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.

Two motions at once?

Dear Dinosaur: At a recent board meeting, a motion was made and seconded and there was discussion. During discussion, another motion was made and seconded to delay consideration of the original motion until the next board meeting (we have monthly meetings). A challenge to this second motion was made stating that the original motion was still on the table. I advised that the second motion could proceed. Did I advise correctly? If not, what is the consequence.

Answer: Yes, you advised correctly.

Only one Main Motion is allowed at a time. However, when a Main Motion is being considered, other motions pertaining to it may be made.

One allowable motion is the motion “to postpone to a definite time.”  This is called a “subsidiary motion.”

Subsidiary motions are made and processed in a particular order, called “Precedence of Motions.”

If someone objects to a breach of the rules, the matter must be brought up at the time. Technically one would raise a Point of Order, on which the chair issues a ruling. In this case, it seems that this was done, even if the term “Point of Order” was not used, and that you advised the chair correctly that the motion was in order. If a member objected to the ruling, the member could appeal to the body, which has the right to make the final decision.

If no appeal is made at the time, the chair’s ruling stands. Even if the ruling were later found to be incorrect, that wouldn’t matter. Minor mistakes do not invalidate action.

See these blog entries:

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. For specific issues, seek a qualified authority.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.

Posted in

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.


  1. Cathy Reid on June 15, 2022 at 5:41 pm

    What’s the difference between a work session and open meeting? Or work sessions closed to the public? Thank you

    • Ann Macfarlane on June 15, 2022 at 6:02 pm

      Hi Cathy, local government bodies often hold work sessions in order to explore topics in depth, and prepare for their regular meetings. Usually no final decisions are made at work sessions. If your state has a sunshine or open meetings law, work sessions must be open to the public, as well as regular sessions. Check out your state law for more details. Thanks for writing.