The Truth about “Friendly Amendments”

By Diana Bacon, MBA

If you have attended several business meetings, you may have heard the term “friendly amendment”. It is a term that is typically used by those who are well-intentioned to help the maker of the motion improve the motion to be more acceptable. Have you heard this term? Test your knowledge with the following multiple-choice question.

A “friendly amendment”

  1. Only needs to be accepted by the mover of the motion
  2. Needs to be accepted by the mover of the motion and the chair
  3. Must be adopted by the assembly, either by vote or unanimous consent

What answer did you choose? If you answered “a.” or “b.” then you would be mistaken. The answer is “c.” A friendly amendment can only be considered as an amendment to a motion which must be adopted by the assembly, either by vote or unanimous consent. When a motion is on the floor, the assembly owns it which means that only the assembly can debate and vote on the motion formally (or adopted by unanimous consent) so this approach to an amendment is handled the same as an amendment (RONR, p.162).

Confusion, and the inadvertent use of a term that is not a parliamentary procedure, may have stemmed from a separate, proper and permissible procedure called a request for permission to withdraw or modify a motion (RONR, pp.295-98). This is a motion that the maker of a motion may use; however, the conditions determine whether the assembly’s permission is required.

The maker of the motion owns a motion until the chair states the motion and during this brief time the maker can withdraw it or modify it without asking the consent of anyone.

Also, it is during this brief time before the chair states the motion that another member can ask if the maker of the motion is willing to withdraw or accept a change, which the maker may accept or reject.

After the chair states the motion, it is the assembly who owns the motion which means that the mover requires the permission of the assembly to withdraw or modify the motion and may only do so before voting begins on the question. If the assembly permits the withdrawal of the motion, any motions attached to it are also withdrawn. Another member may suggest that the maker of the motion ask for permission to withdraw the motion; however, it is the choice of the maker of the motion to ask permission to withdraw the motion or not.

Next time you hear the term friendly amendment, you will know that this term is not a parliamentary procedure term. Knowing the intention of the person who uses this term may help you to offer the correct procedure.

What other term have you heard in meetings that you would like to better understand?

The current edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR) is the parliamentary authority for most organizations and is usually stated in the organization’s bylaws.

About the Author

Diana Bacon, MBA provides parliamentary services to organizations, such as parliamentary procedure training, bylaws revision, and serves as parliamentarian at conventions and AGMs.