Imagine that you’re presiding over your annual homeowners’ association meeting. A homeowner has made a motion on a controversial issue. You’d love to give the homeowners more information about the issue, and give the board time to study it and make a good recommendation. You’re concerned that a vote on the issue tonight might lead to a bad outcome for the association.

What’s the best way to handle this controversial motion?

Parliamentary Tip: Instead of attempting to “table” the motion, or hold a vote on it right away, often the best solution is to refer the issue to a committee. To achieve this outcome during a large, formal meeting like the association’s annual meeting, the appropriate method is a motion to “commit or refer” a matter to a committee. This motion is a particularly useful tool for handling controversial issues efficiently and fairly.

A motion to commit or refer is a subsidiary motion, which means it is made after – and takes precedence over – a main motion. It’s always a good idea to have someone on the board prepared to make a motion to refer issues to a committee should the need arise. In a formal, large meeting setting the presiding officer should not make motions.

The person who makes the motion can suggest which standing committee the issue should be referred to. But more often, controversial issues are better handled by special, or “ad hoc” committees created just for that purpose. If that’s the case, a special committee should be created as your association’s bylaws require.

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