Robert's Rules
on Parliamentary

According to

California State Association of Parliamentarians


Survival Tips on
Robert's Rules of Order

Unfinished Business, Yes;
Old Business, Never!

"Old Business" means that you are reconsidering matters already disposed of. "Unfinished Business" means that you are continuing with matters which are currently not completed. (RONR(10th ed.),p.346)

Before the current agenda is put together, the secretary advises the chair of the matters which were not disposed of from the previous meeting. Also, the parliamentarian advises the chair which issues can be carried forward as "Unfinished Business". Therefore, the chair should never ask the members, "Is there any Unfinished Business." That question can be answered only by the secretary and the parliamentarian.

There are really only a few reasons why a matter may be considered in the "Unfinished Business and General Orders" portion of the current meeting's agenda.

    Questions left pending at the previous meeting:
  1. A question was being discussed and being dealt with when the previous meeting adjourned.

  2. A question was listed on the previous meeting's agenda as part of the unfinished business, but was not reached, when the meeting adjourned.

  3. A question had been postponed (made prior General Order) to the previous meeting, but was not reached, when the meeting adjourned.

    Questions NOT left pending at the previous meeting:

  4. A question was postponed (made current General Order) to the current meeting.

  5. Though not technically "Unfinished Business", any tabled matter may be taken from the table at this time as well.

    1. Let us suppose that a group meets monthly.
    2. In March, an issue is listed as "Unfinished Business" for the first time.
    3. In March, the group adjourns without dealing with the issue.
    4. In April, the issue can be taken up again as "Unfinished Business".
    5. But, if in April the issue is not dealt with, the issue dies!
    6. Of course, in May the issue may be introduce again, but only as "New Business".

So, if you understand what can be considered under "Unfinished Business", you can protect your favorite issue from being ignored. On the other hand, you could manipulate the time of adjournment to defeat the opponent's favorite issue.

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