Council gets ready to meet in Chicago

Delegates hold up voting cards during the 2010 Council on Legislation. Photo by Monika Lozinska/Rotary International

Delegates from Rotary’s 532 districts will gather in downtown Chicago next week, 21-26 April, to consider changes to the policies that govern Rotary International and its member clubs.

The Council on Legislation meets every three years to debate proposals submitted by Rotary clubs, districts, and the RI Board of Directors. The Council has the power to pass resolutions and to make changes to the Constitution of Rotary International, Rotary International Bylaws, and the Standard Rotary Club Constitution.

Every district sends a representative to the Council, and every club and district may propose legislation. The 174 pieces of legislation being debated during this year’s Council were received at Rotary headquarters by the due date of 31 December 2011.

Over its 79-year history, the Council has developed from a single plenary session at the international convention to an autonomous legislative entity.

Created in 1933, the Council was envisioned as an advisory body to assist with the review of enactments and resolutions proposed at the annual convention. It first convened as part of the 1934 convention, as Rotarians struggled with a worldwide depression, threats to world peace, and rising unemployment.

By 1954, the Council was well established, and Rotarians decided to allow for longer intervals between legislative sessions, adopting a biennial framework for voting upon enactments and resolutions. The next deliberations were held at the 1956 convention.

The 1970 convention further modified Rotary International’s legislative process when it decided that the Council should no longer serve in an advisory capacity but instead become RI’s official legislative body, considering proposals to amend the RI Constitution and Bylaws and the Standard Rotary Club Constitution. Four years later, delegates decided that the Council would meet triennially, still in conjunction with the convention. Finally, in 1977, the Council adopted an enactment to meet separately from the convention.

Technological advances have also had a profound impact on the Council. In the 1970s, delegates wore large headphones to hear the proceedings in their own languages. Today’s delegates have access to compact simultaneous interpretation equipment. And the use of a single interpreter has given way to multiple interpreters working out of booths on the side of the Council chambers. Electronic voting was introduced in 2001.

Over the decades, the Council has debated virtually every nuance of RI policy and every detail of membership and attendance rules. While individual Rotarians may not always agree with its decisions, one thing is clear: The Council is Rotary’s primary agent for change, allowing the organization to evaluate its relevance in today’s rapidly evolving world, reflecting shifts in lifestyles, priorities, technology, and business.

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DISTRICT 6900 is represented by PDG Claudia Mertl at the Council on Legislation.