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Robert's Rules for Defining Debatable Motions

Much of the business of a group isn't debatable and therefore doesn't come under Robert's Rules for debate. After all, you don't need to debate whether to approve the minutes from the last meeting; you just need to vote yea or nay. By defining a motion as undebatable, Robert's Rules is really just saying, "Take the vote and move on!"

However, when debate is called for, use the following table, which lays out the debatable motions and provides you with some key information about each one. You may find it ironic that meetings are all about discussing ideas and taking action, yet the list of debatable motions is really quite short. The good thing about the short list is that you don't really have to remember too much to know what's debatable and what's not.

Debatable Motions
Motion Key Points
Main motions Debate is limited only by rules for length and number of speeches, and, of course, rules of decorum.
Postpone Indefinitely Discussion can encompass the merits of the main motion.
Amend Debate is limited to merits of the proposed amendment. (Motion to amend is undebatable if the underlying motion is undebatable.)
Commit Discussion is limited to merits and details of referring.
Postpone to a Certain Time (or Definitely) Discussion is limited to merits and details of postponing.
Appeal Discussion is limited to the subject matter of the appeal. (But if debate serves no purpose and gets in the way of business, as is sometimes the case when the underlying motion is undebatable, then the motion to appeal isn't debatable.)
Request to be Excused from a Duty Discussion is not limited because each situation in which this motion is used is unique, and it's vital to have the information necessary to make a proper decision.
Rescind or Amend Something Previously Adopted (and Discharge a Committee) Discussion can go fully into the merits of the subject matter.
Reconsider Discussion can go fully into the merits of the motion to be reconsidered unless that motion is undebatable.

Rules for debate are designed to balance members' rights to speak with the assembly's right to make its decision and move on to something else.

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