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Robert's Rules and the Motion to Reconsider

The motion to Reconsider is a distinct parliamentary motion! When you use the word reconsider in a parliamentary situation, it refers only to this specific motion. All the motions in the class of motions that bring a question again before the assembly assist your group in revisiting previously considered motions.

You may find that members talk about reconsidering a motion when they really want to rescind or amend something previously adopted. Or they may just want to renew a motion that failed in an earlier meeting (or that didn’t get a second in the current meeting). Using the word reconsider in a generic sense in a parliamentary situation can cause problems.

The motion to Reconsider

  • Can’t interrupt a speaker who has the floor and has begun to speak, but is in order until that time (it is in order to make a motion to Reconsider when other business is pending, but dealing with the motion can’t interrupt pending business — that part of the process must wait until nothing else is pending)

  • Must be seconded

  • Is debatable if the motion to be reconsidered is debatable

  • Can’t be amended

  • Requires a majority vote

  • Can’t be reconsidered

The motion to Reconsider is subject to some unique limitations:

  • It must be made on the same day as the meeting in which the motion to be reconsidered was decided (or on the next day business is conducted, if the session is more than one day).

  • It must be made by a person who voted on the prevailing side of the motion to be reconsidered.

Anytime a motion to Reconsider is (properly) made, all action authorized by the motion being considered is suspended until the decision whether to reconsider is made. Furthermore, if the motion to Reconsider is adopted, the suspension continues until the result of the reconsideration is decided, as long as it’s decided within some specified time limits.

Generally, the reconsideration has to take place in the current session or the next session, unless the next session isn’t going to occur within a quarterly time interval. In that case, it has to be completed by the end of the current session, or the motion to be reconsidered goes into full effect as adopted.

Wait for the right time to reconsider

Because of the nature of the motion to Reconsider, it’s not always appropriate to consider it at the same time it’s made. In other words, Reconsider isn’t a privileged motion. It’s important for the members to know that someone has had second thoughts, even though the time may not be right for a discussion.

As a result, you can make the motion anytime, but you can’t actually talk about reconsidering except when no immediately pending motion is on the floor.

Call up the motion to Reconsider

Your motion to Reconsider is called up by any member at any appropriate time (and doesn’t need to be seconded).

Even though anyone can call up your motion to Reconsider, you’re entitled to have the reconsideration called up at whatever time you think best, as long as no one else has the floor or another question is pending. Robert’s Rules gives you that privilege.

Know when not to use “reconsider”

A motion to reconsider a vote is a motion limited in both the time it can be made and the person who can make it. But even when the motion to Reconsider isn’t in order, there’s no reason you can’t revisit a motion, passed or not, at your next (or any future) meeting.

Robert’s Rules refers to this procedure as “renewing” a motion. According to the General, any member can offer again a motion that failed in an earlier meeting. In fact, if a motion is made at any meeting and doesn’t get a second, it can even be renewed at that very same meeting.

The motion to Reconsider is out of order when the motion to which it is applied can be renewed or when the desired result can be achieved with some other, less complicated parliamentary motion.

It’s also out of order if it’s applied to a negative vote on some motion that would at the time be out of order because it conflicts with something already adopted, or would conflict with any other motion that is pending or temporarily disposed of and still under the assembly’s control.

Of course, if a motion has been adopted and any part of the motion’s provisions has been executed, it’s too late to reconsider the vote.

The point of all these rules about reconsidering (and renewing and rescinding and amending something previously adopted) is that the group has an orderly way available to take a second look at almost anything, as long as you use the right procedure.

Most of the time, your group can save a lot of time if members use the right motion instead of thinking of every second look at something as being a “reconsideration.”

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