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This month I would like to discuss the motion to Lay on the table.  I believe that this motion is often misunderstood.  The motion to lay on the table is, in fact, less about the business being discussed than about the members needing to handle something else immediately. 
For instance – you are in the middle of a discussion and your guest arrives.  The discussion may take some time and the members would like to have the information from the guest before finishing the discussion.  A member rises, is recognized and moves to lay the pending motion on the table. 
The motion to lay on the table is never appropriate in an attempt to kill a motion or to delay its consideration.  

Six key characteristics of the motion to lay on the table

  • Can’t interrupt a speaker who has the floor
  • Must be seconded
  • Isn’t debatable
  • Requires a majority vote
  • Can’t be reconsidered if adopted

I want more time to think about the motion.  We don’t have the information to make a good decision.  How do I delay this discussion and vote?


A motion to Postpone to a Certain Time (or Definitely).  This motion gives you a chance to obtain more information on the subject at hand.  It doesn’t kill the motion – it simply reschedules its consideration.  


You can postpone the pending motion to later in the meeting, or another day in the session or to the next regular meeting.  If you postpone to the next regular meeting, THIS would come up under unfinished business. 
You cannot postpone a pending motion to a meeting that is more than a quarterly time interval.  This means that at a Department annual Convention or a District annual Convention, members may not postpone a pending motion until the next annual meeting.  


Six key characteristics of the motion to postpone to a certain time

  • Can’t interrupt a speaker who has the floor
  • Must be seconded
  • Is debatable (permissible debate is restricted to the pros and cons of postponement only.  Debate may not go into the merits of the main motion.)
  • Can be amended, specifically the details of the time to which the postponement is made and whether it should be made a special order.
  • Requires a majority vote
  • Can be reconsidered (An affirmative vote on the motion to postpone can be reconsidered.  A negative vote on the motion to postpone can be reconsidered only until such time as progress in business or debate has been sufficient to make it essentially a new question.  Then, the motion can be renewed.)

It is up to the presiding officer to help the member making the motion and understand the intent of the member.  It is a learning experience for our members.  If the intent is to have some time to consider a pending motion, and they move to lay on the table, then the President can correctly ask to postpone the pending motion until the next meeting. 

Kindness is the word for the day☺  Always treat others as you would have them treat you.  We all have skills and also short falls.   Praise members’ skills and help them build up the short falls with kindness.  


PLEASE contact me if you have questions
Norma Tramm

6th District Parliamentarian