SEEMS TO ME... Meetings

asked. Te speaker can refuse. A point of information is only a question and cannot be used to speak out of turn, harass a speaker or disrupt the flow of the meeting.

Table — If a quorum court member feels that the decision

and vote on a motion needs to be delayed for whatever rea- son, that member can move to “table” the motion. A meeting participant must be recognized by the chairperson in order to table a motion and cannot request this action at the end of a speech. Generally a specific time limit is mentioned when tabling the motion so as not to leave the motion dangling. A motion to table requires a simple majority vote. Te discus- sion allowed after a vote to table can only be about the length of the tabling.

Calling the Question – If a member of the court thinks that additional discussion or debate will be unproductive, he or she may “call the question,” which can end discussion or debate. If no other quorum court members object, the meeting proceeds to the motion. If there is an objection, the participants vote on whether to end the debate. A two-thirds majority vote is required and no debate is allowed. If the “calling the question” is passed, a vote on the main motion is taken with no additional discussion or debate.

Suspension of the Rules — Any motion for suspension of

the rules must have a two-thirds majority of the full number on the court to succeed. Tis motion is used so that meet- ing participants can do something in violation of the normal rules. In county government it is most used to subvert the rule of reading an ordinance or an amendment to an ordi- nance on three different meeting days. Tere is no debate allowed. Tis motion cannot be amended and cannot be reconsidered at the same meeting.

Adjourn — A motion to adjourn takes precedence over all other motions, except a motion to fix the time to adjourn. Tis motion cannot be debated or amended, nor can a vote to adjourn be reconsidered. A motion to adjourn cannot be made when a speaker has the floor, or when a vote is be- ing conducted. Tis motion does need a second and takes a majority vote to pass. If a majority does not vote in favor, the meeting continues.

Tese are just a few of the basic rules you need to know about the actual conduction and participation of a meeting. Tere is so much to know, but you asked to be county judge or a justice of the peace. No one should ask to be elected to


• Robert’s Rules of Order or the rules adopted by your court;

• Procedural Guide for Arkansas County Quorum Court Meetings by the University of Arkansas, Division of Community Affairs, Division of Continuing Educa- tion and the Association of Arkansas Counties; and

• Title 14 of the Arkansas Code Annotated — especially Chapter 14. Te Arkansas County Compliance Guide available through the Association of Arkansas Counties is a good source for this and it contains much more than Title 14.

Many other things are involved in running a meeting the right way. Like the agenda. Te agenda may be the most im- portant piece of paper at the meeting. Properly drawn up, it has the power of speeding and clarifying a meeting that very few people understand or harness. Te primary fault is to make the agenda unnecessarily brief and vague. For example, the phrase “county budget” does not tell much, whereas the longer explanation “to discuss the proposal for reduction of the 2020 county budget now that revenues are known to be less than projected” helps all court members to form some views or even to look up facts and figures in advance. Te presiding officer should not be afraid of a long agenda,

provided that the length is the result of his or her analyzing and defining each item more closely, rather than adding more items than the meeting can reasonably consider in the time allowed. Te chair should also bear in mind the useful device of heading each item “For information,” “For discussion,” or “For decision” so that members of the quorum court know where they are trying to get to. Te order of items on the agenda is important. Te early

part of a meeting tends to be more lively and creative than the end of it, so if an item needs mental energy, bright ideas, and clear heads, it may be better to put it high up on the list. Equally, if there is one item of great interest and concern it may be a good idea to hold it back for a while and get some other useful work done first. Ten the star item can be intro- duced to carry the meeting over the attention lag that sets in after the first 20 to 30 minutes of the meeting. Some items unite the meeting in a common front while others may divide members. Te presiding officer may want

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an office if they don’t intend to spend the time to properly learn all the functions of the job. Every county judge and quorum court member should own or have available to them the following:

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