As usual the January meeting provided parliamentary education. This month’s presenter, Joan C. Price, outlined three motions: lay on the table, postpone definitely, and postpone indefinitely.
The three motions have very different purposes though lay on the table and postpone definitely are sometimes incorrectly confused with each other. A member of an organization may say that they want to lay the current topic on the table though what their real intention is to postpone definitely—to set a time in the current meeting or the next within a quarterly time frame to bring up the motion.
The motion postpone definitely can be used to give members additional time to ponder a topic, to gather information on the subject, or to address the need to have adequate time for consideration.
On the other hand, lay on the table has a specific narrow purpose and is correctly used only when it is necessary to put something aside because an urgent matter has come to the assembly’s attention such as the arrival of a speaker who has limited time to be present and does not want to be present during the business meeting. The motion to lay on the table that is taken up without debate puts the matter aside quickly, and when the speaker leaves a motion is made to take the item from the table.
Postpone indefinitely is very different than the other two motions in that it is a way to kill a motion for the rest of the meeting or to avoid taking a direct vote on the issue. As RONR (11th edition) says on page 136, “It is useful in disposing of a badly chosen main motion that cannot be either adopted or expressly rejected without possibly undesirable consequences.” There are other strategic uses for postpone indefinitely.
Looking back, members of LSPU shared their past experiences with these three useful motions. Looking ahead, they are ready to use them in the future when a situation calls for laying a motion on the table, postponing definitely, and postponing indefinitely.
LSPU will meet in February at the usual time and place, 9:30 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham (1669 West Maple) and visitors are always welcome. Next month’s lesson will be Amending Bylaws, a topic that is useful for any member of an organization and especially important when bylaws changes are proposed. If you are invited to serve on a bylaws committee this lesson is a must!