[wplug-board] Passing the Penguin proposal

David Ostroske eksortso at gmail.com
Sat Nov 26 01:52:48 EST 2005

As I said at the last meeting, we should codify the "Passing the
Penguin" procedure that Beth Lynn has used in the past. If the members
don't agree to some written language to make this official, then we'll
have to use Robert's Rules instead, which are a bit more strict.

Passing the Penguin would allows us to:
* speed up debate;
* prevent people from interrupting each other;
* allow for conversations on the floor while debating; and
* reduce the amount of "central control" while not disposing of it entirely.

Here's my proposal language. I've put rationales for each paragraph at
the bottom. Let me know what you think.

Note: I use male pronouns with gender-neutral intentions here. Replace
"he" with "she" anywhere you want. But replacing "he" with "it" is
prohibited. I won't put up with that crap. :)

A Special Rule of Order for less formal debate at membership meetings

1. The chair shall bring to each membership meeting a "penguin," which
can be any physical item that can be recognized and potentially
handled by any of the members present at the meeting. While the chair
holds the penguin, all regularly established rules of debate are in
full effect.

2. When recognizing a member during debate, the chair, at his
discretion and without objection from the membership, may pass the
penguin to that member. It is recommended, but not required, that the
chair pass the penguin to whoever first made the motion, instead of
introducing the penguin in the middle of a debate.

3. While the penguin is on the floor, the member holding the penguin
has the floor and may speak on the subject being debated. The member
has no time limit, so long as he keeps speaking.

4. When the member has finished speaking, he may pass the penguin to
another member who has signaled a desire to speak. When the other
member receives the penguin, then that member has the floor. There is
no limit to the number of times that a member may speak while the
penguin is on the floor. However, if more than one person wishes to
speak, the penguin should be passed to the person who has spoken the
least often; and it is recommended that the penguin be passed to a
member who holds an opposing point of view on the pending motion.

5. The chair may take back the penguin whenever a member finishes
speaking. The chair may also take back the penguin while a member
speaks if the member is in violation of the regularly established
rules of debate, or if the penguin is passed to a member who would
normally be ineligible to attain the floor.

6. While the penguin is on the floor, only the member holding the
penguin may make a subsidiary motion. If the motion is in order, then
the chair may either take back the penguin and enforce normal rules of
debate, or start debate on the new motion with the maker of the motion
holding the penguin.

7. When the debate on a pending motion comes to an end, the chair
shall take back the penguin before the motion is disposed of.

(1) This says, basically, what we can use for a "penguin." We have a
bean-bag penguin that we've used in the past. When we forgot the bean
bag, we used a roll of duct tape instead. Anything like that would
work. But we'd never pass around a set of barbells, or a ham sandwich,
or a real live penguin!

(2) This describes how the penguin gets passed in the first place. To
be fair, it's best to get the penguin out earlier than later, hence
the recommendation.

(3) Under normal rules of debate specified by Robert's, members can
only speak for up to ten minutes at a time. We relax that condition
here. The "keeps speaking" provision will prevent someone from taking
the penguin and just staying hush.

(4) Members can talk any number of times now. The practical upshot of
this is that members can carry on conversations on the floor, while
still debating. I took the normal rules for assigning the floor and
turned them into recommendations instead.

(5) This makes it clear that the penguin gets passed at the discretion
of the chair, with the assumption that the membership can maintain
their own rational debate. If this is not the case, however, then the
chair can reimpose normal rules. This also lets the chair stop people
from rambling pointlessly or taking cheap shots at other members.

(6) A subsidiary motion is a motion that affects how a main motion is
treated or disposed of. This includes motions to amend, postpone,
commit, limit debate, lay on the table, or call the question. In order
to maintain momentum, this clause lets the penguin stay on the floor
if such a motion is made.

(7) The penguin is used to facilitate debate. Once debate's over, the
chair takes over again.

David Ostroske <eksortso at gmail.com>

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