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Which Rules Are More Important?

There is a hierarchy to rules for organizations. Following are the rules in order of importance. This list also shows what each type of rule is intended to cover.
1. Federal, state and local laws -- These are the highest authority for the organization.
2. Charters: State or Federal Governmental charters are articles of Incorporation - This document is the highest authority specific to your organization. The bylaws and rules cannot confict with anything in this document. It should be prepared by an attorney and filed with the state. Other charters may be granted by a parent body. These charters may also set forth rules that may not be circumvented.
3. Constitution and Bylaws -- These documents contain the basic rules that state how the organization is organized and managed. A constitution is not necessary and most organizations have combined the two into one document. If you do have a constitution, it should be more difficult to amend than the bylaws. The bylaws contain the limitations on the powers and authority of the governing body and the members and spell out the rights of members.
4. Rules of Order - The written rules of parliamentary procedure adopted by the members. These rules are about the orderly transaction of business in a meeting and to the duties of officers. The purpose of these rules is to facilitate the smooth functioning of the assemblyand provide a firm basis for resolving questions of procedure that may arise. These rules are found in the parliamentary authority you adopted and stated in your bylaws. The parliamentary authority will cover almost all procedural questions that arise.
5. Special rules of order. There may be particular situations though that your organization believes requires modification of the adopted rules of order or it may be that a specific new rule is required related to procedure. (For example, instead of each member speaking for ten minutes twice to each motion as provided in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR), a special rule may be adopted that states each members can speak for three minutes.) Special rules of order supersede RONR.
6. Standing rules are the rules that cover the details of administration of the organization rather than procedure. Some organizations call these rules policies. These rules are easy to adopt and to change, usually only requiring a majority vote. These rules, once adopted, remain in effect until they are amended or rescinded.
All this information can be found in RONR, pages 10-18

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Ann Guiberson


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