House of Deputies rejects proposed changes to rules on consent calendar, amendment process

By David Paulsen
Posted Jun 23, 2024
Steve Pankey

The Rev. Steve Pankey of the Diocese of Kentucky presents resolutions from the Rules of Order Committee for votes on June 23 in the House of Deputies. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The House of Deputies, in one of its first actions of the 81st General Convention on June 23, voted down a proposal that would have made it more difficult for deputies to force floor debates on individual resolutions. The house also defeated a proposal that would have required proposed amendments to be filed in advance of each session.

The defeated resolutions were part of a series of proposed changes to the deputies’ Rules of Order intended to help streamline the legislative process, especially at shortened conventions. The six legislative days at this convention, June 23-28, are fewer than the historical norm of nine or more, and the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated an even shorter four-day 80th General Convention in 2022.

The Rules of Order are approved by the House of Deputies at the start of every General Convention. They structure all aspects of the house’s business, from how and when legislative committees receive and deliberate over resolutions to whether individual resolutions can be discussed on the floor of the house before a final vote. The House of Bishops follows its own Rules of Order, though the two houses typically coordinate their schedules to ensure legislation advances smoothly.

The series of rules changes were proposed by a special committee formed by President Julia Ayala Harris, partly in response to the church’s experience of holding a more limited churchwide gathering two years ago in Baltimore, Maryland. The proposals were assigned to the deputies’ Rules of Order Committee, and that committee’s chair, the Rev. Steve Pankey of the Diocese of Kentucky, presented them to the full house on its opening legislative day.

“Nearly half the House of Deputies help shape these proposed rules,” Pankey said, after recounting the process by which the special committee presented the proposals and received input. More than 300 people attended a listening session last year, he said, and 68 provided written feedback that informed revisions.

Get full, updating ENS coverage of the 81st General Convention here.

The House of Deputies voted on nine total rules proposals on June 23, and seven of those were approved. The seven rule changes that the deputies approved related to following:

Of the two defeated resolutions, A151 received the most debate, and the reaction was almost evenly divided between supporters and opponents. It would have made significant changes to how the House of Deputies manages its consent calendar, which is a daily list of resolutions that are voted on in batches rather than individually and without debate.

At past meetings, the House of Deputies required a petition from at least three deputies to move a resolution off the consent calendar so it could be debated and voted on separately. A151 would have raised that threshold to 15 deputies.

The more controversial proposal, however, was to remove language enabling legislative committees to vote to exclude a resolution from the consent calendar. Although committees could still ask for floor debates, the Committee on Dispatch of Business would be empowered to reject those requests.

“This resolution would shift the balance of power in decision-making,” Sarah Lawton, a deputy from the Diocese of California, said in arguing against A151. “We need to trust in the work and leadership of our legislative committees.”

The Rev. Laurie Brock, a deputy from the Diocese of Lexington, spoke in favor of A151. In her experience as a deputy and as a committee member, it isn’t hard to find 15 deputies willing to petition for a floor debate on resolutions when they feel passionately about an issue.

“I think this change will help us better use our time, as we live out discipleship, walk the way of love and invest our energy in the work of the church,” Brock said.

After an extended debate, 47% of deputies voted in favor of A151 – falling far short of the two-thirds supermajority that is required for Rules of Order changes.

Resolution A154 would have required amendments to be filed before the start of the session when deputies are scheduled to take up a resolution. That rules change received majority support from 61% of deputies but still was defeated for failing to achieve a supermajority.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service based in Wisconsin. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


Tags