Robert's Rules-Lay on the Table

We’ve all heard it. “Table!” This is a bad BAD BAD parlimentarian!
First of all there is no such motion as “Table!”
What is the purposed of laying a motion on the table? And what does it actually do?

Laying a motion on the table is an action that you take when something more important comes up and you want to temporarily set aside the original question. When you lay a motion on the table you aren’t setting a specific time to take it back up (remove from the table), and whenever the majority wants to take it back up they can. And doing so takes precedence over other new questions that might be competing with it for consideration. Laying something on the table is something that happens without debate and immediately.

Don’t confuse this motion and it’s purpose with that of Postpone Indefinitely (which I will get to eventually, especially if there is a cry for it).

This isn’t something you can just leap out of your chair and shout. You have to have the floor (be officially recognized by the person running the meeting). The good news? You don’t need a second. You do however need a majority, there is no debating this motion so it goes right to a vote, not much of a time waster. It is also not amendable. If you want to just set something aside for a little bit to be taken up after another issue you’d have to postpone the question on the table.

How do you invoke this grand power? “I move to lay the question on the table.” Don’t say “Table”, don’t “move to table the motion”. Stand, get the floor, be recognized by the chair, and say, “I move to lay the question on the table.” Subtle but you want to be accurate when you do this thing.

You are only supposed to do this when there is something urgent that needs attention for a few minutes. I’m not sure what you could do that would constitute a lay on the table. Well you could suddenly arrive with a crucial piece of information for the group. Say your Star Trek group is meeting and you get a text message from your buddy saying that Sulu is coming out. So you move to lay on the table to watch E! so you can see George Takai admit to his trist with Bill Shatner. That is an acceptable use of to lay on the table.

This isn’t a way to kill something for ever. Well if you use it illicitly you can. But don’t tell your parliamentarian I told you about this, they’ll hunt me down. You need to have the meeting chair on your side. So you move to table it for a bad reason. Laying a motion on the table is out of order if there is nothing that is urgent and requires immedite attention. Naturally you can get around this if some one raises and objection. They make a Point of Order. The Chair rules in your favor. The person makes an Appeal. They need a majority. If you have a simple majority you can deny the appeal. If the Chair isn’t on your side, or is you know…ethical…you might have a problem with this, because it’s inappropraite, but sometimes, well just be careful.

Now that I’ve told you a dirty little secret I need to go take a shower.

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