Study Parliamentary Procedure

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As the person who has been chosen by your organization to be its Parliamentarian, you should have a good working knowledge of parliamentary procedure. You should be familiar with the objectives, bylaws, parliamentary authority and other rules of the society. You don’t have to memorize everything, but you do need to know where to find the answers. You and the President will set the example for impartiality, courtesy, and obedience to rules.


Not all bylaws specify duties for the Parliamentarian. If you belong to an organization, check your bylaws for such duties.


In general, as Parliamentarian you will be expected to:


1.    Advise the President, Members, Committees, and the Board of Directors on matters of parliamentary procedure. The Parliamentarian’s first duty is to the President, but may meet with and advise Committees and the Board as well as answer questions of members and give advice only when asked.


2.    Be impartial in giving opinions on points of parliamentary procedure.


3.    Be prepared to cite references to support your opinions.


4.    Refrain from debating matters on which you may be asked to give an opinion.


5.    Refrain from voting except when the vote is by ballot.


6.    Carry out the duties outlined in the bylaws.


7.    Be at the meeting early to counsel officers or members of the Board.


8.    Have at each meeting the rules of the organization and a copy of the parliamentary authority, usually ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED. You will need these in citing references to support your opinions.


9.    Assist in preparing a script or other agenda when requested by the President or Secretary. Show the exact order of business to come before the assembly. Include business recorded in the minutes of the previous meeting as incomplete (unfinished business) and actions required in the Bylaws to be taken at this meeting.


10. Assist Members, the Board of Directors and Committee Chairmen in preparing reports and wording of resolutions in the correct form.


11. Attend committee meetings in an advisory capacity when requested by the Committee Chairmen, i.e. bylaws, resolutions, election, and nominating committees.


12. Attend Board of Directors meetings in an advisory capacity when requested by the President or Board or when required in the bylaws.


13. Advise the President on presiding procedures and review the Agenda. Many a smooth running meeting is the result of pre-meeting conferences between the presiding officer and the parliamentarian. The President will gain confidence and the Parliamentarian will know what to anticipate – where help is likely to be needed.


14. Advise on election procedures. Election time in any organization is a sensitive time. Both proper conduct of the election and accurate counting of ballots are imperative. The parliamentarian should be well versed in election procedures in order to give complete reliable advice. It can mean the difference between a valid election and one that jeopardizes the organization’s future.




“In enforcing the rules, there is need for exercise of tact and good sense. It is usually a mistake to insist upon technical points as long as no one is being defrauded or his rights and the will of the majority is being carried out. The rules and customs are designed to help and not to hinder business.”


     Henry M. Robert



The parliamentarian should be appointed by the president for ability. The position should NOT be an honorary office for past presidents nor an appeasement office.


During a meeting a Parliamentarian should:


1.    Remain silent during the business meeting unless requested to speak by the presiding officer. A member wishing parliamentary advice should make the request to the Chair. The parliamentarian should not interrupt the business nor take any part in it unless expressly requested to give an opinion.


2.    Be discrete and support the presiding officer. Know the rules well enough to give accurate information and sound opinions based on parliamentary precedents and facts. Often there is not time to research answers and “instant recall” of the rules is necessary.


3.    Avoid interrupting the proceedings even though the procedure may be out of order. A brief note to the presiding officer is sufficient.


4.    Have tact, patience, and steady nerves and the ability to work with people and explain parliamentary points in a simple understanding manner.


5.    Be seated near the presiding officer for convenient consultation. The chair has the right to ask the parliamentarian to explain any point to the assembly, but the dignity and respect for the presiding officer will be much better preserved if this right is never exercised.


A parliamentarian never makes decisions – only give opinions. Making decisions or rulings is the duty of the president, which in good democratic procedure allows any member to appeal from that decision. A parliamentarian gives an opinion when asked. The chair then makes a decision based upon the opinion or advice given or decides to disregard it.


As parliamentarian you should always be impartial and abide by the same constraints as the president. The bylaws may allow the parliamentarian all the normal privileges of membership. However, you should not make motions, debate, or vote (except by ballot) in order to avoid even the appearance of impartiality.