kevin_standlee: (Business Meeting)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Some months ago, I gave a prospective opinion regarding whether the WSFS Business Meeting in Helsinki this year would be able to apply a name to the proposed YA Award (not a Hugo Award) without having to go through the re-ratification process. At that time, I said that attempting to apply a name to the award would increase the scope of the constitutional amendment and require re-ratification. Since then, I have given the issue more thought, studied the wording of the constitutional amendment, and discussed it with the other members of the WSFS Nitpicking and Flyspecking Committee, and I have come to a new conclusion. I have changed my mind, but only in a limited way.

I now currently intend to rule that the WSFS Business Meeting in Helsinki can apply a name to the YA Award, but only if it does so after ratifying the pending proposal, and not before voting on ratification.

To understand why I've come to this new conclusion, you need to consider the wording of the constitutional amendment, including the temporary provision that is part of it. The relevant part of the proposal that got first passage in Kansas City and is pending ratification in Helsinki is this:

2. Insert the following section before existing Section 3.4.:

3.X: < blank > Award for Best Young Adult Book. The < blank > Award for Best Young Adult Book is given for a book published for young adult readers in the field of science fiction or fantasy appearing for the first time during the previous calendar year, with such exceptions as are listed in Section 3.4.

Provided that filling the < blank > in this amendment to name the award shall not be considered a greater change in the scope of the amendment.


The italicized section ("Provided that...") is a temporary provision, like the other temporary provisions regarding re-ratification that are not relevant to this discussion. Such temporary provisions last as part of the Constitution until the conditions to which they apply are complete or no longer relevant.

My previous ruling was that this provision was inoperative if the meeting attempted to apply it to the proposal before ratifying it. But what if they ratify it first? That would make the entire paragraph, including the provision, part of the WSFS Constitution. Ratified constitutional amendments are by definition constitutional, and any specific exception overrides a general rule.

The general rule is that changes to a pending constitutional amendment that would increase the scope of the change require an additional year of ratification. However, this provision, passed by one WSFS Business Meeting (in 2016), if ratified in 2017, would override the general rule for this one specific case, and would allow a single business meeting to fill the blank in the name of the Award immediately, by majority vote. The only way one Business Meeting can bind a future one is through the WSFS Constitution (or to a lesser extent by a standing rule). The opposite is true: this provision looses a Business Meeting (as in "bind and loose") from a general prohibition. The proposal will have been voted upon by two consecutive WSFS Business Meetings, and thus meets the requirement if the Helsinki meeting ratifies it. (If they don't, the question of a name is of course moot.)

There's a corollary to this: Provisions stick to the Constitution until they are exhausted. Should the Helsinki meeting ratify the amendment and not name the award, the provision would still be part of the Constitution, and any future WSFS Business Meeting could name the Award in a single year, by majority vote. Once the Award gets named (either at Helsinki or at a subsequent year), the provision would be exhausted and drop out of the Constitution. Any subsequent attempt to rename the Award would be a new constitutional amendment and would require the usual two-year two-step.

I advise the proponents of this proposal, should they wish to propose a name for the proposed YA Award, to submit any naming resolution as a new constitutional amendment, with a provision that it only be considered after the YA Award ratification is voted upon, and of course only if the YA Award is ratified.

As I said, I've discussed this with the other members of the WSFS Nitpicking & Flyspecking Committee, and all of the members who expressed an opinion agree with my reasoning. Of course, this is still likely to be controversial, and (like the original proposed ruling), I anticipate that it will be appealed, so ultimately, a majority of the members present and voting in Helsinki will decide. As with my original opinion, I think it's sufficiently important that I'm getting this announcement out here now rather than dropping it out of the blue in Helsinki.
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