What’s a privileged motion?

At its recent meeting, members of the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit, thoughtfully considered the nature of all privileged motions and the specific characteristics that affect a meeting’s flow.

What is a privileged motion?  It is a special kind of motion that deals with privileges of the assembly and privileges of individuals in a meeting, special matters of immediate importance.  Because they are of immediate importance, none of the privileged motions offer an opportunity for debate.

There are five privileged motions and while they do not directly relate to the pending motion of the floor, they do have a ranked order with their order as follows:

Call for the Orders of the Day

Raise a Question of Privilege



Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn.

With their ranked order it would not be in order to call for the orders of the day when the motion to recess is pending.  But, it would be in order to move to recess while the lower ranking call for the orders of the day is pending.

Each has a particular description related to the matter of privilege.

Call for the Orders of the Day makes the assembly conform to the agenda or order of business and is stated, “I call for the orders of the day.” The presiding officer then goes immediately to what is supposed to be on the agenda at this time unless she/he senses that the assembly wants to complete the present business.  Then, he/she takes a vote to set aside the orders of the day.  It takes a 2/3 vote to set aside the orders of the day.

Raise a Question of Privilege permits a member to make a request related to the rights and privileges of the assembly or an individual.  For example, a member may raise a question of privilege if the member cannot hear the speaker by saying, “I rise to a question of personal privilege; I cannot hear the speaker.”

Recess allows the assembly to take a short intermission and, upon returning, resume the business at hand.  While it’s not debatable, the motion to recess is amendable related to the length of time of the recess.  “I move to take a (set the amount of time) recess.”  The motion requires as second and a majority adopts.

Adjourn is a motion that ends the meeting immediately while business is still pending.  “I move to adjourn.” is the statement.  It requires a second, a majority vote to approve, and, like all privileged motions, is not debatable.

Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn is seldom encountered but it can be very useful when it becomes apparent that the assembly cannot complete business that must be accomplished at a specific meeting.  The motion sets a later time to continue the current meeting before the next regular meeting.  Here is how it is stated, “I fix the time to which to adjourn to 7 PM tomorrow at our present location.”  If the undebatable motion is adopted the meeting will continue at 7 PM tomorrow at the same location.  This motion has nothing to do with setting the time that the present meeting will end; it relates only to continuing the meeting at a later time and place.

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Presenters Vesta DeRiso and Eleanor Siewert followed these descriptors with some scripted examples of how and when the privileged motions might be used.  Nearly everyone recalled a time when such privileged motions were used and many began to consider situations where using a privileged motion would have improved the meeting’s comfort or flow.  This lesson surely offered all the chance to look for such opportunities in the future and to have the skill to use privileged motions.

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The next Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit meeting will be April 19, 2016 at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, MI located at 1669 West Maple Road.  As usual the meeting will begin promptly at 9:30 with the education lesson followed by the unit’s business meeting concluding by noon.

Guests and visitors are always welcome to discover how much fun it can be to study and learn together in a congenial, accepting atmosphere.

REMINDER:    Mark your calendar to attend the April 16, 2016 Workshop at the Bloomfield Township Public Library on Saturday from 9:30-12:30.  Register now for the free event (free in celebration of LSPU’s 40th anniversary!) by contacting gcdenton@comcast.net or by using the registration form on the flyer elsewhere on this website.