Local Government

Robert’s Rules of Order

Official council procedure may be changing to Rosenberg’s Rules of Order

The rules of procedure for city council meetings are reviewed and adopted each year by the city council. January 3, 2023, Resolution No. 2023-103 states that “…per Fullerton Municipal Code 2.04.040, City Council has adopted the current edition of “Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised” as a non-binding guide for the conduct of City Council meetings, to the degree that such rules do not conflict with State or local laws.”

A copy is available for review in the city clerk’s office. In a recent meeting with the Observer, City Attorney Richard Jones offered a “cheat sheet” for Roberts Rules, together with information prepared for the city councilmembers and various commissioners: Procedure For Handling A Main Motion, and How to Accomplish What You Want To Do In Meetings.

Jones explained that California state law could override Robert’s Rules. For example, old rules say that the presiding chair of a meeting cannot offer motions. However, California law states that all councilmembers are equal participants in the process, so the mayor can legitimately make motions or second motions. Under Robert’s rules, if the chair wants a motion for something, she can say, I’ll entertain a motion to… And then a member says I so move, then another member seconds the motion, then the chair states the motions, and discussion commences.

The Procedure opens with “NOTE: Nothing goes to a discussion without a motion being on the floor.” Then it provides direction for getting a motion on the floor. First, a member raises their hand; the chair recognizes the member by name; the member makes their motion and resumes their seat; another member seconds the motion; the chair states the motion: It is moved and seconded … Are you ready for the question? At this point, the discussion can begin.

Robert’s Rules of Order states in Article V: The chairman cannot close the debate as long as any member desires to speak… One internet source, Washington State University, advises that “calling the question when done properly should be a rare occurrence. If the debate has dragged on longer than you feel is really warranted, you can call the question,” at which time the chair has to immediately ask those assembled to vote to determine whether or not the debate should be cut off or continue.

The motion to call the question is itself not debatable. If two-thirds of those voting agree that the discussion should have died some time ago, they will support the call. Then, and only then, will the vote be taken on the question itself.”

Attorney Jones said that current rules require a second to the motion to call the question. He noted that cities are changing to Rosenberg’s Rules of Order, “Simple Rules of Parliamentary Procedure for the 21st Century,” according to the California League of Cities in promoting a new procedure on the League website.

2 replies »

  1. The article quotes from “Article V” of Robert’s Rules of Order, but the current 12th edition of Robert’s Rules, which is the one specified in the Fullerton Municipal Code, does not contain Articles. Judith Kaluzny appears to be quoting from the 4th edition of Robert’s Rules, which is over 100 years old and the latest one in the public domain and, therefore, available on several websites.
    It would be better for the Observer and Fullerton Council to both ensure that they are using the correct edition.

    • Thank you for that information. Are you watching the City Council meetings?