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Legislative Procedure Got You Down? Mason’s Can Help.

More than 75% of the nation’s legislative chambers rely on Mason’s Manual to answer questions about rules of order.

By NCSL Staff  |  January 18, 2024
mason's manual

What happens when a legislature has an unusual conflict? Or when members disagree about how often meetings should be held? Or when a filibuster drifts off topic?

Legislative life can be unpredictable. And when questions arise, more than three-quarters of the nation’s legislative chambers turn to Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure for answers.

Mason’s is the standard resource on parliamentary laws and rules; quorum, voting and elections; sessions and meetings; relations with other branches of government; investigations and public order; and much, much more.

Updated every 10 years, Mason’s is written specifically for state legislators and legislative staff. The current edition of the manual is available from NCSL in print and, for the first time, as a digital resource, allowing users to access it online anytime.

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Accessing parliamentary laws, rules and procedures has never been easier. Order a copy in print or as a digital edition—or purchase both.

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Who Decides What to Update?

Mason’s is compiled by people who work in or with legislatures and evolves from an exhaustive, 10-year study of parliamentary procedure, legislative precedents and judicial decisions. The process began in the 1930s and has been repeated 10 times.

The 2020 Mason’s Manual Commission was formed in June 2011 and, as usual, included members of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. The commission held 27 meetings, and its members contributed countless hours revising and updating the content.

For the current edition, the commission:

  • Added sections about remote participation.
  • Rewrote the section about legislative privilege and immunity.
  • Reorganized the section about the enrolled bill rule versus the journal entry rule.
  • Added more internal cross-references.
  • Reviewed case law from 2009 to 2019 and updated citations as needed.

The Man Behind the Manual

Paul Mason, a chief assistant secretary and parliamentarian of the California Senate in the first half of the 20th century, was fascinated by the legislative process. He wrote his Stanford master’s thesis on the topic, developed a guide for presiding officers and, in 1935, made his lasting mark on state legislatures when he wrote the first version of the Manual of Legislative Procedure. He later published the book “Constitutional History of California.”

Before his death in 1985, he assigned the manual’s copyright to NCSL and requested that it be regularly updated and reprinted. That task is managed every 10 years by the Mason’s Manual Commission.


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