Using Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure: The Advantages to Legislative Bodies
1. Mason's Manual is an authority recognized by many state legislatures.
Seventy of the 99 legislative chambers in the United States use Mason's Manual as their parliamentary authority. Thirteen use Jefferson's Manual, and only 4 use Robert's Rules of Order. The recent trend has been a move to Mason's Manual. Between 1991 and 1999, at least 10 legislative assemblies changed to or added Mason's as the back-up to their chamber rules. Because so many chambers use Mason's, there is a wealth of assistance available in interpreting the manual. Also, the Mason's Manual Revision Commission continues to gather information from the states on current rulings and interpretations and will share this information with anyone having questions.
2. Mason's Manual is not a standard parliamentary manual. It is compiled to meet the particular needs of legislative bodies. In fact, it is the only parliamentary manual designed specifically for state legislatures.
Robert's Rules of Order were designed for civic groups and private organizations and to deal with bylaws, motions and resolutions. There is a difference between public bodies and private organizations. In a public body, the powers do not reside in the members themselves. State legislatures exercise the powers that are delegated to them by the people. The organization and powers of a public body cannot be changed by its members; any change must be made by the authority that created it-the people. The powers of voluntary associations arise from the agreement of the members. They are governed by contract. Also, the members of a private association speak for themselves. They represent no one. They are controlled by no outside power.Mason's was compiled by people who work in or with legislatures, and it is designed to deal with bills and other issues and problems that arise within the legislative environment. For example, Robert's Rules requires motions to be seconded, but Mason's does not. According to Mason's, the effect of requiring a second to a motion is to require that no business can be presented except by two people-one who makes the motion and one who seconds it. A member representing a constituency in a state legislature is entitled to present a matter for consideration of the body without having the support of a second, unless by law or by rule a second is required. Mason's also discusses the concept of the election of officers, what constitutes a meeting, and how to waive the rules. It relies more on the use of a simple majority, making it easier to conduct business. In addition, Mason's contains sections on dealing with other branches of government, something not addressed in Robert's.
3. Mason's Manual has evolved from an exhaustive study of judicial decisions and legislative precedents. It has been updated to keep the references current. It is the latest manual for up-to-date citations of case law and sources of authority.
4. Mason's Manual is arranged to facilitate the citation of authority, thereby giving more authority to the decisions it backs. It is extensively referenced and indexed.
Other authors-such as Cushings, Hughes, Jefferson, Reed, Robert, and Sturgis-are cited where references to their works will verify, explain or throw further light on the question. Legislative precedents are cited. State constitutions and statutes are cited. Judicial decisions are cited. Mason's includes an entire table of cases cited. Mason's anticipates and comments on case law citations, which is important and becoming more so as the courts are called upon to review legislative procedures and processes with greater frequency. Other parliamentary manuals, such as Robert's Rules, do not contemplate case law or statutory law.
5. Because Mason's was designed for state legislatures, it addresses problems and concepts in the context that most legislators are likely to deal with them. Therefore, it is easier for legislators to understand and to use.
Greater understanding leads to the proper application of the rules of procedure, which eliminates controversy, confusion and litigation. Greater understanding also makes public bodies more efficient in their work and more pleasant to work in.
6. Mason's Manual not only outlines what to do in certain instances, but it also tries to help you understand the theory behind why you do it that way.
If legislators understand why something is done in a particular instance, they are better able to translate that knowledge to another similar but unrelated situations.
For more information:
Mason's Manual is available for purchase from the NCSL Bookstore.
Brenda Erickson at (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=[masons]).