Structure and Operations of Assembly Meetings
The American Medical Association-Resident and Fellow Section (AMA-RFS) Assembly transacts its business according to a blend of rules imposed by its bylaws, and generally pursuant to the principles outlined in The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure by Alice Sturgis. No rigid codification of its rules exist. Parliamentary law protects the right of the free and fair debate, the right of the majority to decide, and the right of the minority to protest and be protected.
There are two major ways in which business generally is introduced to the AMA-RFS Assembly: reports and resolutions. Both are deliberated in reference committee hearings prior to their introduction on the Assembly floor for a vote. The AMA-RFS Assembly is officially opened for business once the quorum count has been presented and met, and the "Rules of Order" have been adopted.
AMA-RFS Reference Committees
The Assembly meeting is too short for every delegate to become familiar with all issues raised in the resolutions and reports. By dividing the work of hearing, investigating, and making recommendations on motions among small representative groups, or reference committees, an opportunity is provided for all residents to express their views. Also, the Assembly is able to transact an enormous amount of business with a thorough understanding of the facts about each motion.
The Reference Committee
Reference committees are created from appointments made by the Governing Council Chair based on interest as indicated on the registration materials. Each reference committee will consist of five (5) members and an alternate, with the only requirements for service being resident membership in the AMA and presence at the meeting.
Ideally, the Chair of a given reference committee should be experienced in the activities of the AMA-RFS and familiar with the actions of the Assembly. Other committee members need not have any particular qualifying experience.
All appointments to the reference committees are made contingent upon presence at the meeting, with alternates named specifically for the purpose of filling any vacancies which might occur as a result of non-attendance. All appointees are briefed regarding the specific charge of the committees and their role as members of a reference committee.
Each reference committee meets simultaneously to hear testimony on the resolutions and reports that have been referred to it. A tentative schedule showing the order in which resolutions and reports are expected to be discussed is distributed just prior to the opening of the hearings.
Reference Committee Hearings
Reference committee hearings are open to all resident physicians, guests, interested outsiders, and the press. Any resident is privileged to speak on the resolutions and reports under consideration. Other individuals, may, upon recognition by the Chair of the reference committee, be permitted to speak. The Chair is privileged to call upon anyone in attendance if, in his/her opinion, the individuals may have information that would be helpful to the committee in drafting its report.
Equitable hearings are the responsibility of the reference committee Chair, and the committee may establish its own rules on the presentation of testimony, with respect to time limitations, repetitive statements and the like. It is recommended that all those who wish to give testimony on a particular item of business be given the opportunity to do so once, before others are allowed to speak a second time.
It is recommended that the reference committee Chair not ask for an expression of the sentiments of those attending the hearing by an informal vote on a particular items. The committee members may ask questions to be sure that they understand the opinions being expressed, or may answer questions if a resident seeks clarification; however, the committee members must not enter into arguments with speakers, or express opinions during the hearings. Likewise, debate between two or more speakers is out of order. All testimony must be directed to the reference committee Chair. The reference committee listens carefully and evaluates all opinions presented so that it may provide the AMA-RFS Assembly with carefully considered recommendations.
The reference committee hearing is the proper forum for discussion of controversial items of business. In general, those who have not taken advantage of the hearing to present their viewpoints, or to introduce evidence should be reluctant to do so on the Assembly floor.
Reference Committee Reports
Following its open hearings, a reference committee will convene an executive (closed) session for deliberations and construction of its report. The committee may call into executive session anyone whom it wishes to hear or question. A staff member of the AMA Department of Resident and Fellow Services will attend the executive sessions.
The staff person provides information on related AMA-RFS actions, AMA policy, and assists in devising the appropriate format for reports, gathering additional information that the committee requests, and producing a report to be distributed to the Assembly the following day.
Reference committees have wide latitude in their efforts to facilitate expression of the will of the majority on matters before them, and to give credence to the testimony they hear. The reference committee has the option to recommend that an original resolution be subject to usual parliamentary procedure by recommending adopt, not adopt, refer, refer for decision, or file. The reference committee’s other option is to recommend substitute language for the original resolution. Finally, the reference committee may recommend that original resolutions of similar subject matters be consolidated. Such consolidated resolutions then become the substitute resolution proposed by the reference committee.
At the time of the reference committee report, each report or resolution that has been accepted by the Assembly for consideration is placed before the Assembly for disposition along with the reference committee’s recommendations. In the event that a number of closely related items of business have been considered by the reference committee and a consolidated or substitute resolution has been proposed by the reference committee, the reference committee substitute will be the matter before the Assembly for discussion.
Reference committee recommendations should correspond to the standard types of Assembly actions. These are defined as follows:
Adopt: Approve report or resolution as action to be implemented through Governing Council and/or transmitted to the AMA House of Delegates for its consideration.
File: Accept report for information only.
Refer: Send report or resolution to Governing Council for further consideration and a report at a later date.
Refer For Decision: Delegate to the AMA-RFS Governing Council the decision as to what action is appropriate.
Not Adopt: Defeat report or resolution.
Davis’ Rules of Order defines a number of motions that Assembly members may make in order to carry out the business before them. A resolution’s "Resolved" clauses are technically motions. Another such motion is the amendment. An amendment, while not a final action, is defined as an addition, deletion, alteration, or substitution of a section of a resolution or report.
Two basic rules apply to making motions. After a motion is before the Assembly, only motions of a higher precedence may be proposed. Motions are also considered and voted on in reverse order of their proposal. (See the Appendix for a list of motions and their order of precedence.)
AMA-RFS Assembly Business Session
Reference committee reports will be available for distribution on the day (Saturday of the meeting) following the reference committee hearings on the tables in the rear of the Assembly room.
The main motion (main item of business) on the floor will be either of the following:
• The original resolution if the reference committee recommends adopt, not
adopt, refer, refer for decision, or file.
• The substitute resolution as proposed by the reference committee.
The main motion on the floor is subject to parliamentary procedure. If the main motion on the floor is the original resolution and is defeated, that item of business is considered completed and the next item of business is considered. If the main motion on the floor is a substitute resolution, the original resolution can be reintroduced as an amendment by substitution and is dealt with accordingly. If the substitute resolution as proposed by the reference committee is defeated without reintroduction of the original resolution, that item of business is considered completed, and the next item of business is considered.
The Chair of the reference committee will present the reference committee’s report to the Assembly. Only the committee’s recommendations for each item will be read unless there is debate on the floor of the Assembly on a particular item. If there is debate, the reference committee Chair also reads the rationale behind the committee’s recommendation. Any appropriate motion for amendment may be made from the floor. In the absence of such a motion, the AMA-RFS Chair will state the question in accordance with the recommendation of the reference committee. The Assembly may vote not to accept the committee’s recommendation, and by so doing, the vote reverts to consideration of the original resolution.
The Consent Calendar includes all items of business that are referred to the reference committee. All these items are listed in the reference committee report along with the committee’s recommendations. When the Consent Calendar is presented at the start of the reference committee report, a delegate may move to extract any item for debate without a vote or a "second." All items not extracted will be voted on collectively by a single vote as the first item of business. Then, all extracted items will be dealt with on an individual basis.
The Reaffirmation Calendar includes those resolutions submitted to the Assembly that largely reiterate existing RFS policy. The calendar is presented to the Assembly before the reference committee hearings for approval. Any member of the Assembly can remove a resolution from the calendar. If removed, the resolution is immediately assigned to a reference committee.
Governing Council Reports
Governing Council Reports are written in response to issues that were referred to the Council by previous Assemblies, or that the Governing Council believes would be of interest to the Assembly. Reports are referred to reference committees for the committee’s recommendations. Reports that contain specific recommendations may be adopted, referred, or not adopted. Those which contain informational materials and no specific proposal for action, may be filed.
Governing Council Members
The Delegate and Alternate Delegate officially transmit resolutions from the Assembly to the AMA House of Delegates. When the business of the House of Delegates (HOD) is transacted, they are the only official representatives for the AMA-RFS, although other resident physicians may be delegates to the HOD.
Elections for Governing Council officers take place at both the Annual and Interim meetings. Voting is conducted by secret ballot, with the Rules Committee responsible for counting the votes. During the Annual Meeting, the offices of Vice Chair, Speaker, Vice Speaker, Delegate, Alternate Delegate, and Membership and Outreach Officer are considered. During the Interim Meeting, only the Chair-Elect position is considered.