Rotary International Council on Legislation

The Council on Legislation (CoL), Rotary’s “parliament,” meets every three years to deliberate and act upon all proposed enactments and resolutions submitted by clubs, district conferences, the General Council and Conference of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, and the RI Board. The Council itself also makes proposals.

The Council on Legislation is an important part of Rotary’s governance process. While the Board of Directors sets policies for Rotary International, the Council is where Rotary clubs have their say in the governance of the association. Every three years, each district sends a representative to the Council, which reviews proposed legislation. Every club and district is entitled to submit legislation to the Council, and some of Rotary’s most important work has resulted from Council action. Women were admitted into Rotary because of the action of the 1989 Council on Legislation, and PolioPlus was born as the result of the 1986 Council.

The Council comprises more than 500 representatives from every part of the Rotary world. Voting members include one elected representative of the clubs of each Rotary district. Some nonvoting members include the chair and vice chair of the Council, the RI president, members of the RI Board, and past RI presidents. (source Rotary International)

Memorable Council of 2010 leaves its mark on Rotary

By Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary International News — 3 May 2010

Representatives to the 2010 Council on Legislation left Chicago having enacted a number of monumental measures that will make eClubs a permanent part of Rotary International, create a fifth Avenue of Service for New Generations, increase the annual per capita dues that clubs pay to RI by US$1, and give Rotarians in North America a choice of how they receive The Rotarian .

Representatives approved a $1 increase in annual per capita dues starting in 2011-12 that will allow RI’s budget to remain profitable through 2013, but experience a deficit of about $3 million by 2015.

Rotary clubs will pay per capita dues to RI of $51 per year in 2011-12, $52 per year in 2012-13, and $53 per year in 2013-14. Per capita dues were already set at $50 for 2010-11.

The increase is only half the amount the Board of Directors had originally planned to seek. But after favorable financial forecasts, the Board offered an amended request for the $1 increase. RI’s General Surplus Fund is well above the Council-mandated minimum reserves. Market performance has improved, and the Secretariat has made significant cuts in expenses.

A representative from one of Rotary’s 531 districts looks over proposed legislation during the Council on Legislation 26 April.
Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee


After years as part of a pilot project, eClubs found a permanent home in Rotary. Representatives approved a measure that will allow up to two eClubs per district, amended from just one per district. Proponents of the amendment argued that districts that use more than one language would be better served by more eClubs.

The measure defines eClubs as Rotary clubs that meet through electronic communications. A handful of eClubs have been operating as part of the pilot project set to end 30 June. Some of the pilot clubs meet solely through online forums, while others combine electronic with in-person meetings.

Representatives also voted to add a fifth Avenue of Service, New Generations, to the four that already exist: Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, and International Service. Before starting a project, Rotarians are asked to think broadly about how their club and its members can contribute within each avenue. Supporters of the fifth avenue feel it will encourage and recognize the positive change implemented by youth and young adults involved in leadership development efforts, service projects, and exchange programs.

In the final days of the Council, representatives voted to give Rotarians in the United States and Canada the option of receiving an electronic version of The Rotarian magazine. The Council rejected a proposal to completely do away with the subscription requirement, but it did allow for joint subscriptions for two Rotarians residing at the same address. It also voted against giving a choice between print and electronic magazines to Rotarians living outside North America.

The Council tackled a variety of other issues, including decreasing the number of members on the Nominating Committee for President of Rotary International from 34 to 17; giving the Board authority to take steps to limit the number of election complaints from a district, including disqualifying a nominee for district governor; giving the Board authority to eliminate or change district boundaries if a district falls below 33 clubs or 1,200 members; and precluding clubs from limiting membership based on sexual orientation.

The Council on Legislation meets every three years to consider changes to the RI Constitution, RI Bylaws, and the Standard Rotary Club Constitution. This year’s Council convened 25-30 April. Representatives from Rotary’s 531 districts considered more than 200 pieces of legislation submitted by Rotary clubs, districts, and the RI Board of Directors.

With the Council adjourned, an official Report of Action will be compiled and posted online as soon as possible.

Source Rotary International, with minor edits by RGHF, posted 3 May 2010 by Jack M. B. Selway

Historic Moments — Memorable councils

Rotary International News — 29 April 2010
The Council on Legislation meets every three years, but no two councils are quite the same.

From the amount of legislation to the delegates who attend, each Council is different from its predecessors. Sometimes a Council stands out for reasons that have nothing to do with proposed legislation.

In the 76-year existence of the Council, Rotary International has only once had to postpone a meeting of the legislative body. Toward the end of World War II, U.S. government restrictions on the number of people who could assemble forced RI to hold the 1945 convention during four different sessions a week apart, making it impossible to reach the quorum that would allow for voting on proposed legislation. At that time, the Council was still convened as a plenary session at the convention.

The 1950 Council is notable as the one that adopted a resolution providing that ‘Service Above Self’ and ‘He Profits Most Who Serves Best’ be designated as Rotary mottoes.

The 1989 Council on Legislation vote to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide remains a watershed moment in the history of Rotary. It followed a decades-long effort from all over the Rotary world to allow for the admission of women, including several close votes at previous Council meetings.

Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera attended the opening session of the 1995 Council, held in Caracas. Past RI Director Anthony de St. Dalmas, who attended as a delegate, recalls the president entering the Council chamber accompanied by an armed guard and a band.

The 2001 Council is often noted for the amount of legislation received – more than 1,000 proposals – with over 600 being published and considered by the delegates – Source Rotary International.

Historic Moments — How the Council has evolved

Frank Mulholland, chair of the 1948 Council on Legislation,
speaks during the International Convention in Rio de Janeiro.Rotary Images


Rotary International News — 22 April 2010

In the 76 years of its existence, the Council on Legislation has evolved from a single plenary session at the international convention to an autonomous legislative entity.

The Council was created by the 1933 convention to serve 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 recession, threats to world peace, and rising unemployment.

By 1954, the Council was well established. At that year’s convention, Rotarians decided to allow for longer intervals between legislative sessions and adopted 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 independently of the convention.

Delegates line up to speak during the 1989 
Council on Legislation in Signapore. Rotary Images

Technological advances have also had a profound impact on the Council. In the 1970s, delegates sported large headphones to follow the proceedings in their own language. Today’s delegates have access to compact simultaneous interpretation equipment. 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 and weighed 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.