Parliamentary procedure, or parliamentary law, refers to the rules of democracy—that is, the commonly accepted way a group of people come together, present and discuss possible courses of action, and make decisions.
Parliamentary procedure also defines what duties people typically have when they are elected the president, secretary, or treasurer of an organization.
Fundamentally, parliamentary procedure defines how groups of people, no matter how formal or informal, can most effectively meet and make decisions in a fair, consistent manner—and make good use of everyone’s time. While parliamentary procedure cannot guarantee that every member of an organization is pleased with the outcome of a decision, it aims to ensure that every member is satisfied by the manner in which the decision was made, and that the organization makes decisions efficiently but with consideration for every member’s opinion.
Many different decision-making bodies use parliamentary procedure. These include:
Government and civic organizations
•City and county councils
•Neighborhood and homeowners’ associations
•Boards of directors
The National Association of Parliamentarians bases its opinions and instruction upon Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. The most widely used parliamentary authority in the United States, this book (often abbreviated RONR) was first published as the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies in 1876. Since then, the book has been expanded and updated several times. The current edition is Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition (2020).