Mary Elizabeth Preston, F51004
Co-chairman, Constitution and Bylaws/Policy and Procedure Committee
Regardless of any current thoughts you may hold about bylaws, try reading Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. I think you will find it hard to put down, just as you would an interesting novel.
The original author of the book was Henry Martyn Robert. An engineering officer in the United States Army, Robert was asked on short notice to preside over a church meeting, and he realized that he wasn’t sure how to properly conduct such a meeting. After that experience, he was determined never to attend another meeting without some knowledge of parliamentary law. However, he experienced a difficult time finding written material regarding the topic. So, he applied his many years of experience in civic and church organizations, and in February 1876 he published the first edition of what is now known as Robert’s Rules of Order.
Robert retired from the Army in 1901, after achieving the rank of brigadier general and rising to the position of chief engineer, and he devoted the last decade of his life to serving as a consulting engineer and writing about parliamentary procedure. Today Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised is a foremost guide to parliamentary procedure.
Parliamentary law was the name given to the rules and customs for carrying on business in the English Parliament that were developed through a continuing process of decisions and procedures, somewhat like the growth of the common laws. These rules and customs, as brought to America with the settling of the New World, became the basic substance from which the legislative bodies in the United States evolved. Out of early American legislative procedure, and paralleling it in further development, has come general parliamentary law, or common parliamentary law of today, which is adapted to the needs of organizations and assemblies of widely different purposes and condition.
Thomas Jefferson spoke of “the Parliamentary branch of the law.” From our country’s beginning, it has been authoritatively established that parliamentary law is “law” “” in the sense of being binding within all assemblies, except as they may adapt special rules varying from the general parliamentary law. But since there has not always been complete agreement as to what constitutes parliamentary law, no society or organization should attempt to transact business without adopting some standard manual on the subject that will be the authority in all cases not covered by its own special rules. Thus, we have our FMCA Bylaws.
This year FMCA’s Governing Board performed a needed and monumental task by adopting a revised set of FMCA Bylaws. The last major rewrite of FMCA’s Bylaws took place in 1983. From then until now, amendment upon amendment had been made to the Bylaws. FMCA hired a consultant to assist in reviewing our Bylaws, and the consultant advised that FMCA should rewrite our Bylaws and develop Procedures and Policies to implement them.
Like many organizations, FMCA used Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised as a guide for our bylaws. Special bylaws were adopted where necessary to adapt to FMCA’s specific needs.
We encourage all FMCA members, not just the FMCA officers, to read and study the newly revised FMCA Bylaws, which appear in this issue of the magazine, starting on page 261. I also encourage all FMCA members to read and study Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. You will be fascinated and intrigued. I feel confident you will discover that it is interesting reading, and that you will find it hard to put the book down.