October 2016 Parliamentarian’s Corner: Motion to Postpone

Motion to Postpone vs. Motion to Postpone Indefinitely:

Purpose:  As we discussed previously, a huge advantage to utilizing Robert’s Rules is that it provides structure to our meetings and designates methods for achieving various goals. From time to time, you may find it necessary to postpone particular business for a certain, relatively long length of time rather than simply delaying it very briefly (as we discussed previously with the motion to lay on the table). For this purpose, you should utilize the motion to postpone. However, this is quite different than the motion to postpone indefinitely, as this motion stops debate and defeats a main motion without an actual vote taking place. As you can see, these seemingly similar motions are actually quite different – you can see how different they actually are below.

How it Works: The simple motion to postpone allows for a motion to be delayed until a certain specified time during the current meeting or the next meeting or simply until the next scheduled meeting. As such, a motion may be made to “postpone the question at hand until 3 PM.”, “postpone the question at hand until 3 PM. during the next meeting”, or “postpone the question at hand until the next meeting”.

The motion to postpone indefinitely allows a Brother to promptly end debate on a main motion, should they believe the motion to be frivolous or not worthy of discussion. When this motion passes, the motion that has been postponed may not be brought up again for discussion during the meeting in which it was postponed.

These two motions require a “second” from another Brother, are debatable, and a simple majority of 50% +1 Brothers attending the meeting and voting affirmatively are needed for passage of either motion. However, the motion to postpone indefinitely may not be amended or reconsidered if defeated.

Example:

  • A Brother in your Chapter has made the motion to “celebrate the Regent’s birthday by requiring the Chaplain to bring 99 cupcakes to the next Executive Committee meeting.”

o   Several Brothers laugh, and shout “second”

  • With the motion on the floor for discussion, you raise your hand and are acknowledged by the chair.

o   You say “while I would love to celebrate our Regent’s birthday, our Chaplain is much too busy to bake 99 cupcakes. I motion to postpone the previous question indefinitely.”

o   Your motion is seconded by the (very busy) Chaplain.

  • Debate on your motion starts, and, because you think most Brothers will support you, you make a motion to end debate by saying: “I motion for the previous question”.

o   The Chaplain seconds your motion once again.

o   Your motion to end debate passes easily.

  • Your motion to postpone indefinitely is now voted upon and passes, allowing for a more serious discussion of business.

In conclusion, motions to postpone allow us to delay or stop discussion on motions when we find that the time is simply not right for discussion or that motions are ill advised or frivolous. As you can see, these motions, when utilized properly, allow you to better control the flow of business in your meetings – as such, they are excellent tools in our parliamentary procedures toolkit!

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