The motion to reconsider

I reported that the motion passed by CSUN’s Senate concerning the recent executive orders had been “frozen” by a procedural motion. Understandably, I’ve received a lot of requests for information about how that worked and what will happen at the next Senate meeting.

In this note, I’m just going to explain how reconsideration works. I’ve cut out all the explanations of why it works this way. That has, at least temporarily, saved you from digressions into the justifications of quirks which seem bizarre or unfair on first glance.

The motion that was used at the end of the Senate meeting was a special version of the motion to reconsider. Let’s start with the general case.

All motions have two stages: they are made (introduced, seconded, and stated) and then considered (debated, amended, voted upon). For almost every motion, making it automatically initiates consideration. If the motion is debatable, debate begins as soon as it has been seconded and stated by the Chair. When an undebatable motion is seconded, the Chair states the motion and immediately calls for the vote.

The motion to reconsider is an exception. When the motion to reconsider is made, a timer starts. If the motion is called up before the time limit expires, it gets considered (debated, voted upon). If it does not get called up in time, nothing happens apart from the unfreezing of any implementation of the original motion which had been frozen by the motion.

The special version of the motion to reconsider used at our Senate meeting was only special in that it cannot be called up on the same day that it is made, and it has a shorter time limit (the end of the next meeting). I had recommended it to the Senator who introduced it because those features make it transparent and definitive about when the motion will be called up.

When the motion to reconsider is called up, debate begins on whether to reopen the original motion. Calling up the motion does not require a second; it was already seconded when it was made.

The debate on whether to reconsider can legitimately go into the merits of the original motion. But it can also go beyond them. Anything relevant to the question of whether to reopen the original motion is in order. When debate concludes, the Senate votes on whether to reconsider the original motion.

If a majority votes in favor, the original motion is opened for consideration. There are no special rules at this point. It gets debated, amended, et cetera, and finally voted upon just like any other main motion. If the final vote fails, the outcome is the same as if there had been a motion to rescind: the Senate has no position on the matter the original motion concerned.

If a majority votes against reconsideration, the Senate goes on to its next business item. Any implementation of the original motion which had been frozen, unfreezes.

The vote on reconsider cannot be reconsidered. That way lies madness.