A motion to amend is a motion in parliamentary proceedings which is designed to change a motion currently on the floor. This powerful tool appears in many branches of government ranging from the student government at schools to national assemblies which create laws that apply to an entire nation. Motions to amend are an important part of the parliamentary process, since they encourage input from members of the assembly on an issue under consideration, and they ensure that motions can be altered after they have been brought to the floor.
When a motion to amend is introduced, it means that the person who introduces the motion wishes to make some alteration to the topic under discussion on the floor. The motion may add something, delete something, strike a section of a motion out and insert new material, or substitute different wording if it is deemed necessary. The tool can additionally be used to postpone the vote on the motion under consideration, or to limit debate on the topic. It may also refer a motion back to a committee, or to call a recess of the assembly.
When a motion to amend affects the text of a motion undergoing discussion and voting, it is known as a “primary amendment.” When such a motion attempts to alter a previous amendment, it is called a secondary amendment. There may be numerous primary and secondary amendments attached to a motion by the time it goes to a vote, and the history of these amendments and subsequent discussion is tracked as the motion moves through the government.
The process of creating new laws, ordinances, and measures is extremely complex. It starts with the conception of a law, and the construction of a legally airtight text to bring to an assembly of committee. During the process of discussion, a formal motion to amend must be made if someone wants to change the text of the law as it appears. This ensures that there is a clear record of the law's progress before it was passed, and it solicits input from all members of the assembly by putting the motion to a vote.
In an open system of government, motions to amend can be introduced at any level of the legal process, from a Congressional committee to the policy-setting board of a library. In addition to being used as tools to change laws, motions to amend can also buy time for members of an assembly. This extra time can allow one side to convert the other to their point of view, or it can allow a minority to track down absent assembly or committee members so that the vote will reflect their opinions as well.