Agendas, Special Orders and Orders

Agendas, Special Orders and Orders


Roberts states, “The terms order of business, orders of the day, agenda and program refer to closely related concepts having to do with the order in which business is taken up in a session and the pre-scheduling of particular business”.


Order of business is any established sequence in which business of an organization will be taken up. With ordinary societies which mean more than quarterly this usually means just the order by with conventions and annual meetings this can be more specific with names and times.


An order of the day is an item of business that is to be taken up on a given session, day or meeting or at a given hour. These are set up by general orders and special orders, which form the agenda for the meeting. These orders are taken up under a “standard” order of business described in each organization’s Parliamentary Authority or in its Bylaws.


Program has two meanings – one an agenda which includes items outside the business meeting or a heading within the order of business related to talks, lectures, films or other features on of informational or entertainment value


Standard Order of Business for Roberts:


  1. Reading and Approval of Minutes
  2. Reports of Officers, Boards and Standing Committees
  3. Reports of Special (select or ad hoc) Committees
  4. Special Orders
  5. Unfinished Business and General Orders
  6. New Business


These will be used if an organization’s bylaws reference Roberts as its parliamentary authority if it does not specify the order of business in the bylaws.


Orders of the Day


An order of the day can be created one of three ways:


  1. Postpone a motion to a definite time
  2. By adoption of a main motion to consider at a future time an item not currently before the assembly
  3. By adoption of an agenda or program.


Two Types of Orders:


General Orders – requires a majority vote and does not interrupt business when the time to which it was proposed arrives (note that a general order can have a date and time associated with it).

Special Order – requires a 2/3s vote an interrupts business when the time for which it was postponed arrives (motion to postpone must state that it is a special order).


General Rules for Orders:


Special and General orders cannot be made more than three months in advance (quarterly) for an ordinary society which meets more than quarterly.


If a special or general order are made without a time (but identified with a given meeting) they are taken up under special order or unfinished business.


Special orders yield to: the motions to adjourn and recess, questions of privilege, to previously made special orders (if a two orders are made with the same time the one first created is taken up first), and a special order for a meeting to consider one issue.


General orders made for a specific hour can only be taken up if the following conditions are met:

  1. no other business is pending
  2. unfinished business has been reached
  3. no special orders conflict
  4. no reconsideration interferes
  5. No general order that has been previously taken up remains un-disposed.


Agenda or Program


An agenda is created by a single majority vote, or a series of special or general orders.


If an agenda is voted on that has hours assigned to orders of business they become special orders unless the agenda notes that the times are for guidance only.


If a special order is created during a session, which has an approved agenda, a two-thirds vote is required.


An affirmative vote on an Agenda or Program cannot be reconsidered.


It is customary at organizations that meet less than quarterly or for conventions to vote to approve the Agenda.


Where times have been assigned in an agenda and voted on a Chair should follow them closely to protect the rights of individuals who plan to attend certain items. Any member can call for the orders of day.


When an assigned time for taking up a topic in an agenda arrives the chair announces the fact and then proceeds to take a vote on all pending business without debate (unless a motion to lay on the table, postpone or refer to a committee is immediately made). A motion to extend debate can also be made but requires a two-thirds vote.

Items not completed at one meeting are carried over to the next as long as no special orders for that meeting interfere.


Quite often Agendas are sent out it advance of a meeting for information (unless they were previously formally adopted). Unless voted on they are used by the Chair for guidance in conducting the meeting.


Conducting the Meeting Under the Usual Headings of the Order of Business


  1. Call to order by the Chair and opening ceremonies
  2. Reading and Approval of minutes
    1. Secretary reads the minutes unless the minutes have been previously circulated and no member objects
    2. Are there corrections to the minutes?

                                                               i.      Usually informal in consensus otherwise a formal motion and vote

    1. Adoptions of minutes (as corrected) by unanimous consent or by majority vote
    2. Advantages and disadvantages of sending minutes out in advance. Members get to study the minutes but if there are corrections there might be confusion over what the final minutes where.
  1. Reports of Officers, Boards and Standing Committees
    1. Usually only reports from all are heard annually otherwise at regular meetings just those that have something to report (correspondence and Treasurer)
    2. A motion arising out of report should be taken up immediately
  2. Reports of Special Committees
    1. The report is made when specified in the original motion setting the committee up or when they are ready (when no date(s) are specified)
  3. Special Orders
    1. Any unfinished special orders from a previous meeting
    2. Special order specified for the date of this meeting (without a specific hour)
    3. Matters that the Bylaw require e.g. elections may come up at this time
  4. Unfinished Business and General Orders
    1. Do not use “Old Business” implies that all business including items disposed of can be brought up.
    2. Question pending from previous meeting
    3. Questions that were unfinished business at previous meeting
    4. Questions that were general orders for the previous meeting not taken up
    5. Questions ordered for the current meeting as general orders
  5. New Business
    1. New items from members


Optional Headings


  1. Opening Ceremonies – anthem, invocation, ritual etc
  2. Roll Call – members attending and quorom
  3. Consent Calendar – routine or non-controversial items that can be voted on. If any member objects to an item it is immediately moved to the regular item of business.
  4. Good of the Order, General Good, Welfare or Open Forum. After new business, general concerns, suggestion etc.
  5. Announcements – Officers or members announcements
  6. Program


Taking Business Out of Order


Can be done by unanimous consent or the motion to suspend the rules



Presented by Richard Slee, September 5, 2006





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