What Is an Amendment?

Amendment / Amendments

An amendment is a subsidiary motion that is used to alter a pending motion before it is adopted. Meeting members can move to amend any motion with a variable. It requires someone to second, can be amended further, is debatable and requires a majority vote to adopt.

Purpose

A motion to amend allows members of a governing body to propose changes to the wording or substance of a main motion before it is voted upon. It can be used to clarify ambiguous language, correct errors or adjust the pending motion to better reflect the viewpoints of all members.

Types of amendments

Robert’s Rules of Order outlines two main types of amendments:

Primary

A primary amendment is the first level of change proposed to alter the motion under consideration. For example, a motion to “Allocate €1000 to fund a community event” could be amended to “Allocate €1500 to fund a community event”. A primary amendment must be seconded, debated and voted on. It should be germane to the pending motion. If rejected, another primary amendment can be introduced to modify the pending motion.

Secondary

If the primary amendment is adopted, a further amendment can be introduced. This is a secondary amendment which must be relevant to the primary amendment, not the motion under consideration. It needs a second to be debated and voted on. For example, a secondary amendment to the above would be to “Allocate €1500 to purchase equipment for the community event”.

An amendment to the third degree is out of order. Only one primary and its associated secondary amendment can be considered at any given moment.

Amendment forms

Basic forms of a motion to amend include:

  • Insert: Adding new language or provisions to a motion to broaden its scope.
  • Strike out: Removing specific language or provisions from the motion to readjust its focus.
  • Strike out and insert: Replacing specific language or provisions with new ones to refine and expand a motion.

Process of introducing an amendment

The following steps outline the proper way to introduce an amendment:

  • A member proposes a motion to adopt a new procurement policy that requires at least three competitive bids for any purchase exceeding €10,000.
  • Another member seconds it and the chair opens the floor for debate.
  • To amend the motion, a member may raise their hand and, once recognised by the chair, state, “I move to amend the motion by changing the threshold to €8000”.
  • If seconded, the chair moves the primary amendment to debate and calls for a vote.
  • If the amendment is approved, a member may propose a secondary amendment. After recognition by the chair, the member may state, “I move to amend the primary amendment by delaying the implementation of the new €8,000 threshold until the start of the next fiscal year”.
  • Once this is seconded and debated, it is put to a vote. If rejected, the governing body would proceed to vote on the main motion including only the primary amendment.

Examples of amendments

  • Simple amendments: These include straightforward changes to a motion that do not significantly alter the intent or substance of the motion. For example, raising an amendment to modify the start time of a meeting from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM.
  • Complex amendments: These are changes involving multiple variables in a motion, addressing several aspects simultaneously. These amendments are more comprehensive, for example, amending a motion for a new community centre by specifying the location, design and funding sources.
  • Conditional amendments: These are changes based on specific conditions being met or scenarios occurring. For example, “I move to amend the motion to approve the new hiring policy on the condition that background checks are performed for all candidates”.

Friendly vs hostile amendments

An amendment can be friendly or hostile depending on its alignment with the main motion and the motion proposer’s consent. If it closely aligns with the substance of the main motion and is accepted by the proposer, the amendment is considered friendly. If not, then it may be perceived as a hostile amendment. 

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