Importance of Committees – From Sturgis’s Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure
Committees perform the bulk of the work of organizations. Through the use of committees the responsibilities of an organization are apportioned among its members. Work to be done is delegated to committees and proposals are formulated by committees for final decision by the whole assembly. The meetings of many groups are concerned largely with the consideration of committee reports and recommendations. Usually the conclusions of committees are accepted as the conclusions of the organization.
Committees are too valuable to be misused. They should not be burial grounds for unpleasant issues, or a method of rewarding members and distributing titles to friends, or a device for giving everybody something to do. Membership on a committee should never be used to placate chronic troublemakers.
No committee should be appointed unless it is needed. Members of a committee that has no real work soon recognize this fact and lose interest in the organization.
Advantages of Committees
A committee has many advantages that enable it to work more efficiently than the larger parent organization. Some of these are that:
1. Greater freedom of discussion is possible.
2. More time is available for each subject.
3. Informal procedure can be used.
4. Better use can be made of experts and consultants.
5. Delicate and troublesome questions may be settled without publicity.
6. Hearings may be held giving members opportunity to express their opinions.
A standing committee does any work within its particular field that is assigned to it by the bylaws or referred to it by the organization or the board. Its term of service is usually the same as the terms of the officers. Standing committees provide ever-ready and experienced groups to which work may be referred at any time. They handle many tasks that need to be carried out regularly. A membership committee, which investigates and passes on applications for membership, is an example of a standing committee.
An organization may provide for and fix the duties of as many standing committees as it finds useful. The name, method of selecting members, usual duties, term of office, and requirements for reports of each standing committee should be included in the bylaws.
A special committee, sometimes called an ad hoc committee, performs some specific task and automatically ceases to exist when its final report is issued. If the organization votes to delegate additional work to a special committee, it continues until the new assignment is completed and another report is submitted. A committee to arrange the annual banquet is an example of a special committee.
Both the board of directors and the president have the inherent power to appoint special committees to assist them at any time, and to delegate investigative, planning, or routine administrative duties to them. These committees report only to the authority that appointed them. (See Delegation of Authority by Officers and Boards, p. 161.)
Committees may be classified according to the nature of their assignments into committees primarily for deliberation and committees primarily for action. It is vital that a committee appointed for deliberation and investigation or which performs discretionary duties be representative of all important elements and groups within the organization. The report of a representative committee will reflect the opinions of the whole organization and has a good chance of being approved. A nominating committee and a committee to determine the location for a new clubhouse are examples of committees that should be representative.
Committees for Action
A committee for action carries out a particular task already decided on. Such a committee does not function well unless it is composed of members who favor the job to be done. A committee to raise an endowment fund is an example.
Roberts Rules from Notes and Comments on Robert's Rules – Jon L. Ericson
If a main motion is referred to committee, pending amendments accompany the main motion to committee. A pending motion to postpone indefinitely is dropped (124-25, 173, and 510). Although Robert gives complete details (493-521) about how the main motion and pending amendments are to be handled, generally the assembly can consider the motion to refer to committee a very flexible motion, and the committee has great latitude in dealing with the subject matter contained in the main motion.
Rules of Procedure
The procedure in a committee (usually not more than twelve members) is much less formal than the procedure used in the assembly; the rules:
1. Members speak informally. "Members are not required to obtain the floor before making motions or speaking, which they can do while seated" (477).
2. Discussion of a subject is permitted while no motion is pending.
3. The chair may take an active part in the discussion and may also make motions. "In committees, the chairman not only has the right to make and debate motions, but he is usually the most active participant in the discussions and work of the committee" (491).
4. Motions do not require a second.
5. There is no limit to the number of times a member may speak to a subject or motion.
6. Motions to limit debate or to call for the previous question (close debate) are out of order (188 and 195).
7. When consensus is clear to all members, decisions may be made without either a formal motion or a vote.
8. Committee meetings are closed. "During actual deliberations of the committee, only committee members have the right to be present" (95 and 491). Although committee deliberations are closed, "when a committee is to make substantive recommendations or decisions on an important matter, it should give members of the society an opportunity to appear before it and present their views on the subject" (491).
9. A motion to reconsider a vote can be made and taken up regardless of the time elapsed since the vote was taken. There is no limit to the number of times a question can be reconsidered. The motion to reconsider may be made by any member of the committee who did not vote with the losing side, including members who abstained or were absent. Also, "unless all the members of the committee who voted with the prevailing side are present or have been notified that the reconsideration will be moved, it requires a two-thirds vote to adopt the motion to Reconsider" (323-24).
10. A committee may appoint subcommittees, which are responsible to the committee. Unless the rules of the organization provide otherwise, subcommittee members must be chosen from the members of the committee (488).
Robert states that a large committee (more than twelve members) generally follows standard parliamentary procedure (9).
Rights of the president who is an ex-officio member of a committee
A common misdefinition is that ex officio means "a member without the right to vote." However, ex-officio means by virtue of the office, and the president, being a member of the committee by virtue of office, has full rights as granted to any member of the committee. The only differences are that the president does not have an obligation to participate and is not counted in the quorum (447 and 488).
Rights of an ex-officio board member
If a person is a member of the organization, there is no distinction between ex-officio and regular board membership. If a person is not a member of the organization, an ex-officio board member has all of the privileges but none of the obligations of membership and is not counted in determining a quorum (473-74).
Record of a Committees proceedings
It is not required for a committee to record it proceedings, Robert takes a casual approach to recording minutes in a committee. In Parliamentary Law, he states: "A committee is not required to keep a record of its proceedings," and adds that the chair or a member acting as secretary merely keeps memoranda of what is done, as far as may be necessary to enable the committee to continue its work at the next meeting. These are not treated as minutes, that is, they are not read and approved at the next meeting, nor are they copied in a book and preserved. They are simply temporary memoranda, which are destroyed when no longer needed for reference (264).
Based on Robert, all that is required is "a brief memorandum in the nature of minutes for the use of the committee" (490). Given the concerns today for open meetings and accountability, a more formal approach might be a good idea.
Committee chair fails or refuses to call a meeting of the committee
If the chair fails to call a meeting, 'the committee must meet on the call of any two of its members" (490).
Removal an uncooperative member
A committee chair cannot remove a member, unless the committee chair appointed the members. A committee cannot punish a member (491; Parliamentary Law, 266 and 458). Only the body that created the committee has the authority to change the membership of the committee. The chair may, of course, request that the offending member be removed. In most organizations, the president appoints committee members and is therefore the person who can remove them.
Organizing the material in a Committee report
The committee report should consist of two parts:
1. The report, which consists of background information, such as the charge of the committee, how it carried out its charge, and the possible solutions it considered (495-96 and 501-3)
2. The recommendation, which is the proposal for action based on the background information (494-95)
The first part is sometimes referred to as the body, but it is common practice to refer to both parts as the report. The important point is not what the parts are called but the distinction between them. (See following)
Amendment of a committee report
Generally, a committee report may not be amended on the principle that the assembly has no right to make a committee say something it does not want to say. This principle does not pose a problem. The committee should distinguish between its report (background information), and its recommendation (proposal for action). The report may not be amended, but the recommendation is a main motion, subject to the rules and procedures of a main motion, and may therefore be amended.
What does the assembly do after it receives the report?
Nothing; it simply listens to the report as it would in the case of a progress or annual report. After the chair of the committee completes the report, the chair of the assembly states, "You have heard [read] the report of the - committee. Are there any questions? [Pause] There being no [further] questions, that completes the report of the - committee, and we turn now to. . The chair does not ask for a motion to receive, to approve, or to accept the committee report. No action is required. It is such a common error to "receive" or "approve" or accept" committee reports that it is wise to refer extensively to Robert.
It should be noted that a motion "to receive" a communication after it has been read is meaningless and should therefore be avoided... (271).
A common error is to move that a report "be received" after it has been read-apparently on the supposition that such a motion is necessary in order for the report to be taken under consideration or to be recorded as having been made. In fact, this motion is meaningless, since the report has already been received. Even before a report has been read, a motion to receive it is unnecessary if the time for its reception is established by the order of business, or if no member objects.
Another error less common, but dangerous is to move, after the report has been read (or even before the reading), that it "be accepted," when the actual intent is that of the mistaken motion to receive, as just explained, or of a legitimate motion to receive made before the report is read. If a motion "to accept" made under any of these circumstances is adopted and is given its proper interpretation, it implies that the assembly has endorsed the committee report (498-99).
The custom of many organizations is to move to accept all committee reports, and custom dies hard. It is a custom that, although harmless, could just as well die. The point is simple: if no action is proposed by the committee, just listen to (or read) the report, and ask any questions. Then move on to the next item of business.
How are the recommendations dealt with
The word recommendation has two meanings:
1. A committee recommendation is usually a proposal for action, and the proper motion is to move to adopt the recommendation. At this point the recommendation becomes a main motion and is treated like any other main motion before the assembly. Recommendation, then, simply means main motion.
2. When a committee functions as a clearinghouse for motions, such as a resolutions or bylaws committee for conventions, the word recommendation acquires a different meaning. Organizations often require that proposed amendments to the bylaws, resolutions, and new business items be submitted to a committee for the purpose of rewriting, editing, and combining with other motions of the same subject matter. When the committee reports to the assembly, each of the motions sent to the committee becomes pending automatically, with no motion being made by the committee. If the committee wishes, or is charged, to state the committee's opinion on the pending motion, the chair of the committee states, "Bylaw amendment number - is before the assembly, and the committee recommends its adoption." In this context, the recommendation of the committee is not a main motion; rather, it is the committee’s opinion-its advice-to the assembly on how to vote on the motion that was sent to and considered by the committee. Recommendation in this case means advice (628-31).
Too often, inexperienced committee chairs fail to distinguish between the two meanings of recommendation, and the result is utter confusion. The chair of a resolutions committee, for example, moves that the first five resolutions be adopted. (Although Robert says the resolutions are automatically pending and no motion is required, by custom most committee chairs move the motions.) Then, since the committee does not approve of resolution six, the chair says, 'The committee moves that resolution six not be adopted." Such a mess. Now the delegates vote 'Aye" if they are against the motion and 'No" if they are for the resolution! The chair has neglected to keep the main motion, which must always be moved in the affirmative, separate from the committee’s opinion of the main motion (509).
The chair should state, "Resolutions one through five are before the assembly, and the committee recommends that you vote in favor of the resolutions.... [After vote,] Resolution six is before the assembly, and the committee recommends that you vote against the resolution."
Committee members cannot agree on a report or recommendation
The minority within the committee can prepare a minority report. Unlike Robert in his Rules of Order Revised and Parliamentary Law, the authors of Newly Revised refer to the "so called" minority report, suggesting that they consider "minority report" to be an inaccurate or improper term. The authors reinforce this interpretation by placing the phrase minority report in quotation marks (519-20).
The procedure for presenting a minority report is as follows:
1. Inform the chair of the assembly that the minority would like to present a separate report to the assembly.
2. After the chair of the committee presents the committee report and moves to adopt the report, the chair of the assembly calls on the chair of the minority report. The presentation of a minority report is a privilege not a right (519), but the privilege is rarely refused (Parliamentary Law, 269). Thus, the chair should call for the minority report unless someone objects. If there is objection, a majority vote, without debate, is required to consider a minority report (520). In this instance, it is a distinction without a difference. If the assembly refuses to consider the minority report, any member may move to substitute the recommendations of the minority for those recommended by the committee. (See Robert's Rules of Order Revised, 216. Interestingly, the sentence does not appear in Newly Revised.)
3. The chair of the minority report presents the minority report and moves to substitute the minority report for the majority report. At this point, the assembly has a main motion (committee report) and a primary amendment (minority view) on the floor.
4. Technically, debate is open on the primary amendment (to substitute). In effect, debate is on which report will be the main motion before the assembly. "The question is: shall the minority report replace the committee report as the main motion before the assembly?" When the assembly votes, the first vote does not adopt either report. The first vote decides which report will be considered by the organization as its pending main motion. It is important to remember that the motion to substitute the minority report is treated like any other motion to substitute.
Kerr and King - COMMITTEES
Standing Committees (§§45, 48, 66, 70, 1 10)
Standing committees are the prime means for implementing the goals and policies of an organization. They are established by the approval of a motion at a general meeting, unless the by-law this function to the board, or the executive committee. Terms of reference of standing committees include the following.
The type of committee (discussion, working, task force, etc.).
Its overall purpose.
Directives defining specific goals or tasks.
Relationship (if any) to other standing committees.
Composition (number of elected members and observers).
Length of terms for chair and members (including a statement on
whether successive terms are permitted).
Election procedures for chair, members and casual vacancies.
Voting status of ex-officio members and staff employees.
Special modes of operation (e.g. telephone meetings).
The preferred method and times for reporting.
Specific notice is required to amend these terms of reference.
Ad Hoc Committees (§§46,110,131)
An ad hoc committee is established for a specific purpose by the approval of a motion at a general meeting, a meeting of the board, or a meeting of the executive meeting.
If no persons are designated in a motion to establish an ad hoc committee, the members are appointed by the executive committee.
When an ad hoc committee is discharged, its minutes and reports are deposited with the secretary of the organization.
An ad hoc committee that fails to report within one year of the time of its establishment is considered to be defunct.
Committee Procedures (§§106-108)
Meetings of a committee are called by its chair.
If no chair is designated, the first person named on the committee convenes its first meeting, at which a chair is elected from among the members.
If no secretary is designated, the committee appoints one of its members to keep a record of its decisions and proceedings. No business can be transacted without a quorum.
The chair can move motions, take part in debate and vote freely. Motions do not have to be seconded, and there is no limit to the number or length of speeches by members during a discussion.
Procedures for Telephone Meetings (§109)
1. The chair of the committee identifies the agenda, estimates the time required for the meeting and appoints a convener.
2. The convener contacts committee members to arrange a time for the meeting, within the requirements given under NOTICE.
3. The convener informs members of the agenda, and gives notice of specific motions to be moved.
4. The convener gives the time of the meeting and the names and telephone numbers of the members to the conference call operator. The conference call operator contacts the members just before the scheduled time for the meeting and, when all the members are ready, advises the convener that the meeting can start.
5. The chair calls the meeting to order by a roll call of the members, who confirm their participation when their names are called, and names the person who is acting as secretary.
6. The chair confirms the agenda and then introduces the first item.
7. The chair suggests an order for initial comment by each member, (such as going from members who live in the east to those in the west, or by alphabetical order of names, etc.). Each participant is asked to make a personal identification before commenting. After the structured time for comments, random order comments are invited, with a request that these be kept brief and to the point. After a reasonable or previously agreed time, the chair closes the discussion and asks members if they are ready to make a decision. If the reply is negative, the discussion is continued, or the matter is deferred to another meeting. If the reply is positive, the chair conducts a roll call vote (which is the only method possible in these circumstances). The chair announces the decision and passes on to the next item. This procedure is repeated until all agenda items are completed. If time permits, and the meeting is not a special meeting, the chair reminds the members that other business can be considered by unanimous consent.
8. If there is no other business, the chair adjourns the meeting. If the meeting runs out of time completing the agenda, the items that are unfinished are held over to another meeting, or a motion is moved to adjourn the meeting to another stated time. The secretary of the meeting writes the minutes and sends out copies to the chair and to the members of the committee. These minutes are presented for approval at the next committee meeting.
 It is disappointing that the authors of Newly Revised did not end the confusion over approve, accept, agree to, and adopt by throwing out all terms except adopt (121). Robert admits the confusion exists: "As applied to an assembly's action with respect to board or committee reports or any of their contents, the expressions adopt, accept, and agree to are all equivalent-that is, the text adopted becomes in effect the act or statement of the assembly. It is usually best to use the word adopt, however, since it is the least likely to be misunderstood" (498).