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Mind Benders and Brain Teasers:

This is where we will post questions and situations that will test your knowledge of parliamentary procedure. If you have a parliamentary Mind Bender or Brain Teaser that you would like to share, send it to and we will print the best ones here. Unless otherwise noted, the parliamentary authority is Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), 10th edition. The informal parliamentary opinions expressed here follow general principles of parliamentary law and Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), 10th edition, and are based solely on the brief summary of facts presented, without the benefit of having reviewed the bylaws and other governing documents. An association's own bylaws, covenants, Articles of Incorporation, Special Rules of Order, and local or state laws will supersede what RONR says. A significant difference in facts could result in different conclusions being reached. If there is much at stake, readers are encouraged to seek a formal written parliamentary opinion from a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, which includes a thorough review of the organization's bylaws and governing documents. Nothing here should be construed as an interpretation of statutory law.

Answer to Mind Bender for January 2003:

This question illustrates a problem with the informal term "tabled", and RONR cautions against it on p. 202. The proper term is Lay on the Table. You see, it was not proper to lay something on the table "until" a certain time. The correct motion for that is to Postpone to a Certain Time, as in "until the next meeting". The reason this is a problem is that in the precedence (hierarchy) of motions, the motion to Lay on the Table has a much higher rank than the motion to Postpone. Anything with a higher rank can interrupt consideration of anything of a lower rank, and must be immediately dealt with and/or voted on.

The motion to Lay on the Table is properly only used to lay something aside temporarily in order to attend to an immediately urgent matter, as in "Our speaker has just arrived, I move that we lay the pending motion on the table." It takes a majority vote and no debate is allowed--just vote either yes or no. So this motion could have the effect of cutting off debate with a majority vote, which normally requires a two-thirds vote. If adopted, some time later in the meeting or at the next meeting, a member can move to Take from the Table, and it too requires a majority vote.

Look at the chart of motions on this page: and notice the difference between Lay on the Table and Postpone to a Certain Time. Postpone is debatable as far as the reasons for postponing it, as well as the time to which the motion is postponed. In addition, there is a big difference as to when the motions come up again. A motion that is postponed to the next meeting becomes a General Order for that meeting, and will automatically come before the assembly during Unfinished Business and General Orders. See Standard Order of Business at

Refer to RONR pp. 289-293 for the details. A motion that is Laid on the Table does not automatically come up, but must be taken from the table by a motion adopted by a majority vote, and it will then come before the assembly. It is in order to take from the table at the same meeting or the next meeting, when business of the same class is pending. That is, a motion can be taken from the table during unfinished business, general orders, or new business, whatever the class is of the motion that was laid on the table.

The above information is only to clarify the difference between Lay on the Table and Postpone to a Certain Time, so that a point of order can be raised next time it happens. The fact is that since no point of order was raised at the time the chairman failed to follow the rules, means that it is too late to object now. A point of order must be timely. So all the improprieties of how this motion came to Lay on the Table are moot. The fact is that it is currently is in that state.

Therefore, when no business is pending, it is in order to move to Take from the Table, which requires a majority vote to adopt. Then the motion is again before the assembly. If it was New Business at the time it was "tabled", then a motion can be made to Take from the Table just as soon as New Business is reached in the Standard Order of Business. It takes precedence over a main motion that has been made but not yet stated by the chair, so it could become the first item of business under the class New Business.

If meetings are held at least as often as quarterly, a motion that has been laid on the table dies if not taken from the table by the close of the next regular quarterly meeting.




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