kevin_standlee: (Gavel of WSFS)
[personal profile] kevin_standlee
Ben Yalow has pointed out to me that, in the context of a discussion that happened a few days ago about when WSFS Constitutional amendments take effect and the somewhat esoteric and nearly theoretical question of whether a vote in favor of ratification can be considered, the following Ruling of Continuing Effect, from 2002:

CH-2002-4: The Chair ruled that amendments to the Constitution become part of the Constitution at the moment of ratification, although they generally do not take effect until later; therefore, they are subject to amendment as any other part of the Constitution.
So what does this mean in practice, particularly regarding the YA Award with its problematical blanks and provisions, up for ratification this year? I've been argued around to the following:

1. If the YA Award as it currently stands is ratified, it becomes part of the WSFS Constitution the moment it is ratified, but it does not take effect (including its provision) until the end of Worldcon 75.

2. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

3. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

4. I would rule an amendment to strike out the special provision in the YA Amendment to be a reduction of scope and thus subject to immediate ratification. That's not because it reduces the number of words in the proposal. (You can increase the scope of change while simultaneously reducing the word count of a given proposal.) It is because striking out the special provision brings the proposal closer to the existing Constitutional rules; that makes the scope of change smaller, and we can ratify anything between the existing Constitution and the fully-scoped proposal up for ratification.

Now CH-2002-4 is a Chair's Ruling that has never been overturned either by a contrary ruling, a Standing Rule, or a change to the WSFS Constitution; therefore, it has significant binding force over WSFS procedures, although the Business Meeting could decide to set it aside. As part of the body of "Customs and Usages of WSFS," it has higher precedence than the parliamentary authority, Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, although in fact I contend that it's quite consistent with RONR anyway.

The embarrassing thing about having to have CH-2002-4 pointed out to me is that I'm the one who made the ruling back at the 2002 WSFS Business Meeting. Oops. Oh, and because I'm the one who wrote the procedural end-run about naming, I'm setting myself up to, in effect, overrule myself. It wouldn't even be the first time that I, as WSFS Business Meeting Chair, have overruled an action that I, in some other role, took in WSFS.

Nothing I have said in this post should be taken as my expressing an opinion on the merits of a WSFS-sanctioned YA fiction award, or on the merits of any name (or lack of a name). I'm neutral on the merits. I'm only interested in making sure the process is correct.

Oh, and I still don't think you can reconsider an affirmative vote to ratify a Constitutional amendment.

Date: 2017-05-17 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
See, if you can't remember this stuff, it just proves that we have too many rules! :)

Katie R

Date: 2017-05-19 12:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We could of course go back to the Good Olde Days of the first US Senate, where all questions of procedure were put to the Chair whose ruling could not be contested. Nice and simple that way.

Date: 2017-05-22 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

We could also revert to the 'true' democracy of ancient Athens, when a Council of 500 determined the agenda and their chairman was chosen by lot every day. Each randomly chosen chairman could serve no more than 24 hours at a time.

Nice and simple that way, too. :)


Date: 2017-05-17 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What about the following sequence of events:

1) YA amendment ratified as it currently stands, complete with the special provision. It is now part of the constitution, but not yet in effect.

2) Separate amendment approved to name the award. Based on the parts of the constitution currently in effect, it would require ratification in 2018 to be officially part of the constitution, but...

3) Close of the final business meeting/con. Ratified provisions now take effect immediately, including the special provision of the YA amendment which says that a vote of the BM to name the award doesn't require further ratification. As per (2), such a vote has in fact already taken place and been properly approved by a validly constituted BM. Therefore, under provisions of the constitution now in effect, the naming amendment also takes effect (say 1 nanosecond after the YA amendment takes effect) and also becomes part of the constitution, without any further ratification being necessary. Nitpicking and Flyspecking Committee cleans up the language as appropriate.

The drawback of this interpretation is that there's no opportunity for the BM to vote to overrule the chair (or the N&FC) that this is what just happened (unless you can shoehorn a chair's ruling about the future effect of the motions into the regular BM in Helsinki). In practice, I think the point is largely moot, because I don't see any way that the San Jose BM will not ratify a simple naming amendment passed to them from Helsinki (unless it gets named for someone who is the subject of a huge scandal in the intervening year), and everyone will probably unofficially use the name as soon as Helsinki adopts it (official communications can pull a reverse-Prince and refer to "The award soon to be known as ..."). So I think it's really about whether San Jose needs to take up a few minutes of their BM to pass the official ratification. But the logic of (3) sounds reasonable to me. I think it's also consistent with the intent of both meetings - the Kansas City BM clearly intended to allow the naming and final passage to take place in Helsinki, and the Helsinki BM, by passing both amendments (assuming that happens), ratifies this intent. So I don't think there's any "violation of the spirit of the rules" here.
Edited Date: 2017-05-17 08:23 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-18 11:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really don't want to try any procedural games by passing things in multiple ways. It will just confuse things further.

The intent of the Kansas City Business Meeting is actually irrelevant here. In general, not single WSFS Business Meeting has the authority to bind or to loose any other Business Meeting. It takes two consecutive meetings working in tandem to do so. I'm aware that KC wanted to delegate the final naming to Helsinki; after all, I wrote the provision! But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that there's almost no way to do this without violating significant WSFS Constitutional provisions.

I know that many people find the fact that it take so long to make changes maddening. They want INSTANT CHANGE RIGHT THIS MINUTE NOW BEFORE I EVEN ASKED FOR IT HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME WAIT. But seriously, Constitutions aren't supposed to be easy to change. WSFS has evolved a complicated system that requires two years for most significant changes for a good reason.

If "intent of the meeting" was all that mattered, Kansas City could have passed a "blank check" amendment that struck out the entire WSFS Constitution and allowed Helsinki to impose a brand new one with any change whatsoever, all of which would take effect at the moment it was ratified. Now that's clearly absurd, but maybe it throws into sharper relief why the provision from last year is also a kind of "blank check" and thus invalid.

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