Currently in its tenth edition and published under the name Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (and often referred to using the initialism RONR) it is the most widely used parliamentary authority in the United States, according to the National Association of Parliamentarians, a professional association of approximately 4,000 members which provides education and accreditation certifications for parliamentarians.
History and origins
The first edition of the book, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, was published in February 1876 by then U.S. Army Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert (1837–1923) with the short title Robert’s Rules of Order placed on its cover. The procedures prescribed by the book were loosely modeled after those used in the United States House of Representatives, with such adaptations as Robert saw fit for use in ordinary societies. The author’s interest in parliamentary procedure began in 1863 when he was chosen to preside over a church meeting and, although he accepted the task, felt that he did not have the necessary knowledge of proper procedure. In his later work as an active member of several organizations, he discovered that members from different areas of the country had very different views regarding what the proper parliamentary rules were, and these conflicting views hampered the organizations in their work. He eventually became convinced of the need for a new manual on the subject, one which would enable many organizations to adopt the same set of rules.
The book is designed for use in ordinary societies rather than legislative assemblies, and it is the most commonly adopted parliamentary authority among societies in the United States. The book claims to be a “codification of the present-day general parliamentary law (omitting provisions having no application outside legislative bodies).” This statement does not imply any approbation on the part of the courts, and the “general parliamentary law” is related neither to statutory legal requirements nor to common-law precedent derived from court judgments. Being widely accepted, and being based for the most part on long-standing traditions of parliamentary procedure, however, the current edition of the book is a reliable reference. Nevertheless, the provisions of any particular manual are not, as a general matter, legally binding upon an assembly that has not formally adopted it as its parliamentary authority; any such manual can at best be cited as “persuasive.” In addition, a number of changes have been made to recent editions, such as provisions dealing with videoconferences, teleconferences, and email, which now makes these editions more than merely codifications of the “present-day general parliamentary law” as existed at the time Robert was originally writing.
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs,organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies. It is part of the common law originating primarily in the practices of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, from which it derives its name.
In the United States, parliamentary procedure is also referred to as parliamentary law, parliamentary practice, legislative procedure, or rules of order. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other English-speaking countries it is often called chairmanship, chairing, the law of meetings, procedure at meetings, or the conduct of meetings.
At its heart is the rule of the majority with respect for the minority. Its object is to allow deliberation upon questions of interest to the organization and to arrive at the sense or the will of the assembly upon these questions. Self-governing organizations follow parliamentary procedure to debate and reach group decisions—usually by vote—with the least possible friction.
Rules of order consist of rules written by the body itself (often referred to as bylaws), but also usually supplemented by a published parliamentary authority adopted by the body. Typically, national, state, and other full-scale legislative assemblies have extensive internally written rules of order, whereas non-legislative bodies write and adopt a limited set of specific rules as the need arises.
In the English-speaking world, the British House of Commons is the originating source for most rules of order. These rules have evolved into two separate sets: American parliamentary procedure as generally followed in the United States; and Westminster parliamentary procedure, followed in Commonwealth countries (except for Canada, which uses a home-grown version) such as United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and many other Commonwealth countries. Various attempts have been made to codify the US variant, and the most common version in use is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. In Canada, Parliament uses Bourinot’s Rules of Order.
Parliamentary procedure is based on the principles of allowing the majority to make decisions effectively and efficiently (majority rule), while ensuring fairness towards the minority and giving each member or delegate the right to voice an opinion. Voting determines the will of the assembly. While each assembly may create their own set of rules, these sets tend to be more alike than different. A common practice is to adopt a standard reference book on parliamentary procedure and modify it through special rules of order that supersede the adopted authority.
A parliamentary structure conducts business through motions, which cause actions. Members bring business before the assembly by introducing main motions, or dispose of this business through subsidiary motions and incidental motions. Parliamentary procedure also allows for rules in regards to nomination, voting, disciplinary action, appeals, dues, and the drafting of organization charters, constitutions, and bylaws.
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, first published in 1876 by Colonel Henry Martyn Robert, is currently in its tenth edition, published in 2000, is the most popular and well-known parliamentary authority.
The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, first published in 1950 by Alice Sturgis and referred to as TSC or Sturgis, is currently in its fourth edition, published in 2001. It is used by many medical associations of physicians and dentists, including the American Medical Association House of Delegates and American Association of Orthodontists as well as by the Association of Flight Attendants and American Library Association.
Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, first published in 1948 by George Demeter and called “the Blue Book,” is the third-most popular parliamentary authority. It is often favored by labor unions.
Rules in a parliamentary authority can be superseded by the group’s constitution, bylaws or by adopted procedural rules (with a few exceptions). In RONR the adopted procedural rules are called special rules of order. Assemblies that do not adopt a parliamentary authority may use an existing parliamentary authority by custom, or may consider themselves governed by the “common parliamentary law”, or “common law of parliamentary procedure”. RONR notes that a society that has adopted bylaws that do not designate a parliamentary authority may adopt one by the same vote required to adopt special rules of order. A mass meeting can adopt a parliamentary authority by a simple majority vote. RONR notes that “in matters on which an organization’s adopted parliamentary authority is silent, provisions found in other works on parliamentary law may be persuasive – that is, they may carry weight in the absence of overriding reasons for following a different course – but they are not binding on the body.”
Some societies write their own parliamentary authority for use specifically for their own assembly.
In addition to our list of services that we can provide for you or your organization, we have a number of other informative resources for you to use:
- Parliamentary Key Concepts
Perhaps you aren’t completely clear on what parliamentary procedure is, or how it can benefit your organization. Or maybe you have a basic understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order, but you don’t know how all the pieces fit together. In that case, start with this section. The key concepts of parliamentary process are explained and tied together so that you can see how each part supplements the others and builds a cohesive whole.
- My “Thought Blog“
Random musings on parliamentary topics. There is an open ended blog format, with no set agenda here and no timetable for postings. As intriguing topics come to my attention that seem worthy of discussion, thought or opinion, I will share my thoughts with the world. I would definitely welcome comment and ideas of your own as well. Sometimes the topics might not even by related to parliamentary concepts.
- Repository of my parliamentary opinions
Formal opinions I’ve written that were provided for public benefit. No personally identifiable information is used to protect privacy, but if I find something worthy of discussion and comment, I will include it here.
Think of these as puzzles for the parliamentary procedure crowd. The goal here is to present something that’s not obvious on the surface, or which has a tricky answer, and challenge my peers to solve it. I will also give my own opinion and answer.
- Selected Readings
I am not the only Parliamentarian who blogs or maintains a web site full of opinions. There are many other excellent resources on the web, published by experts and leaders in the field. This list is an attempt to point out some real jewels that you might find helpful and/or interesting.
- Online Bookstore
My suggestions on which books and resources you simply must have in order to best understand parliamentary procedure and parliamentary authority. Browse through the selections and read my interpretation of why you need each resource.
- Links to other parliamentary sources
Web sites and other online resources for those who want to learn more from others in the parliamentary community. These are all off-site links for your own edification.
The American Institute of Parliamentarians (AIP) is a not-for-profit educational organization started in 1958 to advance parliamentary procedure. AIP currently has about 1,200 members in the USA, Canada and internationally.
AIP is unique in that it stresses familiarity with several parliamentary authorities, rather than relying exclusively on Robert’s Rules of Order (as the National Association of Parliamentarians does, for example). This diversity enables AIP members to leverage the history and theory of parliamentary practice, giving organizations options in their use of parliamentary procedures. Members of AIP were involved in revising and editing the latest copy of The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, for example.
The objectives of AIP are:
- promote use of effective democratic, parliamentary practices;
- promote preparation and use of parliamentary literature;
- promote teach of parliamentary procedure;
- promote the training and certification of Parliamentarians;
- promote wider use of Parliamentarians;
- maintain a representative, democratic organization
AIP currently maintains four levels of membership:
- Member – anyone interested in parliamentary procedure who pays their dues. No examination required.
- Certified Parliamentarian (CP) – requires a written examination plus continuing service credits. There are approximately 60 CP’s in the world today. This level is similar to the NAP Regular Member (RM) level with the exception of requiring continuing service credits to achieve this title.
- Certified Professional Parliamentarians (CPP) – a CP with the addition an secondary oral examination covering several other parliamentary authorities, plus additional continuing service credits. There are approximately 50 CPP’s in the world today. This level is similar to the NAP Registered Parliamentarian (RP) certification.
- Designated Teacher of Parliamentary Procedure (CP-T/CPP-T) – Adjunct certification to either the CP or CPP level, showing evidence of monitored teaching experience in parliamentary procedure. This level is similar to the NAP Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP) certification.
The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) is the oldest and largest non-profit association of Parliamentarians in the world, with more chapters and service units than any other parliamentary organization. NAP was organized in 1930 and today has about 4,000 members in the USA, Canada and other countries.
The goals of NAP are to:
- encourage its members and the general public to learn the principles and practice of democratic decision-making;
- help teachers instruct people of all ages in parliamentary procedure at all levels;
- promote collaboration and professional development among Parliamentarians;
- provide widely recognized, authoritative accreditation of Parliamentarians serving the general public
In contrast to the American Institute of Parliamentarians, NAP focuses almost exclusively on Robert’s Rules of Order, rather than on a variety of parliamentary authorities. This focus allows them to become experts on Robert’s Rules of Order. Many Parliamentarians are members of both the NAP and AIP organizations.
NAP’s organizational structure provides for four levels of membership:
- Provisional member – open to anyone interested in parliamentary procedure who pays their dues.
- Regular member (RM) – candidates must pass a written examination, prior to becoming a member, from a pool of 300 questions. This level is similar to the AIP Certified Parliamentarian (CP) certification, but does not require continuing service credits.
- Registered Parliamentarian (RP) – regular members who pass an secondary written examination from a pool of 1,500 questions, including open-ended research questions. This level is similar to the AIP Certified Professional Parliamentarian (CPP) in terms of knowledge and diligence required for certification.
- Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP) – an RP who teaches parliamentary procedure or acts in a professional capacity, and is required to complete continuing education credits, plus an oral examination, to remain certified. This level is similar to the AIP Certified Professional Parliamentarian-Teacher (CPP-T) certification.
The NAP California division provides direct support and training for members located in California. Their web site is the California State Association of Parliamentarians (CSAP).
The NAP California division is further broken down into localized area units, such as the CSAP group for the San Diego “Sigma Delta” unit.
This page needs to be written.