Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Our bylaws are old and conflict with Robert’s Rules

Dear Dinosaur: Our local bylaws are old and have clauses that conflict with the latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order. Does Robert’s Rules overrule the conflicting errors?

Answer: No. Bylaws have higher authority than Robert’s Rules, so if the clauses conflict, in general, the bylaws take precedence (have authority).

It is a good idea to specify in your bylaws one of the following:

  • Our parliamentary authority is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, current edition, OR
  • Our parliamentary authority is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition.

The book, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition, recommends the first formula. However, if you do that, it means that when a new edition is published (every 10 years or so), your parliamentary authority changes. For that reason, some parliamentarians recommend the second formula, which leaves it up to your body to decide if it wants to adopt the changes in the latest edition or not.

It is also a good idea to review your current bylaws in light of whatever edition of Robert’s Rules you adopt, and decide whether to amend them to match, if it suits your organization.

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Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.