Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Running Your PTA

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Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary procedure is simply a set of rules for conducting organized meetings. Following parliamentary procedures lets the PTA accomplish its goals fairly while protecting all members’ rights. This is democracy in action.The basic principles of parliamentary procedure are these:

  • Consider one thing at a time.
  • Ensure justice and courtesy for all and partiality for none.
  • Follow the rule of the majority.
  • Preserve the right of the minority to be heard.

Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised is the parliamentary text that governs the PTA where the bylaws do not apply. The president should keep a copy of the current edition handy at all meeting. Bylaws for Local PTA/PTSA Units always take precedence over Robert’s Rules of Order.

Asking for help is not only allowed, it is expected. No one is perfect the first time, or the second either. The president who relaxes and asks for help when necessary sets a congenial tone that helps everyone adapt more easily to parliamentary procedure.

With practice, parliamentary procedure helps PTA members make tough decisions together and remain cordial in the process.

A parliamentarian can be a help to the president when questions of procedure arise. If a parliamentarian is not appointed and ratified, the president should appoint one (pro tem) for each meeting to assist the president in conducting an orderly meeting.

The primary duty of the parliamentarian is to advise the presiding officer on questions of parliamentary law and matters of procedure. The parliamentarian should be assigned a seat near the presiding officer for convenient consultation.

The presiding officer may call on the parliamentarian for advice at any time.When something being done is out of order, the parliamentarian may place a note where the presiding officer can see it. Only with the agreement of the presiding officer or at the request of a member is the parliamentarian permitted to rise and explain a parliamentary point to the assembly. The chair alone has the power to make decisions or rule on points of order. Therefore, after the parliamentarian has given advice, the chair must make the ruling to the assembly. The chair is not obliged to follow the recommendation of the parliamentarian.Any member may appeal the decision of the chair. The appeal requires a second.After explaining the chair’s decision, the chair asks,“Shall the decision of the chair be sustained?” A majority or a tie vote sustains the decision of the chair.

Prior to the meeting, the president may wish to confer with the parliamentarian concerning business on the agenda and on questions that are likely to arise.


Understanding Your Bylaws
Nominations and Elections
Parliamentary Procedure (
The Official Robert’s Rules of Order Website 



The motions in the top chart are ranking motions. That is, they take precedence over one another in graduating steps up the page. The highest number, Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn, is the highest ranking. The lowest number, Postpone Indefinitely, is the lowest ranking. If one of these motions is introduced, no motion that is lower in rank is in order until the pending parliamentary motion is disposed of, but any motion higher in rank can be introduced while the motion is pending. For example, if a motion to Postpone to a Set Time has been made but not yet voted on, the motions to Refer to CommitteeAmend and Postpone Indefinitely would not be in order but any of the motions above number 5 would be in order. These motions are divided into Privileged motions which have to do with the comfort and convenience of the assembly and Subsidiary motions which offer ways to deal with the main motion. The motions in the bottom chart are without rank and are incidental to the proceedings in some way, therefore they can interrupt business.



Fix time to which to adjourn – sets the time (and /or place) for another meeting to continue business of the session. It has no effect on when the present meeting will adjourn (requires second, not debatable, amendable, and majority vote).

Adjourn – closes current meeting immediately (requires second, not debatable, not amendable, and majority vote).

Recess – temporary break in a meeting (requireces second, not debatable, amendable to time only, and majority vote)

Raise a question of privilege – secures comfort for members (requires nothing – the question posed in decided upon by the chair)

Call for the orders of the day – demands compliance with the agenda or seek information on order of agenda (requires nothing – addressed by the chair)

Lay on the table – delays a motion briefly when something more urgent has arisen. Its effect is to halt consideration of a question immediately, without debate (requires second, not debatable, not amendable, and majority vote)

Call for the previous question – ends debate immediately (requires second, not debatable, not amendable, and 2/3 vote)

Limit or extend debate – one of two motions an assembly can use to exercise special control over debate on a pending question. It can be used to reduce the number or length of speeches, or to require an end to debate at a particular time. It can also be used to increase the time available to speakers or to the deliberation on the question (requires second, not debatable, amendable, and 2/3 vote)

Postpone definitely – a motion to defer discussion of a pending question to a definite day, meeting, hour, or until after a certain event. This motion can be used regardless of how much debate there has been on the motion it proposes to postpone (requires second, debatable, amendable, and majority vote).

Refer to a committee – assigns the motion to a committee so that the question may be investigated, providing the assembly with more information or a recommendation, or to put the motion into better form (in clearer or better wording) for the assembly to consider (requires second, debatable, amendable, and majority vote).

Amend – a motion to modify the wording–and to some extent the meaning – of a pending question before the assembly. A pending motion may be modified by adding or deleting words and phrases, or by a combination of these–i.e., to strike out some words and insert others. It can also be used to substitute one paragraph or the entire text of a resolution or main motion. Amendments must be both pertinent and fitting (requires second, debatable, amendable, and majority vote).

Postpone indefinitely – kills motion without a vote (requires second, debatable, not amendable, and majority vote)

Main motion – the motion which brings any general matter of business before the assembly. Any formal proposal.

Refer to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 10th edition, for further explanations.

Vancil, David, comp. Parliamentary Motions – Quick Reference. Colorado State University. 21 Sept. 2007

Taylor, Greg, Dr., Chris, Dr. Boleman, Toby, Dr. Lepley, and Angela Burkham, comps. Leading Effective Meetings: Making Basic Parliamentary Procedure Work. Texas a&M University, Building Connections: Community Leadership Program. 21 Sept. 2007

Thirty-Third District PTA, 5629 Pearce Avenue, Lakewood, CA 90712
Mailing Address: Thirty-Third District PTA, PO Box 1235, Lakewood, CA 90714
Phone: 562-804-4519