GUIDELINES FOR SUBMITTING A MOTION TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (GA) ANNUAL MEETINGS
1. Who can submit motions?
- Congregations, District Associations or Affiliated Societies on condition that they are supported by a majority of their governing bodies and evidenced by a signed copy of the appropriate minute.
- At least twelve individual Full Members of the Assembly (ministers, lay pastors, lay leaders on the appropriate roll; Honorary Members; Honorary GA Officers and members of the Executive Committee).
- The Executive Committee on its own authority.
2. What is the procedure for submitting a motion?
Motions should be submitted to the Executive Committee, via the Chief Officer:
- in writing.
- with the names of the formal proposer and seconder (Note: The people speaking to the motion do not have to have the right to vote, but must have the right to speak or be granted the right to speak by the Chair).
- at least fifty-six days before the first day of the Meetings for ordinary motions [In 2019 the deadline for regular motions is Tuesday February 19]
- for Motions requiring constitutional change, alterations or additions may be proposed by the Executive Committee on giving three months’ notice, or by not less than four Congregations, Societies or District Associations on the Roll of the Assembly on giving six months’ notice.
- motions must be accompanied by a background paper. This is essential if congregations are to have fully informed discussion on the motions.
- Motions on matters of United Kingdom law or public policy should, where appropriate, take account of the separate legal provision of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
3. What types of motions are there?
There are two types of motion
- Motions (often for clarity referred to as ‘ordinary’ or ‘regular’ motions).
- Emergency motions: these are about issues of public concern which have arisen since the announced closure date for the acceptance of (ordinary) motions.
Emergency Motions must be submitted:
- at the earliest opportunity
- in writing
- with the names of a proposer and a seconder
They must be submitted to the Chief Officer either before the Meetings or at the earliest possible moment during the Meetings.
The Steering Committee will be asked to vet the motion, including whether it meets the criteria to be an emergency motion, and assist in refining wording and grammar as necessary.
The President will seek permission from the Meeting, without prior discussion, to admit an emergency motion to the agenda. A two-thirds majority of those present and voting is required.
4. I’ve decided to submit a motion. What should I do?
- Read the latest version of Standing Orders for the Conduct of the Annual Meeting.
- Check to see who can submit motions (see Section 1).
- Check the procedure (see Section 2).
- Contact the Steering Committee and/or the Chief Officer to seek advice about the subject of the motion and the wording. They are also likely to know if someone else is preparing a motion on the same topic. Contact information on the current members of the Steering Group is available from Essex Hall.
- Give plenty of time to do the research to prepare the background paper.
- Ensure motions contribute to the work and purposes of the Unitarian community.
- Consult as widely as possible within and without the Unitarian community to arrive at a consensus, especially with contentious or complex motions.
- Work with another member group of the GA to formulate and to propose the motion.
5. How do I write a motion?
Keep the motion as simple and short as possible. Only include one topic in each motion.
- A numbered form is better where: a) more than one matter must be included; or b) one part of the motion depends on the acceptance of another part. This will help delegates understand the effect of any proposed amendments to the motion.
- Put the more general parts of the motion first and more specific parts later.
- If the motion is internal to the GA, the EC or GA Officers, mandatory language may be used e.g. direct or instruct.
- If the motion is aimed at member congregations, representative associations and affiliated societies, or to any body outside the Assembly e.g. H M Government, it should use non-mandatory language e.g. recommend, request, urge, ask, encourage, call upon, thank, congratulate, deplore.
- Check the grammar. Make sure the motion does not contradict itself. Use short, simple sentences. Use inclusive language. Make the motion sufficiently informative but do not overdo it. Use the background paper to fill out the detail. Make it co-operative in tone rather than confrontational.
- Ask someone outside the drafting group to read the motion without telling them anything about it first. The Steering Committee can be used for this. Do they understand what the motion is about? Does it say to them what it says to you? If they do not understand it then it is likely that others will not understand it.
6. How do I write a Background Paper?
A Background Paper should:
- Contain additional information about why the motion is being put.
- Indicate the likely implications (financial or otherwise) of the motion.
- Contain facts rather than opinions.
- Not include supporting signatures.
- Consist of fewer than 500 words (c. side of A4). References to other supporting information, such as webpages or publications, may be used.
7. What happens after my motion has been submitted?
- The motion will be checked to ensure that it fulfils the Assembly rules.
- The Steering Committee will check it for clarity and accuracy.
- The proposers may be asked to make adjustments accordingly before the Meetings for major items, or at the motions workshop at the Meetings for minor ones.
- If another motion on the same topic is submitted the Steering Committee will ask the two proposers to form a composite motion.
- If this proves impossible one motion will be withdrawn.
8. What happens at the Meetings?
The Annual Meetings detailed agenda will indicate when motions will be taken.
Proposers and seconders (P&S) should be ready, on time, near the appropriate microphone to be called by the President.
Speakers should give their name and the capacity in which they speak.
The P&S of a motion have 8 minutes between them to speak.
It is advisable for P&S to time their speeches beforehand so as not to overrun. The timetable is invariably tight. The Assembly, by a majority of those present and voting, may allow an extension to the time in any particular case, but this would be unusual.
The proposal will be followed by debate. All other speeches have a maximum of 3 minutes.
Normally the President will close the debate (For exceptions see Standing Orders item 5 on Procedural Motions).
Proposers then have 3 minutes to reply following debate.
It is advisable to take note of points made during debate that you will wish to respond to.
A vote will then be taken and the result announced by the President.
If passed, the motion then becomes a resolution to be acted upon and becomes the property of the General Assembly.
9. Selection of Motions
For the shorter format of the GA Annual Meetings in 2019 there will be a limit of FOUR ‘ordinary’ motions and ONE emergency motion – exceptional circumstances may allow for one more emergency motion.
If there are more than four ‘ordinary’ motions a secret ballot of all voting members will be held at the beginning of the Meetings to determine which FOUR motions will go on the agenda.
If there is more than one emergency motion submitted before the Meetings a secret ballot of all voting members will be held at the beginning of the Meetings to determine which ONE emergency motion will be carried forward to the meeting. This will still need a 2/3 majority vote to go on to the agenda, as will any unopposed emergency motion.
A policy is in place to handle emergency motions submitted during the Meetings – these take into account whether any emergency motions have already been submitted.
10. What is the role of the Steering Committee?
The committee comprises three people who respond to questions on the procedure for the conduct of the Meetings.
- Before and during the Meetings they offer advice on the formulation of motions. They hold two workshops to help and advise proposers; one prior to the date for submission of motions (usually in January), and one on the first day of the Meetings to clarify any wording and ambiguities or settle any disagreements.
During the Meetings reference is made to them by the President, if necessary, with regard to questions on the procedure for the conduct of the Meetings.
Revised December 2018