One of the most confusing aspects for novice participants in deliberative assemblies is the concept of the germane (and the nongermane). Even veteran assembly participants can struggle with distinguishing between what is germane and when it matters. The parliamentary authority (Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th ed.) and various rules peculiar to our synod constrain what may be introduced as business and what may be attempted in the form of amendments according to germanenss. In short,
- Germane — A motion is germane if it relates to the pending business (or matter) before the assembly. Motions germane to the pending business of the assembly do not require prior submission to Reference & Counsel and are not subject to any deadline. A germane motion, however, must be made within the window of germaneness, i.e., before the assembly moves on to other business related to a different matter.
- Nongermane — A motion is nongermane if it does not relate to the pending business (or matter) before of the assembly. Most resolutions (a type of original main motion) are nongermane, as they often introduce a new matter to the assembly. Under B7.16, such resolutions must be submitted to Reference & Counsel before they come to the assembly floor, under CR7.02, such submission is to be in advance of the Synod Assembly.
Example of a germane motion
(concluding his report as chair of Global Mission) …And, so, the drought has put 40,000 at the edge of starvation, and our companion synods are particularly hard hit. I will entertain questions.
Thank you, Pr. Reid. Are there any questions?
Pr. Felici is recognized.
I move that this Synod Assembly take up a special collection during the next recess for the relief of our companion synods.
It is moved that this Synod Assembly take up a special collection during the next recess for the relief of our companion synods.
Is there a second?
It is moved and seconded that this Synod Assembly take up a special collection during the next recess for the relief of our companion synods. The motion is before the assembly for debate. Pr. Felici, the floor is yours.
Example of a nongermane motion
(concluding his report as chair of Global Mission) …And, so, the drought has put 40,000 at the edge of starvation, and our companion synods are particularly hard hit. I will entertain quesitons.
Thank you, Pr. Reid. Are there any questions?
Pr. Erzkus is recognized.
I move that this Synod Assembly take up a special collection for the Lutheran Campus Ministry at WVU.
Pr. Erzkus, the motion is out of order as it is not germane to the report of the Global Mission Committee.
While germaneness is the judgment call of the chair, the chair’s judgment is no absolute. Any ruling made by the chair may be appealed, the appeal going to the assembly. For a full discussion on the motion to appeal from the decision of the chair, review RONR (12th ed.) §24.
So You Missed the Deadline for Submission to Reference & Counsel
If the Matter Is Germane
It may be that the matter of business you would like to introduce is germane to some matter of business already coming before the assembly. If it is germane, it may be introduced when the coordinate matter is before the assembly.
Still, it is prudent to submit a resolution to Reference & Counsel well in advance of the assembly so that Reference & Counsel can review it for form, legality, and substance. Reference & Counsel’s primary interest is in helping the assembly do its work and do it well. That interest includes seeing that matters coming before the assembly are in the best form that they can be in. Reference & Counsel can be a resource to those introducing matters sufficiently in advance of the assembly so as to allow Reference & Counsel to do a thorough review and engage in conversation with the sponsor(s).
If the matter is nongermane, the door is not entirely closed.
It the Matter is Nongermane
While B17.16 and CR7.02 specify that nongermane resolutions be submitted to Reference & Counsel prior to the assembly, these provisions are probably, by their nature, rules of order. Theoretically, such rules can be suspended.(q.v. RONR (12th ed.) 2:21). Whether such is the case is a matter of the chair’s judgment, subject to appeal from the decision of the chair. In short, if the assembly so wills, there are mechanisms by which nongermane business may be introduced to the assembly despite the immediate rules because the parliamentary authority provides such a check and balance. If one wants to pursue this route, it would be wise to consult with the chair or the parliamentarian. Review of RONR (12th ed.) §25 is advised.