“Friendly Amendments”

There are no such thing as friendly amendments, in spite of common parliamentary practice (at least in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America). If folks knew their Robert’s Rules of Order better, particularly in the case of amendments, then meetings would flow much more efficiently and smoothly. Rather than going back and forth with the make of a motion to find out if he thinks a suggested amendment is “friendly” or not, the moderator should just put the amendment to discussion and vote as he would if the amendment were clearly “hostile.” Here is what Mr. Robert has to say about so-called friendly amendments:

The term ‘friendly amendment’ if often used to describe an amendment offered by someone who is in sympathy with the purposes of the main motion, in the belief that the amendment will either improve the statement or effect of the main motion, presumably to the satisfaction of its maker, or will increase the chances of the main motion’s adoption. Regardless of whether or not the maker ‘accepts’ the amendment, it must be opened to debate and voted on formally (unless adopted by unanimous consent) and is handled under the same rules as amendment generally” (154). The reason that there is no such thing as a “friendly amendment” is that once a motion has been made and seconded and stated by the chair, “it belongs to the meeting as a whole, and the maker must request the assembly’s permission to withdraw or modify his own motion” (284). “A pending motion can be amended only by vote or unanimous consent of the assembly, even if the maker of the motion states that he ‘accepts’ the amendment” (286).

So  Moderators everywhere, the next time some ignorant person rises to offer a “friendly amendment,” just smile and say, “There’s no such thing as a friendly amendment, but is there a second to the amendment to the motion?” If you think that everyone is in agreement with the amendment, try to pass it by unanimous consent – “Is there any objection?” That will save you the time  of trying to talk with the maker of the original motion. It’s not his motion any longer. So don’t act like it is.



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