Summary of Parliamentary Procedures

Rules of order for the conduct of Town Meeting business are Article V of the Town Bylaws. Where rules are not dictated by statute, Bylaw or tradition, Roberts’ Rules of Parliamentary Practice govern. The Town Moderator serves as Parliamentarian.

Rules of Debate

No person may speak more than once on a question if others who have not previously spoken desire to speak. No person may speak more than ten minutes at any one time without being again recognized by the Moderator. Without first obtaining permission of the meeting, no member may speak more than twice on any issue except to correct a mistake or to make an explanation. If, however, a motion contains distinct sections dealing with dissimilar subjects which get discussed and amended separately (as is the case in Article 4) this rule of speaking once applies only to each new section and not the entire motion. Also, speaking to an amendment does not count as time toward speaking to the main motion.

Interrupting Debate

A speaker may be interrupted for: 1. a POINT OF ORDER where a member has a question about the procedures or the proceedings. The Moderator then rules on the question raised. 2. a NOTICE OF RECONSIDERATION of an article which has been previously debated and voted upon. 3. a PRIVILEGED MOTION which may be to recess, adjourn or a question of privilege.

Closing Debate

Debate may be closed by MOVING THE PREVIOUS QUESTION. It is NOT DEBATABLE. The Moderator then asks “Shall the main question now be put?” or “Shall the question on the amendment now be put?” If a majority is in favor, debate ends. (See Practices and Procedures)

The Main Motion

A main motion is made under each article by a Town Meeting member. The Moderator states “The motion is the one before you dated and on file with the town clerk.” The Moderator summarizes the motion; the proposing member then states I so move.” Usually the wording of the motion differs from the wording of the article printed in the warrant in that more information is given, specific action requested and the amount and source of funding specified. The motion cannot exceed the scope of the warrant article. By custom no second is required. A copy of each main motion is provided to each Town Meeting member and projected on a screen for those in the audience and viewing at home on Cable TV.

Amending the Motion

A main motion may be amended, but the amendment cannot exceed the scope of the article. An amendment may be amended only once before being put to a vote. A substitute motion is an amendment which replaces the entire original motion. A simple majority carries an amendment, and it then becomes part of the main motion. An amendment is a subsidiary motion and is governed by the limits on debate as set forth below.

Subsidiary Motions

A person may speak only once for no longer than three minutes on a subsidiary motion. Debate is limited to ten minutes except for an amendment which may be debated for 30 minutes unless changed by vote of Town Meeting. Subsidiary motions are listed below in order of precedence.

1. TO LAY UPON THE TABLE or TO TAKE FROM THE TABLE—the former means to end debate on the question to such time as a member moves to “take from the table” and resume debate. Both are NOT DEBATABLE. 2. TO MOVE THE PREVIOUS QUESTION is used to close debate and put the main motion and, or, an amendment to a vote. NOT DEBATABLE. 3. TO CLOSE THE DEBATE AT A SPECIFIED TIME sets a limit to the length of debate. To date has been rarely used in Lexington. 4. TO POSTPONE TO A TIME CERTAIN is to postpone action until a specified time or a specific article has been acted upon. 5. TO COMMIT, OR RECOMMIT, OR REFER sends the article to a specified Town board, committee or commission for further consideration, usually with directions to report to a future session of the meeting or to a future Town Meeting. 6. TO AMEND. 7. TO POSTPONE INDEFINITELY means to dismiss the article from consideration by the current Town Meeting. It ‘kills’ the article and is often used by the article sponsors when they have decided not to bring the matter up before the meeting.


A QUORUM (100 members) is assumed and all votes valid, unless a member rises to doubt the quorum before the results of the vote on a motion have been declared, and a count show that fewer than 100 members are present.

If a MOTION is readily susceptible of DIVISION it may be divided and a vote taken on each part separately if the Moderator deems best or 25 members present so request.

A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE is required for most articles. The Moderator will announce when more is required, e.g., the two-thirds required for eminent-domain land takings, zoning Bylaws and bond-issue authorizations.

Usually a voice vote is called first. A standing vote is called if the Moderator is in doubt or if 20 members stand to question the Moderator’s interpretation of the voice vote for a question requiring a majority, or if seven members stand for a question requiring a two-thirds vote. The tellers (currently the precinct clerks) report the count to the Town Clerk and the Moderator who announces the votes as they are reported from each precinct.

A RECORDED YOTE is taken if requested by 50 or more members. The recorded vote may be by roll call or in writing. In the latter case a list of the members is circulated in each precinct. Members record their votes in the appropriate places and affix their signatures beside their names. The recorded votes are posted in the Town Office Building within 24 hours and remain there for two weeks.

Reconsideration of Motions

A member MUST SERVE NOTICE OF RECONSIDERATION OF AN ARTICLE AT THE SAME SESSION OF THE MEETING AND WITHIN 30 MINUTES OF THE VOTE. Any member may serve notice. The member stands at their seat and says “Mme./Mr. Moderator, I serve notice or reconsideration of Article …” and the Clerk records the fact and time. The Moderator usually allows the server of the notice to make the actual motion for reconsideration if he/she chooses, but any other member may do so if the server does not. Debate on a motion to reconsider is limited to 30 minutes, and no one may speak for more than FIVE minutes at one time nor more than once without leave of the meeting. When a motion of reconsideration is decided that decision shall not be reconsidered and no question shall be twice reconsidered. Reconsideration is not permitted for motions to ‘adjourn’, ‘the precious question, ‘to lay’ or ‘take from the table, and to ‘close debate at a specified time.’

Dissolution of the Meeting

The motion to dissolve the meeting is made by the Select Board after all the articles in. the warrant have been acted upon.

Please consult the Town Meeting in Lexington handbook to review Lexington Town Meeting Practices and Procedures.

Last Modified on January 21, 2021, at 03:56 PM EST

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