Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Giving Us the (WSFS) Business

The 2014 WSFS Business Meeting page on the Loncon 3 web site has the current draft of the agenda including all of the new business submitted. Popular Ratification is there, but so are a whole lot of other proposals. When you throw in the number of items up for ratification, we may find that we will have to use the Sunday Business Meeting for more that just ceremonial functions. There's even a non-zero chance that we could end up using the Monday "overflow" session.

There are a pair of proposals coming out of the Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee (think of it as a kinder, gentler Rules Committee) that I helped author:

1. Raise the kill-without-any-debate vote requirement on Objection to Consideration from 2/3 to 3/4.

2. Modify the currently banned (but available by suspending the rules by 2/3 vote) Postpone Indefinitely so that it's allowed at the Preliminary Business Meeting, requires 2/3 vote, and has 4 minutes debate time.

These two proposals are loosely linked. The NPSFC thinks that Objection to Consideration (which can interrupt someone else who has been assigned the floor at the initial introduction of a new proposal) is over-used, but recognizes the need for the Preliminary Business Meeting to weed out obvious non-starters from consideration at the Main Business Meeting.

Postpone Indefinitely is an incidental motion that kills whatever it's applied to for the duration of that meeting (which in WSFS's case means that Worldcon because all of the meetings at a single Worldcon are considered one legislative "session" for procedural purposes). In its ordinary form, it's debatable and requires only a majority vote. However, it was apparently commonly used in the days of WSFS meetings before I arrived in 1984 to give opponents of a motion who had exhausted their right to debate additional cracks at a proposal, and therefore is banned by WSFS standing rule. You can however move to "suspend the rules and postpone indefinitely," which requires a 2/3 vote and is not debatable. We've done this occasionally, but most WSFS regulars seem more entranced with the 16-ton parliamentary weight of Objection to Consideration, and there are individual members who appear to take positive delight in jumping to their feet and screaming "Objection to Consideration!" at almost every new proposal.

I would like to see these two rule changes pass so that OTC can return to being something used only against proposals that could be actively harmful to WSFS to even discuss, not simply used as a way to suppress proposals that are unpopular. Allowing two minutes debate for and against Postpone Indefinitely at the Preliminary Business Meeting would, in effect, give one person the chance to say why the proposal is not worth encumbering the limited debate time of the Main Meeting, while one other (presumably the primary proponent) would have one two-minute shot at making a case for the consideration of the proposal.

Despite those people who seem to believe I'm there to obfuscate and confuse and keep people out with exclusionary actions, I really am sensitive to the complaints that newcomers are coming to the Business Meeting in good faith and are then coming away feeling like they've been hit over the head by a bunch of old fogeys who won't even listen to a single word about why we should consider a proposal. On the other hand, I am impatient with those people who think that every single attendee should have the right to speak for a minute or two on every proposal, "Like at a city council meeting," when those people don't seem to realize that (a) we'd have a twelve-hour-long Business Meeting if that happened and (b) This is a Town Meeting, not a city council: the people up on the head table aren't the ones making the decisions — every single person in the room is part of the legislative body. There's a fundamental difference involved here that I think shoots over the heads of people not familiar with direct democracy and only familiar with lobbying elected officials.

Majorities have rights just like minorities do, and one of the rights a super-majority (2/3 or more of the voters present) has is to not have their time wasted. One of the challenges of parliamentary rule-making is to balance the rights of majorities, minorities, individuals, and absentees. I think that allowing a brief debate on whether a given proposal is worth even discussing in full balances the rights of individuals to propose business against the right of the majority to not subject themselves to a pointless debate on a proposal that clearly is going to fail by a super-majority.
Tags: business meeting, parliamentary procedure, worldcon, wsfs

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