Businesswoman pointing at person with raised hand; permission to speak/ask for favor; parliamentary procedure

How to Ask the Group for a Favor

This is a quick guide on how to use the motion to Raise a Question of Privilege.

The Skinny

  • What motion should you use to present a request related to the rights and privileges of any member of the group?
    Use the motion called Raise a Question of Privilege.
  • What should you say?
    Say this: “I rise to a question of privilege.”
  • What are the two types of questions of privilege?
    • There are questions that relate to privileges of the group—such as matters concerning member comfort, like heating and air, or noise, or questions concerning the behavior of visitors.
    • And there are questions that relate to the privileges of a single member—such as matters related to a member’s credentials or a proper record of a member’s attendance or participation.
  • When can you make this motion?
    You can make this motion anytime that the following other motions are not on the floor: Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn, Adjourn, and Recess.
  • Can you interrupt another speaker?
    Yes, if the urgency of the question demands it. If the reason for your question would become moot by waiting, you can interrupt a person while he is speaking. Otherwise, you have to wait until that person has finished talking.
  • Does someone have to say, “Second” after this motion is proposed?
  • Can people debate the pros and cons of this motion?
    No, but the member raising the question can give a brief description of the situation.
  • How many votes does this motion need to pass?
    None. The Chair rules on whether the question of privilege that the member is raising is urgent enough to require interruption of whatever the group is working on currently.

An Example

  • While a group is considering an important item of business, a construction crew arrives and begins demolition in the room next door. The noise is deafening, and members cannot hear one another.
  • A member rises, interrupts a speaker, and says, “Madame Chair, I rise to a question of privilege that affects the entire group.”
  • The Chair replies, “State your question.”
  • The member says, “We cannot hear the discussion over the noise next door.”
  • The Chair replies, “Thank you. I will ask the Executive Director to please speak to the contractor and ask him if the crew can complete their demolition work this evening after our meeting concludes. In the meantime, could the volume on the speakers be increased a bit?”

A Second Example

  • A group has permitted the public to attend a meeting because it is considering the renovation of its headquarters and wants to make sure the public is informed and has an opportunity to provide input.
  • Before the group has an opportunity to discuss the renovation of the headquarters, Member A introduces a motion related to the Executive Director’s performance and compensation.
  • Member B feels uncomfortable discussing the Executive Director’s performance with the public present, and so she rises, interrupts Member A, and says, “Madame Chair, I rise to a question of privilege relating to the entire group.”
  • The Chair replies, “State your question.”
  • Member B says, “We should not be discussing the Executive Director’s performance and compensation in front of individuals who are not members of our group. I move to enter executive session.”
  • Member C seconds the motion.
  • The Chair rules that the motion should be given priority because of its urgency.
  • The Chair says, “It has been moved and seconded to enter executive session. Is there any discussion?”
  • Following discussion, the Chair takes a vote on the motion to enter executive session. If the motion is adopted, the Chair excuses the members of the public and continues consideration of the motion related to the Executive Director’s performance and compensation.

What the Pros Know

  • There is a difference between raising a question of privilege and the question of privilege itself. Raising a question of privilege tees up a decision regarding whether the question will be given priority over other business, and it is governed by the rules above. The question itself may be handled as a request, or it may be treated as a main motion, in which case the main motion rules and process would apply.
  • A motion to enter executive session is a question of privilege related to the group.
  • The Chair’s ruling as to whether a question of privilege has sufficient urgency to interrupt business is appealable.
  • If a question of privilege is considered, once it has been dealt with, the group should resume its business at exactly the point where it left off.

Where to Learn More