and are occasioned in a casual way through the consideration of principal, subsidiary, or other questions. These questions do not bear directly upon the primary, or main question, but arise incidentally during the progress of the business, and hence their name.
In addition to the main, subsidiary, and incidental questions, there is a fourth class called Privileged Questions. They do not modify or bear upon the main question, though they may be presented while the principal motion or other motions are being considered. They are called privileged questions because of special privileges which belong to them, particularly as to the time when they may be introduced and because of their pressing and immediate importance. Thus they may be introduced at any time, and must be considered before any other subject or proposition that may be before the house.
Then there are some questions which are not easily classified under the foregoing heads which have been termed Miscellaneous Questions. Their names plainly indicate their purpose.