Subsidiary Motions


Important Rule: Only one motion can be considered by the assembly at any given moment.


A series of motions can be made and debated, all connected in some way to the main motion that was introduced at the beginning of the meeting, but only one of the subsidiary motions is the immediately pending motion at any given time. Subsidiary motions can modify, delay action on or dispose of a motion under consideration.


Subsidiary motions are motions which direct or change how a main motion is handled. These motions include:


* Postpone Indefinitely. This motion effectively kills a motion, because, if adopted, a two-thirds vote is subsequently required to take the matter up again.


* Amend. Modify the wording of another motion. The amendment must be related to the main motion's intent and cannot be phrased in a way that would defeat the main motion. Two amendments may be on the floor at one time: the first amendment modifies the main motion, and the second amendment must relate to the first amendment. When an amendment is on the floor, only the amendment may be debated. The amendments are voted on in the reverse order in which they were made, as each amendment changes to some degree the intent of the main motion. As each amendment is voted on, an additional primary or secondary amendment may be introduced.


Three basic forms of amendments


Ø    To insert words or add words

Ø    To strike out words

Ø    To strike out and insert words


Requires a second, debatable, majority vote.


* Refer to Committee. Directs that some other body will study the matter and report back. When insufficient information is available on the main motion, a few members are assigned the task. The motion must carry instructions for the committee, for example, “a committee of three, appointed by the chair, to report at the next meeting.”


Main debate questions are , how many people, when to report, amount of authority etc.


Requires a second, debatable, majority vote.



* Postpone to a Definite Time. Similar to the “Refer to Committee”, however, rather than ask a committee to study a question, the assembly is willing to engage in that study, but wants more time before the group reaches a decision.


The motion directs that the matter will be taken up again at some specific date and time.


The motion is debatable on the merits of postponement, not on the merits of the motion. A special order may be put for the motion to be kept under “unfinished business”. When next meeting takes place, the motion that is kept under “unfinished business” takes the priority.


Requires a second, debatable, majority vote.



 * Limit/Extend Debate. May be desired if the group has adopted a rule limiting the amount of time that will be spent on a topic, or if the group desires to impose a time limitation.


Least frequently used motion.


Requires 2/3rd vote, is not debatable.



* Previous Question or Close Debate. Used to bring the body to an immediate vote. It closes debate and stops further amendment. Contrary to some misconceptions, the majority decides when enough discussion has occurred, not the moderator. The formal motion is to "call for the question" or "call for the previous question," or simply, "I move to close debate."


The motion requires a second, is not debatable and requires a two-thirds majority.



* Lay on the Table (Tabling). Used to postpone discussion until the group decides by majority vote to resume discussion. By adopting the motion to "lay on the table", a majority has the power to halt consideration of the question immediately without debate.  This happens when something urgent happens that requires consideration of the pending motion to be interrupted.


The chair has the right to rule out the motion out of order if the purpose of the motion is improper.


Requires a second, non-debatable, not amendable, majority vote.



Order of Precedence


The above subsidiary motions are listed in order, from the motion with the lowest rank to the highest rank. Subsidiary motion is in order only if a main motion is pending or if another subsidiary motion with a higher rank is not pending.


The last motion made is the first motion to be considered.