Di from country New South Wales, Australia has asked a question about rescission of motions.
Rescission motions are always tricky – not in procedure but usually because of the “people aspect”.
Firstly, you need to check the constitution and by-laws of your organisation – they may have specific rules regarding rescission motions. If they do, you need to follow them of course.
If they don’t have specific rules for rescission, then the following applies.
1. If the action that the original motion required has already been taken, then it is pointless for the rescission motion to be moved or contemplated – basically the action is done, no motion will fix it.
2. If the action has been partially taken, then it is best to simply move that no further action be taken.
3. If no action has been taken, then anyone can move the rescission motion. The correct wording is: “That the motion to do XYZ, be rescinded”, or, “That the motion carried at the Marsh 24th meeting requiring XYZ, be rescinded.” or, if you give motions numbers or references, “That motion number F456, moved and carried on March 24th, be rescinded.
4. The motion can be moved and seconded by anyone.
5. If your rules do not state otherwise, it can be carried by a simple majority – 51%
Here’s an extract from my book Meeting Procedure Made Easy which goes into a little more detail:
A rescission motion is a motion to reverse a previous decision. There are lots of weird and wonderful rules that organisations have written into their by-laws about rescission. There is more “meeting folklore” about rescission than any other aspect of meeting procedure.
Some organisations’ rules say that the only way a motion can be rescinded is that if everyone who was present at the original meeting is present when it is rescinded. This is clearly ridiculous for if a meeting has become aware of certain information which makes it unwise for them to proceed in a particular course of action.
If everyone at the original meeting is not present at the meeting where the motion is to be rescinded, then the meeting in fact is bound to go on with some action which they agree is unwise.
Some organisations have rules which say that a rescission motion cannot be moved at the same meeting at which the original decision was made. This is also ridiculous because a meeting may become aware of information which makes a course of action decided upon earlier in the meeting, unwise to take. It is silly to go ahead with that action just because rules say that you cannot rescind at the same meeting.
Some organisations say that a rescission motion can only be moved by the person who moved the original motion and even that it must be seconded by the person who seconded the original motion. This clearly is ridiculous. The original motion, once carried is the property of the meeting, not the person who moved it and any member has the right to move the rescission motion.
Some organisations also say that rescission motions cannot be dealt with within a certain time period such as three months or three meetings of the original motion. By now you will have realised that this is also totally ridiculous. There is no intelligent reason for this.
So how have these silly rules been written into organisations’, bylaws and standing orders? They usually come about when someone has moved a motion which has been carried and did not want it to be changed and they had enough power in the organisation to be able to change the rules of rescission to make change difficult or impossible. Then the normal course of action for a new organisation is that they copy another organisation’s rules which then become the draft of the new one. In this way these strange and unusual practices about rescission have been written into rules and by-laws of organisations everywhere.
So what do you do? You need to understand what rescission is all about. Rescission is simply reversing a decision which has previously been made. The first test is if action resulting from the decision which has already occurred then there is no point in rescinding it. It doesn’t matter whether the meeting wants to rescind, if the action has already been taken it is pointless to rescind the motion.
For instance, I have been involved with an organisation who chose to write to a particular person expressing their displeasure about a particular course of action which that person had taken in the community. The letter was written, sent and delivered but at the next meeting, it was announced that the person who had received the letter was in fact not responsible for the course of action for which he had been accused so the meeting then thought the way to deal with this was to rescind the motion. This was the incorrect way to deal with it because the motion had already been carried and the action had been carried out.
Rescission was not the tool to draw out of the tool box in this case. The tool to draw out was in fact not a procedural motion but a substantive motion which would have been along the lines “that a letter of apology be written to the individual concerned”.
You cannot rescind a motion where the action resulting from it has already occurred. It makes no sense!
Rescission is about changing courses of action. Let’s look at that in logical terms and commonsense. Providing that the majority of people agree that a decision should be changed then it is reasonable that is should be done. However it depends on the definition of the term majority in this instance.
If we have a simple majority, that is one more than half, it is possible that certain groups can manipulate the meeting and wait for certain people not to be present and then move rescission motions so that courses of action that may have been won narrowly can be changed later.
The way around this is to build into your rules a sensible majority. That may be an absolute majority, that is one more than half of the total number who could be present regardless of the number who actually are present. It could be a 60% majority of the people present before a decision can be carried. Doing away with all the other silly rules. Anyone can move rescission at any time but for it to be carried it must achieve a 60% majority or it must receive an absolute majority. It will depend on your organisation as to which of these is the best course of action.