How to move a motion from the floor of a lodge

From WBro Damien of Devotion

It is surprising how something so simple as a motion can occasionally cause so many problems and how few of us really know how to move one properly (including me after researching this article). Over the years, I have seen some real angst caused during this process. This article is an attempt to give some general information and advice on moving and proposing motions from the floor of the lodge. Ultimately administration of this sits with the Master and it is under his direction and discretion that the process takes place.

All members (including EA’s) of the lodge have the right to ask a lodge to take any actions allowable under the Constitution of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. These commonly involve things like spending money, changing a meeting night or the way the lodge operates, what charity the lodge should support, and altering by-laws. Some motions have special requirements too numerous to go into here… You can only move a motion if you are a member of the lodge in which it is to be voted upon.

Often the (incorrect) advice has been that you should propose and move motions during the Second Time of Rising when the WM says “I rise for the Second time to inquire if any brother has aught to propose for the good of Freemasonry in general or this the Lodge Devotion in particular.According to the Uniform Operating Laws of Lodge, this is incorrect, but nothing stops you doing so. According to those Rules in the Constitution, the correct time to give a notice of motion or move a motion is following the Treasurer’s report. This makes sense, as it is a time generally before visitors are admitted to your lodge. However common sense also says it is worth moving a motion when the topic concerned is under consideration – which might be any time outside degree work and while the lodge is open. Often good Masters will request a motion to deal with a topic just under discussion.

Critically, a lodge cannot spend funds that have not been passed by vote, either under the Treasurer’s Report or a Motion separate to it, or as allowed by the Constitutions, By-laws, or the previous motions of the Lodge. It is also worth noting a lodge cannot spend money it does not have!

After the Treasurer’s report you should stand and salute and then address the Master stating you wish to move or give notice of a motion. At the conclusion of your address, you should salute again. All discussions should be through the Chair (Master). If of a standard type, you might get away with moving a motion and having it passed on the same night, but if the motion concerns a serious decision requiring consideration, is usual to bring a notice of motion and have it voted on at the next meeting.

It is important you consider and write the motion before moving it. Section 8 “Notice of Motion” of the Uniform Operating Rules for Warranted Lodges require that “Every notice of motion shall be given in open lodge and delivered in writing to the Secretary (signed by the mover) to ensure correctness in the minutes and shall be inserted in the summons for the meeting at which it is to be considered.

The best motions are specific using tight language, but sometimes careful consideration to the words of a motion might be required to give the lodge flexibility in implementing it. Hence the common use of “the usual amount” to meet dining expenses.

A proposed motion might be;

We should give some money to the children’s charity Brother Smith is a member of.

A better motion would be

I move that the amount of $500 is donated to the Happy Child Fund for the purpose of child education.

It is wise to have consulted with other members prior to moving a motion. It is amazing how many people try to move a motion to spend or donate money without asking the Treasurer if the lodge can afford it! It is not just the lodge must have the money; it also needs to be within the lodge’s budget. Let courtesy and common sense be your guide. For instance, courtesy would dictate the WM should be aware of your motion, and other offices whose council might be of use. Common sense says consult the Treasurer if you want to spend money.

Most lodges will have a Committee of General Purposes. How it operates will vary greatly, but sometimes convention or the by-laws require proposed motions to be put to them prior to being proposed in lodge. You don’t need do that at Devotion.

Common sense says that it is a good idea to have the support of the Master, Treasurer (especially when concerning expenditure), Secretary (especially when operational), and Wardens. Sounding out a few members before moving your motion will give you a feeling of how people might react to it. Common sense also says that it would be good to have a seconder to the motion arranged prior to the meeting.

When giving a notice of motion, that is not the time to debate it and a notice of motion does not need a seconder.

At the next meeting, when the notice is put to the lodge for a vote, you will generally be called upon by the Master to give an explanation. Make this as concise as possible! The Master will generally then call for a Seconder, and if one emerges, a discussion might follow. The Master might call for a Seconder after the discussion.

The “Rules of Debate” are in the Constitution and were adopted by Grand Lodge on the 20th day of June, 1892. These were written for Grand Lodge but guide all lodges. These say;

Section 4 “Any member desirous of moving a motion or amendment or taking part in discussion thereon, shall rise in his place and address the Chair, and shall not be interrupted unless called to order when he shall sit down until the question of order has been disposed of by the presiding officer, when he may proceed with his subject.

Section 7. “If two or more members rise to speak at the same time, the presiding officer shall decide which is entitled to priority.”

The thing to note is the Chair (WM or MWGM) controls the discussion and all comments and questions should be put through the Chair.

The convention is the mover puts the motion and members can comment once, and then the mover has the right of reply at the end. Anyone can make suggestions (helpful ones) during the discussions (note I don’t use the word debate) about the motion. Comments and suggestion might see amendments proposed to the original motion. The Amendments are then voted on. If the Amendments are accepted, “the motion as amended” is voted upon. If the amendment fails, the original motion is put to the vote. Alterations and amendments and voting is handled by the Master or as he delegates it, not the proposer, not the seconder. When the Master declares the discussions closed, then they are closed.

There are special requirements around motions like those for Masters Elect and the election and remove of Special and Honorary Members. Check the Constitution or ask the Secretary for advice on them. Most motions require a simple majority, but there are exceptions like votes for joining members which require a three-fourths majority of those present. Joining members can be voted on by a show or hands or a secret ballot at the discretion of the Master.

Sometimes worthy motions fail. Sometimes, motions you disagree with are passed. This happened recently at a lodge I am a member of and I reminded myself of lessons Entered Apprentices are taught, but which sometimes get forgotten – a ready acquiescence in all votes and resolutions duly passed by a majority of the brethren and by a perfect submission to the will of the Master and his Wardens, whilst acting in the discharge of the duties of their respect offices.”