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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT’S RULES REVEALED: EP #07 – How to use “Point of Parliamentary Inquiry”

Monday, November 12, 2012 - Susan Leahy

SUSAN: All right, so we’re on with Lorenzo Cuesta from Roberts-Rules.com and we are going to talk about the difference between “point of parliamentary inquiry” and “point of information,” these are two motions that I know sometimes people get confused on what they are and how to properly use them. Hi Lorenzo, how are you?

LORENZO: Just fine, glad to be here.

SUSAN: Yeah, and glad you’re hear again its good to hear your voice and lets shed some light on these two motions its so important that members know how to use these motions properly. So lets start with “point of parliamentary inquiry,” what is the point of parliamentary inquiry and how do I properly make that in a meeting?

LORENZO: Even though both of these motions are attempting to obtain information, parliamentary inquiry is exclusively set up to inquire about a rule or law that is related to the business at hand. The chair has the obligation to clarify any points on rules for any member.

SUSAN: So all that as I’m listening to you its that sense of, if I’m a member, and im feeling lost about what motion we are voting on or what we are debating, or what is the motion that we are talking about. I can stand up and make a point of parliamentary inquiry and ask, “Where we are?” So if I’m lost I have a way to find out where we are.

LORENZO: Exactly

SUSAN: When does a member use that, how do they use it?

LORENZO: Quite often a member is not sure whether the vote is going to be majority or two thirds, a member is not sure whether they can make an amendment at the right time or not, or whether they can discuss a certain part of the motion or not. So the member would simply say “point of parliamentary inquiry, may I do the following; is it proper to do this or the following…”

SUSAN: And as a chair, you’re just listening to the question and answering it so that person can actually be a powerful participant in the meeting. I always say that if I’m lost, then you can guarantee that someone else in the room is lost. So that’s why I’m okay with using point of parliamentary inquiry and saying wait a minute, I’m a little bit lost, where are we or what motion are we voting on. So that’s point of parliamentary inquiry, lets move over to the other side and talk about “point of information.” I know a lot of my clients will talk about this. But can you shed some light about, well what is “point of information” and how to properly use it?

LORENZO: The 11th edition, the latest edition of Robert’s, the most recent edition of Robert’s changed that wording. Instead of calling in point of information, to “request for information,” forcing the member to think, I need information in order to make a decision so I have to ask for it. Rather than saying, point of information, which sounds like “I want to give you some information.”

SUSAN: I like that Robert’s has clarified it in the 11th edition, and it’s that sense of its now requesting. Because I’ll tell you and I’m sure you ran in to this but a lot of people use point of information to kind of take the meeting over and insert a debate where a debate is not necessarily being inserted in the proper place. So now its “Request for Information,” right?

LORENZO: Yes exactly.

SUSAN: Okay so give me an example of what that would sound like in a meeting.

LORENZO: Well for instance lets say that you are in the debate and someone makes a comment, and a member is not sure whether that’s factual or not. The member can then ask for instance if the information can be given from someone from the committee, or from the treasurer or secretary and say “Mr. Chair, request for information, is the following fact true? Do we have money to do this? Can we take care of this by a particular date?” things like that nature that don’t relate to rules.

SUSAN: Yes and it’s the request for information and usually you’re going to get a one or two lined response like “we have four thousand six hundred and twenty six dollars in the account” or “yes we have jurisdiction to make this decision,” so its clarification and information and you’ll probably get a quick answer. And that’s really what we want to do, we want to expedite, make sure you have the information you need so you can ultimately make the type of vote that your board needs you to make so that you can ultimately make the type of vote that your board needs you to make regarding whatever issue is on the table. So Lorenzo, I want to say thank you for your time and energy because these two very important motions need to be understood; how to really stand up and make a point of parliamentary inquiry, and how to properly request information. So thanks so much Lorenzo, and this is Susan Leahy from Robert’s Rules Revealed.
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