Summary of Gavel Line Discussion About Reconsideration

This document was created to collect information regarding how moderators address a motion to reconsider based on a question from a Millis Town Meeting Member who stated in previous towns a motion to close the previous articles from further consideration was utilized in order to prevent anyone from reconsidering an article later in the meeting or on a second night after the proponents may have left. Millis does not have specific bylaws pertaining to this subject. 

The following consists of feedback from moderators that participated in the online discussion. This data was compiled by Erin Underhill, Moderator for the Town of Millis, Massachusetts on August 9, 2019.

Of the moderators responding to the inquiry, most indicated that their towns only allow for reconsideration of a motion under specific circumstances where new information is available that was not previously known, there was hasty or erroneous action, or a changed situation developed since taking of the vote.

If the meeting spans multiple nights, most indicated that their towns only allow for reconsideration on the night the vote was taken.

Absent a bylaw, action on this motion or acceptance of the motion is completely at the moderator’s discretion. 

Here are some bylaws that are used for this topic:

Sherborn:

Section 5. No vote shall be reconsidered at the same Town Meeting unless it be ordered by two- thirds of the voters present and voting thereon at the same session. (Amended 1972) 

Uxbridge:

125-16 Reconsideration:

A motion to reconsider a vote already taken may be made only for a bona fide reason, as determined by the Moderator, such as information that was not known to the meeting at the time the vote was taken or the effect of subsequent meeting action. A motion for reconsideration, once decided, shall not be reconsidered. To pass, a motion to reconsider must receive the same percentage of votes as required to adopt the motion being reconsidered. No motion to adjourn, to lay on the table, or for the previous question shall be reconsidered.

Wayland:

[Wayland Bylaws Sec. 36-10] If an article of the Warrant has been acted upon and disposed of, a motion to reconsider the article may be made at any time if the Moderator determines that the person offering the motion discloses  significant new information to the Town Meeting concerning said article, which existed  but had not been disclosed or made available to the Meeting when the motion under that article was debated, and the Moderator thereupon explains why such information satisfies the foregoing criteria; provided however, the debate and action on said motion shall be deferred until all other articles have been disposed of. In any event, a two-thirds vote shall be required for approval of a motion to return to an article. 

Ipswich:

Once final action has been taken under an article and the meeting has taken up the next order of business, or has adjourned, the subject matter of a given article may not again be taken under consideration unless, in the discretion of the Moderator, a significant error or omission occurred in the language or the process of the original action under that article, or a significant change in circumstances has occurred, such that there is a substantial likelihood that the outcome could change upon reconsideration or that reconsideration is in the Town’s best interest.

Westborough:Article 2; Section 12 – Reconsideration:

“Once final action has been taken on an article, and the meeting has taken up the next order of business or has adjourned, the matter may not again be taken under consideration at that town meeting unless, in the best judgment of the Moderator, a significant error or omission occurred in the language or the process of the original action on the article, or a significant change of circumstances has occurred, such that there is a clear likelihood that the outcome could change upon reconsideration or that reconsideration would be in the Town’s best interest.

Such errors, omissions or changes of circumstance shall be brought to the Moderator’s attention as soon as they are known, and the Moderator shall determine if and when the matter will be taken up. The Moderator shall announce this decision to the town meeting. If the Moderator determines that the matter may be taken up pursuant to this Section, a three-quarters vote shall be necessary in order to proceed with reconsideration.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, if after all other votes and reconsideration from the floor are complete, and if the size of the appropriations voted appear to make necessary a ballot override vote (either levy, capital outlay or debt exclusion) under MGL 59 § 21C (“Proposition 2 ½”), then the conditions for reconsideration shall be deemed to have been met, and the moderator shall accept motions for reconsideration on any appropriation from the Advisory Finance Committee only, for the purpose of reducing certain appropriations or all appropriations to meet the limits of Proposition 2½, or for the purpose of making certain appropriations contingent upon an override vote.”

Duxbury:

2.4.6 Any vote for reconsideration (a) shall require the same quantitative vote as the motion to which it applies, (b) shall be made at the same session as the original motion or the next succeeding session, (c) may be made only once on any one motion, and (d) may only be considered if the proponent provides, in the opinion of the Moderator, factual information that was not available during the session when the original vote was taken.

Maynard:

Section 8: A vote shall be reconsidered only upon a motion by a voter who was present at the vote on the article in question only with the addition of new information which shall be determined by the Town Moderator. Any motion to reconsider a vote shall be made within 30 minutes of the time the result of that vote is announced. A vote of two-thirds of the voters present and voting is necessary in order to reconsider an article previously voted upon. No article can be moved for reconsideration more than once during any given town meeting. The result of a vote on a motion for reconsideration shall be final.

Breakdown of comments on the subject from the gavelline thread:

TownTopic: Reconsideration
SherbornSherborn’s by-law on the topic of reconsideration:

Section 5. No vote shall be reconsidered at the same Town Meeting unless it be ordered by two- thirds of the voters present and voting thereon at the same session. (Amended 1972) 

MaynardI only allow reconsideration if there is new information not previously known. Lacking that I do not allow a motion to reconsider.

Section 8: A vote shall be reconsidered only upon a motion by a voter who was present at the vote on the article in question only with the addition of new information which shall be determined by the Town Moderator. Any motion to reconsider a vote shall be made within 30 minutes of the time the result of that vote is announced. A vote of two-thirds of the voters present and voting is necessary in order to reconsider an article previously voted upon. No article can be moved for reconsideration more than once during any given town meeting. The result of a vote on a motion for reconsideration shall be final.

UxbridgeWhen I first got involved in town government almost 20 years ago, there was practice to ask for reconsideration right after an important vote in order for it to be defeated and thus cut off any further consideration of the issue. My predecessor stopped this practice indicating that the motion was to be used for “reconsideration”, not “kill” any further action.

Town Meeting Time (pp. 85 – 86) speaks to the tradition against reconsideration citing a number of issues the moderator should consider before granting such a motion, like “the importance of the article, the quantity and quality of the debate, the margin of the earlier vote, whether reconsideration is moved during the same season”, as well as attendance.

I recently “borrowed” Acton’s bylaw on reconsideration to amend my town’s bylaw as I think it provides clarity to the issue of reconsideration.  The underlined text is the language “borrowed” from Acton.

125-16 Reconsideration:

A motion to reconsider a vote already taken may be made only for a bona fide reason, as determined by the Moderator, such as information that was not known to the meeting at the time the vote was taken or the effect of subsequent meeting action. A motion for reconsideration, once decided, shall not be reconsidered. To pass, a motion to reconsider must receive the same percentage of votes as required to adopt the motion being reconsidered. No motion to adjourn, to lay on the table, or for the previous question shall be reconsidered.

BarreIf your town followed TMT by bylaw (as my town does), then “I move to close previous articles from further consideration” would be out-of-order, since there is no such motion in the book.

Also, it’s not a magic potion, since someone could move to rescind that motion later, and then go back to an earlier article. And such motions could naturally be combined, so you could say, “I move we rescind the motion to close previous articles, and then reconsider the motion under article X.” That being the case, the motion proposed serves no purpose, and I would find it out of order for that reason.

And my last bit of advice is that you have the power under MGL to rule any motion out of order, and the meeting has no recourse short of firing you and picking another moderator. So whatever you decide, you should do so with the authority and confidence that your decision is final.

WarehamReconsideration   A motion to reconsider, if approved by a simple majority, enables a majority in an assembly, to bring back for further consideration a motion that has already been voted on. The purpose of reconsidering a vote is to permit correction of hasty, ill-advised, or erroneous action, or to take into account added information or a changed situation that has developed since the taking of the vote. After much thought ………and review of practices in other towns, based on prior Town meeting tradition in Wareham my policy on the motion for reconsideration is that:

1.       It must be moved on the same day the vote to be reconsidered was taken.

2.      it must be made by a member who voted with the prevailing side

3.       it must be seconded and is debatable

It will only be permitted if there was a hasty, ill-advised, or erroneous action, if there is additional information that was not previously available, or there is a changed situation that developed since the taking of the vote.

WestportMy rule is no reconsideration unless the mover can convince me it will serve the meeting in some important way like correcting an error. If they convince me, we reconsider. If they can’t, we don’t. There are no exceptions.
StonehamI guess I am the anomaly, if they ask for reconsideration I just do it and dispose of it! Only once in three years have I denied it was at the end of a meeting and we had already gone in to next article … I thought at that point it was frivolous and would serve no purpose or change the original debate or vote .
WaylandJust thought I would throw in the reconsideration provision from the Wayland Bylaws that is also in my Moderator’s Rules. It’s a little complex and puts some burden on the Moderator to make some threshold considerations and then explain them. At the same time it does leave the door open for reconsideration if t here is new and significant information that existed but was not before the meeting at the time the original article was adopted. I have only used it once, and even that was controversial. The underlining is something I have added for emphasis with this note. 

[Wayland Bylaws Sec. 36-10] If an article of the Warrant has been acted upon and disposed of, a motion to reconsider the article may be made at any time if the Moderator determines that the person offering the motion discloses  significant new information to the Town Meeting concerning said article, which existed  but had not been disclosed or made available to the Meeting when the motion under that article was debated, and the Moderator thereupon explains why such information satisfies the foregoing criteria; provided however, the debate and action on said motion shall be deferred until all other articles have been disposed of. In any event, a two-thirds vote shall be required for approval of a motion to return to an article. 

FreetownRoughly the same here.  If someone was on the prevailing side and moves to reconsider, and is seconded, it goes to a vote.  On the rare instance that a meeting requires a second night, voters are warned at the end of the first night that those articles end when that night ends; they are not available for reconsideration on the second night.
IpswichIpswich follows TMT and when I started nine years ago, the reconsideration section of TMT struck me as so equivocal that I wrote and passed the bylaw below. It’s bullet proof, and I’ve never had a problem since:

Once final action has been taken under an article and the meeting has taken up the next order of business, or has adjourned, the subject matter of a given article may not again be taken under consideration unless, in the discretion of the Moderator, a significant error or omission occurred in the language or the process of the original action under that article, or a significant change in circumstances has occurred, such that there is a substantial likelihood that the outcome could change upon reconsideration or that reconsideration is in the Town’s best interest.

NortonI have a rule on reconsideration I instituted.  I will only allow reconsideration after at least three articles following it in the warrant have been acted upon.  This keeps folks in their seats a little longer. If there are fewer than three articles remaining, I accept reconsideration any time.  I clearly explain the perils of reconsideration before every meeting.

If the meeting goes to more than one night, I DO allow reconsideration of previously voted articles even if they occurred on a different night.  I believe it is ONE Town Meeting and the meeting has the right to go back. Most of our reconsideration votes are merely attempts to “lock in” the result.  While that annoys some purists, I find it is easier to let the meeting do as it wants and not spend time arguing about it.

MansfieldAt the start of each meeting I explain that “reconsideration” is a method of returning to an article because there was something technically wrong with it or new information is available, and that the motion must include the reason. This avoids frivolous motions while leaving the door open for reconsideration if needed.

There has only been one “motion to reconsider” in the past few years and it was successful for the right reason.

WestboroughArticle 2; Section 12 – Reconsideration:

“Once final action has been taken on an article, and the meeting has taken up the next order of business or has adjourned, the matter may not again be taken under consideration at that town meeting unless, in the best judgment of the Moderator, a significant error or omission occurred in the language or the process of the original action on the article, or a significant change of circumstances has occurred, such that there is a clear likelihood that the outcome could change upon reconsideration or that reconsideration would be in the Town’s best interest.

Such errors, omissions or changes of circumstance shall be brought to the Moderator’s attention as soon as they are known, and the Moderator shall determine if and when the matter will be taken up. The Moderator shall announce this decision to the town meeting. If the Moderator determines that the matter may be taken up pursuant to this Section, a three-quarters vote shall be necessary in order to proceed with reconsideration.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, if after all other votes and reconsideration from the floor are complete, and if the size of the appropriations voted appear to make necessary a ballot override vote (either levy, capital outlay or debt exclusion) under MGL 59 § 21C (“Proposition 2 ½”), then the conditions for reconsideration shall be deemed to have been met, and the moderator shall accept motions for reconsideration on any appropriation from the Advisory Finance Committee only, for the purpose of reducing certain appropriations or all appropriations to meet the limits of Proposition 2½, or for the purpose of making certain appropriations contingent upon an override vote.”

Note that the 3rd paragraph is to provide a known method for reconsideration (motions only by the Advisory Finance Committee) in a case where a Town Meeting is about to conclude and it appears that the total amounts approved in the meeting would trigger a Prop 2 1/2 override. This has never been triggered but it provide a known method for making sure the Meeting doesn’t end with too much uncertainty about what would happen if a subsequent override succeeded or failed.

ConcordTO RECONSIDER A VOTE

1. Concord Town Meeting has traditionally limited reconsideration to situations where new information, not previously available, becomes available to be considered by the Meeting.

2. A motion to reconsider must be seconded, is debatable, and requires a majority vote.

3. The Concord Town Meeting Bylaw on Reconsideration of a Vote at the Same Town Meeting

governs the limited timing when a motion for reconsideration may be brought:

[A] To move reconsideration of a motion at the same session where the original motion passed, a motion to reconsider must be made within 20 minutes of the declaration of the vote to be reconsidered.

[B] To move reconsideration of a motion passed at a previous session, notice must be given to the Moderator before adjournment of that previous session at which the vote to be reconsidered was taken.

[C] Apart from the above two timing and notice requirements, the Selectmen or Finance Committee may consent to reconsideration of a motion at any time before a meeting dissolves. However, Town Meeting itself must still vote on the merits of whether to reconsider. (See also: Concord Town Meeting Traditions and Procedures).

Duxbury2.4.6 Any vote for reconsideration (a) shall require the same quantitative vote as the motion to which it applies, (b) shall be made at the same session as the original motion or the next succeeding session, (c) may be made only once on any one motion, and (d) may only be considered if the proponent provides, in the opinion of the Moderator, factual information that was not available during the session when the original vote was taken.