Last modified: 2016-10-08
This is a web page of
David Casperson
Associate Professor
Computer Science
University of Northern British Columbia

On Tabling Motions

At almost every UNBC meeting of College Council, SCAPP, or Senate, there is a motion to table various motions or agenda items. The closest related motion found in Robert's Rules of Order is the motion to Lay on the Table.

The purpose of To Lay on the Table is to temporarily remove a question from consideration in order to proceed with an imminently urgent item. For instance, it would be appropriate to lay the current question on the table in order to hear from an important guest who had just arrived.

In order to postpone consideration of a question at the next meeting (or some specific, earlier time), the correct motion to apply is To Postpone Until a Certain Time. Unlike To Lay On the Table this motion is debatable (as to the wisdom of postponement) and amendable. To Lay On the Table is normally out of order precisely because it is so undemocratic.

Note that both To Postpone Until a Certain Time and To Lay on the Table apply to questions (in effect motions) that are currently being debated, not agenda items. To ignore the current agenda item (a usual reason for a UNBC tabling motion) formally doesn't require any action at all, provided that no-one moves motions listed under that category. To re-order the current agenda once it has been approved requires the consent of a 2/3 majority of the members present.

The following is from the Robert's Rules of Order FAQ:

Question 12: Isn't it always in order to move to table a motion to the next meeting?

Answer:

This question confuses the motion to Lay on the Table with the motion to Postpone to a Certain Time. The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily in order to take up something else of immediate urgency. In ordinary societies it is rarely needed, and hence seldom in order.

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