The 411 On Resolutions
Participation in the resolution process is an important part of the National NOW Conference experience. If this is your first time attending a NOW Conference (or even if it's not), you might want to know more about the resolution process. Much of the following information is adapted from the national conference section of the NOW Bylaws and the resolutions section of the Proposed Conference Rules.
What are resolutions?
Resolutions are the guiding force behind NOW, forming the basis of NOW's organizational policy and directing our work on behalf of women's rights. Resolutions on a broad range of feminist issues are adopted each year at the national conference. Chapters, states, regions and the National Action Center are all responsible for ensuring that the positions established and the actions called for in the resolutions are implemented throughout the year.
How are resolutions written and introduced?
Any member attending the conference may propose a resolution. If you are interested in drafting a resolution, take some time to review resolutions passed at previous conferences -- this should be helpful in formulating your ideas. All resolutions must be prepared in a specific format.
There are two ways to bring a resolution before the conference for consideration: by getting it passed through an issue hearing or by using the signature/petition process. Only two resolutions may be passed out of each issue hearing. For resolutions submitted by petition, the number of signatures needed is specified each year in the Proposed Conference Rules (this number fluctuates and may be amended when the rules are adopted at the Friday morning plenary session).
The "maker" of a resolution may choose to focus on just one approach, or they may pursue both avenues, gathering signatures prior to submitting their resolution at an issue hearing. This way, if their resolution does not pass through a hearing, they have a head start on gathering the necessary signatures.
All activists are encouraged to engage in the resolution process -- by attending issue hearings and discussing the proposed resolutions and by asking questions as resolutions are circulated for signature. Resolutions passed become official NOW policy; therefore new resolutions should not duplicate those passed at previous conferences. Those writing and debating resolutions should also remember that every NOW activist will be committed to carrying out the work outlined in each of the approved resolutions.
A. Issue Hearings
A series of issue hearings is part of each national conference. Issue hearings take place throughout the Friday and Saturday breakout sessions and are organized into broad categories. For example, one issue hearing will be dedicated to considering all of the resolutions pertaining to reproductive rights.
The sole purpose of an issue hearing is to develop and approve resolutions. Activists can bring ideas to the issue hearing even if they are not in the final resolution format, but with the limited time available, it is helpful to have a draft prepared in advance.
Activists attending the issue hearings will vote on which resolutions will be presented for consideration to the full conference body. Issue hearing attendees may determine that similar proposals can be grouped together to make one resolution. They may also make changes to the language or offer suggestions to improve the resolution. Only two resolutions may be voted out of each issue hearing, but there is no requirement that two proposals must emerge from each hearing.
Issue hearing participants are encouraged to ask questions and to read the resolutions before voting, to ensure that the policy proposed is one members are willing to support and act upon. All of us -- activists, chapters, state organizations, regions and the National Action Center -- will be expected to undertake the actions called for if a resolution is passed by the full conference body.
B. Signature Process
Activists who did not take their resolution to an issue hearing, or whose resolution was not passed by a hearing, may work during the conference to gain support for their proposal via the signature process. Please read the resolutions section of the Proposed Conference Rules carefully if you plan to follow this process.
Conference participants may be approached and asked for their signature. Those approached are encouraged to read each resolution carefully and ask questions of the maker (or whoever is circulating it for signature) to ensure that the policy proposed is one members are willing to support and act upon. Remember, all of us -- activists, chapters, state organizations, regions and the National Action Center -- will be expected to undertake the actions called for if a resolution is passed by the full conference body.
Conference attendees who support a resolution may be asked to help gather petition signatures for the resolution, or to advocate for it in an issue hearing. Actively supporting proposed policy that you believe will benefit both the organization and women's equality is an exciting part of NOW's democratic process. However, you are under no obligation to assist someone in getting their resolution passed.
Who can sign petitions and/or vote on resolutions?
Any NOW member present during the conference may participate in the discussion of resolutions, vote on resolutions presented at issue hearings, or sign a petition supporting a resolution.
However, only credentialed delegates to the conference are eligible to vote on resolutions during the full floor debate at the Sunday plenary sessions. To be a credentialed delegate, your membership dues must be received at least 90 days before the conference, and you must be selected to represent a NOW chapter as one of its designated delegates.
The delegates section of the Proposed Conference Rules will help clarify the eligibility requirements for delegates. If you want even more detailed information about the credentialing process, see the Credentialing Fact Sheet.
Chapters that don't fill all their delegate slots may allow members who come to the conference without delegate status to represent their chapter as a voting delegate. Generally, chapters will ask members filling their delegate slots to advance (or at least support) proposals the chapter supports.
Often chapters that are geographically distant from the conference location have extra delegate slots, as do chapters in large metropolitan areas. Chapters may have delegates bring On-Site Credentialing forms to the conference that have been signed in advance by the chapter president. If you are interested in being a delegate, please inquire at the credentialing table.
My resolution passed at an issue hearing / I gathered enough signatures -- now what?
Once resolutions are passed out of an issue hearing or have the required number of signatures, they must be delivered to the Resolutions Committee at the conference office -- both in print and as an electronic file. Resolutions passed out of an issue hearing are due no later than 2.5 hours after the scheduled close time of that issue hearing. Resolutions submitted by petition must be turned in no later than 2.5 hours after the scheduled close time of the last issue hearing on the agenda. The location of the conference office will be clearly posted on-site.
Conference Resolutions Committee
The Conference Resolutions Committee is appointed each year by the NOW president and confirmed by the National Board to serve for that national conference. The responsibilities of the committee include:
- Ensuring that each resolution is prepared in the required format and contains appropriate contact information
- Confirming the passage of each resolution submitted from an issue hearing
- Confirming that a resolution submitted via petition contains the correct number of signatures from NOW members in attendance
- Prioritizing resolutions for presentation to the floor, with urgent or new policy coming before resolutions that are similar to existing NOW policy
- Preparing a package of the proposed resolutions for each attendee at the Sunday plenary sessions
Voting on resolutions on the conference floor
The package of proposed resolutions will be presented for consideration to the full conference body on Sunday. Only those conference attendees who are credentialed delegates will be eligible to vote on the proposed resolutions. All NOW members are encouraged to speak on the floor in support of or in opposition to the resolutions.
The conference chair will manage the floor debate to ensure each resolution has a full and complete hearing. Floor debate will be governed by the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. Read more about parliamentary procedure and check out Robert's Rules at a Glance.
What does it mean if my resolution passes, fails or is referred to the National Board?
A resolution that is passed by the credentialed delegates becomes official NOW policy. It will be posted on the NOW website and included in the NOW Policy Manual. Chapters, states, regions and the National Action Center are all responsible for ensuring that the positions established and the actions called for in the resolutions are implemented throughout the year.
A resolution that fails can be revised and reintroduced at a future conference or to the National Board. Attention should be paid to discussion and debate at issue hearings and/or in the Sunday plenary sessions in order to successfully re-work a resolution.
Referred to the National Board
Depending on the number of resolutions presented to the conference body (with the limited time available), there are often some resolutions that do not make it to the floor. The remaining resolutions will be forwarded to the National Board for consideration and a vote. Resolutions passed at board meetings become official NOW policy. Any referred resolution that does not come up for a board vote within one year will expire immediately prior to the open of the next conference.