Parliamentary Procedure in Modern Times
By Raniel Mendoza, National Vice-President of Parliamentary Law
Robert’s Rules of what?
Who is Robert?
These are all perfect questions when getting right into parliamentary procedure, a set of rules of conduct at meetings intended to allow everyone an opportunity to be heard and to make decisions with minimum confusion. Some basics of parliamentary procedure include making sure that the minority is heard, that one item of business is taken care of at a time, and that the majority opinion of an assembly prevails.
Who created the procedures behind parliamentary procedure? Henry M. Robert I was a general in the US Army during the 1800s. He created the most widely used manual of parliamentary procedure, which is still one of the most common parliamentary authorities in America today. Since then Robert published the first edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, an authorship team including his grandson, Henry M. Robert III, and other parliamentary procedure experts has updated the manual to its current edition, Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (Eleventh Edition).
Today, parliamentary procedure is being used (and can be used) virtually anywhere! Congress, professional associations (like Homeowners’ Associations), and, of course, student organizations, use the democratic process to help make meetings a breeze. Individuals with expertise in parliamentary procedure, called parliamentarians, also step in to help ensure that meetings are conducted properly in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order. Think about the United States Congress. There are 535 members that must work together to make laws for our country. Without an organized process for conducting meetings, those people might not ever get out of the Capitol Building!
Within FCCLA, we use parliamentary procedure when we conduct the official business of the organization at the National Leadership Conference. State officers are selected to represent their state as voting delegates and help make some of the most important decisions of our organization. For example, up until the National Leadership Conference in 1999, FCCLA was known as FHA (Future Homemakers of America). The voting delegates in Boston, MA, decided to change the name in order to better reflect the new mission of the organization.
Parliamentary Procedure is not just used at the national level, but it can also be used on the state and chapter levels. It is acceptable to use a more “lax” version of the process at the grassroots level in order to reduce any confusion. Terms and phrases such as “rescind”, “fix the time at which to adjourn”, and “committee of the whole” might not need to be used with smaller groups of people.
I challenge you to empower yourself and your chapter by using parliamentary procedure to make the most out of your meetings and the most out of your year!
Raniel Mendoza, National Vice-President of Parliamentary Law