Senate Procedural Rules

Senate Procedural Rules


The Senate Procedural Rules of the Student Government Association (SGA) of Johns Hopkins University shall govern the processes and rules of the SGA Senate, and shall supersede all legislation. The Bylaws and Constitution of the SGA shall hold precedence over this document with respect to the Senate.


1.       Members and Officers

1.1.     Membership Privileges

Only Senators shall have voting privileges in the Senate. Executive officers shall have the privilege of voice and making motions, but may not vote and shall not count towards quorum.

2.      Attendance

2.1.  Required

Attendance at Senate meetings and committee meetings is mandatory for all Senators.

2.2.   Taking Attendance

A roll call shall be taken at the beginning and the end of each Senate meeting, and recorded in the minutes.  The Secretary shall be responsible for keeping track of whether enough Senators are present when voting on legislation.

 2.3.   Excuses

The Vice President shall be responsible for creating an attendance policy at the beginning of his/her term for excused absence.  The Senate may overturn decisions of the Vice President regarding attendance by a two-thirds vote of members present.

3.   Meetings

 3.1.   Regular Meetings

Regular meetings shall be defined as meetings that are announced one week or more in advance and occur during the fall or spring semester.  The Senate shall hold regular meetings on a weekly basis during the fall and spring semesters.

3.2.    Agenda

The Vice President shall set the agenda, according to his/her specifications.  Committee reports shall consist SOLELY of reports – any pending committee action must be reported in advance and dealt with later in the meeting.

4.   Legislation

All legislation shall be written and submitted to the Vice President.  All Senate legislation shall require sponsorship by two Senators, except presidential confirmations, which shall be sponsored by the President. 

5.     Chair of Senate Meetings

The Vice President shall be responsible for chairing the meetings of the SGA Senate.  If the Vice President yields the chair in accordance with proper parliamentary procedure, or is unable to attend a Senate meeting, the President of the Senior Class shall fulfill the duties as Chair.

5.1.   Decisions of the Chair

The Vice President shall have the power to make decisions about process/manner of the Senate meeting (not legislation or elections).  A single member (no second is required) may contest such a decision, which is debatable but non-amendable, before it takes effect.  A two-thirds vote of the Senate shall be necessary to overturn the Vice President’s decision.

5.2. Manner of Presiding and Yielding of the Chair

The Vice President shall preside the meeting in an orderly, objective and fair manner giving opportunity to all Senators to present their views provided they maintain decorum.  Furthermore the Vice President shall use his/her discretion in speaking on issues provided he/she maintains objectivity and fairness in the manner of the meeting.  If the body feels that the Vice President is not upholding objectivity and fairness during debate, the Senate may require the Vice President to temporarily yield the chair to a successor by a majority members present vote for the remainder of the debate on the issue.  Additionally, the Vice President shall yield the chair to a successor any time the item of discussion is his/her confirmation, elections, impeachment, or removal.

6.  Order

Any member having the privilege to voice may, at any time, request recognition to comment on the process, ask a question of procedure, comment on an issue, ask for information on an issue, make a report or announcement.  Additionally, voting members may move the following motions.  Motions permitted in the Senate shall include, but not be limited to, to:

§  Contest a chair’s decision

§  Refer, amend (may be made before or after a motion to approve), or approve legislation

§  Amend (alter) pending motion, the agenda, or voting method

§  Hear or rehear an item or motion

§  Close, set or extend limits on, or reopen discussion

§  Divide a question, separately voting on different parts of the motion or legislation (parts voted down shall be considered struck out)

§  Reconsider a motion previously voted on (motion is considered as if it’s heard for the first time)

§  Require the Chair to temporarily yield the chair, or permanently remove an officer

§  Suspend the rules (do something not permitted by rule)

§  Removal an individual from assembly (only allowed for indecorum)

§  Take a recess

§  Adjourn

6.1.  Rules on Motions

All motions require a second, may be discussed, are amendable, and pass by a simple majority vote. Other exceptions and rules for motions include:

§  Motions that effectively close, set or extend limits on, or reopen discussion may not be discussed and require a simple two-thirds vote.

§  Motions that have the effect of suspending rules or removing an individual from assembly shall require a two-thirds vote.

§  When multiple motions are pending, the Chair shall decide the order of considering the motions, subject to contest from the body, except that motions contesting a Chair’s decision or requiring the Chair to yield the chair shall hold precedence.

§  A motion to adjourn is out of order if all agenda items have not been exhausted, or if any other motion is currently pending.

6.2.  Moving the Motion

Following the moving of a motion and a proper second (if required), the Chair shall immediately state the motion to the assembly.  If the motion may be discussed, the Chair shall immediately ask, “Is there any discussion?” and the body shall discussion the motion.  If the motion may not be discussed, the Chair shall immediately put the motion to a vote.

6.3.  Discussion on the Motion

It is in the interest of the Senate (being a deliberative assembly) to foster productive and persuasive speech by each member so long as it is done in an efficient manner.  The author of the motion shall be given the opportunity to speak first in order to present the reasoning behind the motion.  Other motions may be moved anytime during discussion.  Discussion shall continue for a ten minute period, unless extended by a simple two-thirds vote, or the discretion of the chair.  Immediately following the close of discussion, the Senate shall move into a vote on motion unless otherwise moved.  During debate, filibusters are not permitted (speeches should be concise, usually two minutes per speech).

6.4.   Voting

The body shall have three voting options: yes, no, and abstain.  Abstentions, used at the individual Senator’s discretion, should only be used in the rare case of a direct conflict of interest.  Votes become final when the Chair announces the vote.

6.4.1.     Unanimous (General) Consent

If the motion has not been discussed, the Chair may ask, “Is there any objection to unanimous consent to passing the motion?”  Unless there is a request for discussion or voting by another method, the motion passes.  Any Senator may also request that his/her motion pass under unanimous consent.

6.4.2.    Straw Polls

The use of “Straw Poll” votes is highly discouraged.

6.4.3.    Roll Call

If there is opposition to a motion, then a roll call shall take place.

For a roll call vote, the Chair shall state the motion and then the Secretary shall read the roll of the Senate, and each Senator shall state their vote when their name is called.  Senators absent at the time of the vote shall be recorded as “absent” (this has no bearing on the attendance policy but does establish presence or lack of quorum).  Per the constitution, all votes shall be public, except for Impeachment proceedings.

6.4.4.    Secret Ballot

Secret Ballot shall be used only in cases of Impeachment.

6.4.5.    Vote of the Chair

The Chair is not required to vote during Senate meetings, except when a tie exists.  The Chair shall always vote last, with his/her name called last in a roll-call vote.

6.4.6.    Proxy Voting

Due to the deliberative nature of Senate meetings, and due to the possibility of the swaying of one’s opinions during a debate, proxy voting is neither permitted nor accepted.

7.      Ratification and Amendments

Ratification of this document, and amendments thereto, shall be approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership in the Senate.  Any one item of the Senate Procedural Rules may be suspended for any period of time not to exceed an academic year by a simple two-thirds vote of the Senate.