by Rachel Jermann, SPT (@RJGotAGoni)
The APTA House of Delegates convened on June 6-8, 2016 at the Opryland Convention Center in Nashville, TN, just prior to the NEXT conference. The delegates debated 19 motions that were presented in Packet I, and passed 18 out of 19 motions, several unanimously. Some of the highlights included unanimous passage of RC 11, intense discussion on the history of PT, and discussion on the recommendation to spell out credentials for consumer protection. The delegates also charged the Board of Directors to immediately send out a press release on the #ChoosePT campaign to combat opioid addiction.
Are you lost yet?
The House of Delegates is the policy-making body of the APTA. However, there is a certain amount of confusion about what actually happens. So, let’s break it down.
What is the House of Delegates?
The House of Delegates is comprised of roughly 400 voting delegates from 50 states. Think of the House as being similar to the US House of Representatives; each state elects delegates to serve in the House, and the number of delegates they elect is based on the number of APTA members within the state. Thus, states like California tend to have the most delegates. States such as Alaska and Hawaii have the least. There are also non-voting members of the House, who can contribute to discussion, but do not vote on motions. These members are the Board of Directors, sections, and caucuses (such as the PTA Caucus and the Student Assembly).
The Speaker of the House moderates and leads discussions. The current Speaker of the House is Sue Griffin (WI), with Vice Speaker Stuart Platt (GA). These positions are 3 year terms.
What happens during the House?
National board elections
The elections process takes up a good part of the first day the delegates are required to be there. Day one, the candidates interview with the delegates for the better part of the day. During these sessions, candidates can present their platform and delegates can ask questions. Delegates vote on the candidates during opening session and the new board members are sworn in at closing ceremonies. This year, elections took place for Vice Speaker, Secretary, Director, and Nominating Committee.
More information on elections, including a timeline for elections, can be found here.
Motion discussion & development
Voting on motions happens while the House is in session, but the bulk of the work occurs before the House and during breaks. Motion concepts are introduced months in advance of the House so that components and the Reference Committee can begin to work on the language of the motion. Just as a bill would move through the US House or Senate, motions require discussion, writing, and re-writing before they come to the floor of the House. This also allows time to gather co-sponsors for the motion. For example, RC 11 was brought forward by the Oregon Chapter, but then co-sponsored by several states and sections.
An online community discussion board called the Hub is one place where discussion takes place on motions. Within the Hub community is also access to Packet I, which contains the motions and their support statements. This is typically released about a month prior to the House, and Packets II and III follow while the House is in session.
While motion development and discussion takes place months before the House and during the House, voting takes place while the House is in session. The House is governed by Robert's Rules of Order. In short, the motion is read on the floor, the support statement is read, and then the Speaker of the House calls for discussion on the motion. Discussion for or against the motion takes place, and then the Speaker calls for a vote. Voting can take place via a voice vote (aye or no), standing vote, or via the Audience Response System (ARS) voting devices. Typically a voice or standing vote is called for first, and if a majority cannot be determined, the ARS devices are used. Delegates may also move that the ARS devices be used for motions that are particularly sensitive or contentious to obtain an accurate count.
Why does the House matter?
The House allows the members of the APTA, through their delegates, to set policy and guide the APTA Board of Directors. This connection allows the APTA to remain relevant to its members by focusing on the issues that matter most. The motions give the Board power and guidance on behalf of the membership.
How do you get involved?
Go to your state association or section. Though you may not want to be a delegate, there are usually lots of opportunities to take leadership positions at the district or state level. As a member, you can also contact your board at any time.