The meeting has progressed through the agenda and now it is the time for new business. A member rises to make a motion and it is seconded by another member. The chair states, “We have a motion on the floor and states the motion.” The assembly needs to take care of this item of business. But wait, is this motion perfect?
Before members can vote on a motion, they must be absolutely sure that they know what they are voting for. If the maker of the motion has carefully crafted it, and there are no questions on the motion, it can be voted upon without any other issues. If it is not exactly clear what the motion is or what the intended result will be, this must be clarified. An amendment is the way to clarify or perfect a motion and relevance is the key.
Relevance is the first key to making amendments; the term we use is “germane”. An amendment is offered with the intent to make the motion better and must have a direct bearing on the subject. If it is not relevant, or germane, it is not in order. Also, any amendment is out of order if the intent is to introduce new business or to make the motion unpalatable to the assembly. If the amendment receives no second, the pending motion stays just as it was.
How might we offer an amendment? There are two degrees of amendments—a primary and secondary amendment. An amendment of the third degree is not permitted. A primary amendment applies directly to the pending motion and a secondary amendment applies directly to the pending primary amendment. With recognition from the chair, one would rise to state the first amendment or the primary amendment. You cannot interrupt a speaker to do this and it must be seconded.
Let’s use this motion as an example: “I move to purchase a large fire truck for this city.”
There are three basic processes of amendment, the third of which is an indivisible combination of the first two.
- Inserting or adding – you might say, "I move to amend the motion by inserting the word green, after “large” and before “fire truck." It would not be germane in this case to insert, “and order a pizza.” It is important to be very clear about the exact spot where you wish to add a word or words.
- Striking out – commonly used, "I move to amend the motion by striking out the words “for this city.” A motion to strike out words must specify their location when it is not otherwise clear.
- Third process: an indivisible combination of processes (1) and (2):
a. Striking out and inserting – to be efficient in the task, say, "I move to amend the motion by striking out “large” and inserting “red.” This is generally used for words, and the words to be inserted must relate to the words to be struck out, or be germane. The pizza example wouldn't be germane here either.
b. Amend by Substitution – you may say, " I move to substitute the following for the motion currently under discussion: ‘I move to purchase two large red fire trucks for the city of Example City,’ " stated clearly in the revised language. Sometimes it is easier to replace the whole motion than to nitpick each change. This method is applied only to sentences, paragraphs or the entire motion and simply replaces the words in the motion; it does not adopt the newly revised motion.
As mentioned earlier, the primary amendment can also be amended. This is called a secondary amendment. This gives a certain complexity to the situation and will be discussed in another article.
No more than one primary amendment and one secondary amendment are permitted to be pending at a time. The work of approval of amendments works in reverse order. The chair handles the secondary amendment first. If the secondary amendment is not approved, the primary amendment stays the same as was first presented. If the primary amendment is not approved, the motion stays the same as was first presented. If the primary amendment is approved, the motion is changed and the presiding officer restates that motion in its amended form.
The chair must remain in control of the changes to the main motion as the amendments flow. He/she must know when the amendments are out of order, are germane, and are an actual attempt to perfect the main motion. Again, if an amendment is approved, the main motion must be restated in its revised form for the assembly to vote. If the amendment is not approved, the main motion stays the same as originally stated.
Now, it is time for the assembly to vote. The members, if led through the process calmly and properly, will know the exact verbiage of the motion, changed or not changed. The motion, now, is as perfect as it can be; it is as clear as we can make it. The assembly can vote and assert its will on the business before it. A vote is taken and the chair announces the result of that vote.
It is time to move to the next order of business. The perfection process begins again.
The chair states, “We have a motion on the floor…”