Welcome to the Chair Guide! This is a comprehensive guide on everything you can or need to do as Chair. Of course, Chairs can always choose to do more than what is stated in this guide.
While this guide is primarily for (Deputy) Chairs to use, anyone can read it, and that’s on purpose! Maybe you’re thinking about running for Chair and want to know what being Chair entails, or you’re just curious about what Chairs do. If you have any suggestions on how to improve this guide or if you find an error in it somewhere, please feel free to contact the current Chair of the Assembly.
The Chair is the Assembly’s leader. As the ex officio moderator of the Assembly, they’re responsible for maintaining decorum and a constructive atmosphere so legislation can be collectively refined to achieve the best result. They are tasked with ensuring that the Assembly functions smoothly, from votes to thread releases to Legislator Checks. This important role requires broad support from legislators, hence why the Chair is elected via Approval Voting, a system to elect a consensus candidate even if another candidate is supported by a simple majority they appeal exclusively to.
Read the Guide
Mainly, the Chair is responsible to respond to motions (be it to vote, to waive restrictions, release information, …) in the Assembly in a timely fashion—and while all what follows might intimidate you at first, with all the rules, exceptions, and small details to memorize, you’ll start to get the hang of if you’ve (seen it be) done it a couple of times! This section will provide you with everything about the Assembly’s procedure.
Types of Bills
Before you can open or close a vote, you need to determine the type of bill you’re dealing with ‒ different mandatory debate/voting times and passage thresholds apply, all of which play important roles you need to consider. The Legislative Procedure Act and the Charter list the following properties (note that the time they are to remain at vote is equal to the debate time) for the different proposal types:
|General Laws and Amendments
|Consitutional Laws and Amendments
|50% (unless said otherwise)
|Same as regular amendments
Currently, the Charter overrides the 50% majority needed for an appointment to the Council on Regional Security to be a 60% supermajority.
A special case is the Chair’s discretionary editing power laid out in Article 2 of the Legislative Procedure Act. To save time on small corrections of the law, the Chair has the power to “correct typographical errors, grammatical errors, naming or formatting inconsistencies at any time, as long as these corrections do not alter the original intent of the law” without the need for a formal vote by the Assembly. However, before such edits are made, they have to be proposed to the Assembly for a three-day commenting period, after which the Chair can enact them under the same procedure as a passed bill (see Finishing a Vote).
General Legislative Procedure
A general schedule for the journey of a bill to become law is set out in the Legislative Procedure Act.
The process begins with any legislator making a proposal for a bill, resolution, or appointment, after which the whole Assembly can debate and provide feedback on it ‒ perhaps someone even introduces a competing proposal, which gets important later on when opening a vote. If the Cabinet makes an Executive Order (not to be confused with regular “Cabinet Orders”, which deal with small things such as allotment of Regional Officer slots!), it is considered automatically proposed to the Assembly. As Chair, you will have to ensure that discussion remains civil and orderly so that the proposal can be properly refined before being brought to vote!
Before you can open a vote on a proposal, it has to be motioned by a legislator, and another legislator must second (back) this motion. You should regularly check the Assembly forum to be aware when such motions are made! Additionally, the respective mandatory debate time must have passed since the last edit was made to the motioned bill. With a provided sufficient reason (as judged by you), a legislator can however motion to waive this limit, but you have to wait 24h before passing the motion so objections can be raised ‒ if a legislator objects and gets seconded by another legislator, you may not pass the motion. On the other hand, you may also delay the opening of a vote for a reasonable time frame in case you believe that opening a vote at this time would preempt active debate or create scheduling problems. Executive Orders are to be put to vote automatically after their debate time, with no need to be motioned. For the remainder of procedures, they are then treated like any other bill.
Once you have brought a proposal to vote, you can usually just wait until the voting period is over. In rare cases however, a legislator might motion to cancel voting on the proposal so that further edits can be made. Like with waiving debate time, they have to provide you a sufficient reason, and you have to wait 24h before making your ruling in order to allow other legislators to object. Until you have made a ruling on such motions, the proposal won’t officially pass or fail, so don’t worry about having to rush a possibly difficult decision without giving it the appropriate thought.
When a bill’s voting period is over, you count the votes and announce the results, officially passing or failing the proposal. If a proposal fails, there is a two-week ban on substantially similar (again, as judged by you) legislation being brought to vote, which you may waive under the same procedure as waiving debate time.
Bringing A Bill to Vote
So, a proposal has received a motion and a second from two different legislators ‒ how do you go about opening that vote now?
Make Sure It’s Legal to Vote
First of all, you need to verify that the proposal is eligible to go to vote: Check when the forum post containing the bill was last modified, and whether the mandatory debate time, based on the type of proposal you’re dealing with, has elapsed since then. If that isn’t the case, the proposal can’t legally go to vote yet ‒ either suggest to motion to waive discussion time instead, or just sit out the remaining time; in any case, you should give notice why you’re not opening a vote just yet so legislators are informed and know you’re active. If you wish to exercise your right to delay the vote for a bit, the same applies.
Furthermore, take a final look at the formatting of the motioned bill and confirm that it complies with the Law Standards Act. If there are violations, don’t worry ‒ to ensure formatting compliance without the need for additional debate time, the Law Standards Act allows you to make such required edits to the bill yourself just before bringing it to vote! For transparency, you should note any such use of your powers in the voting thread.
Create the Voting Thread
You’ve affirmed the motioned bill to be in proper formatting and confirmed the mandatory debate time to have passed, so you’re good to open the vote: Create a new thread with all relevant information in the Voting Floor subcategory! Keep in mind that if there are two or more competing bills, you have to bring them both to vote at the same time, with a separate voting thread for each of them.
The legally required content of the thread’s opening post is the proposal itself, as well as a countdown (using the Time and Date Live Countdown Timer site) to the conclusion of the vote. To keep things accessible for both present legislators and those looking at legislative history in the future, you should also include a link to the respective debate thread and note the proposal type as well as the resulting passage threshold (if two proposals compete, also mention the resulting additional requirements ‒ see “Closing a Vote”). For newer legislators, you might also want to explicitly mention how to vote ‒ direct to the poll, but a post in the voting thread with “Aye”, “Nay”, or “Abstain” is also an admissible (although uncommon) way to vote, as long as one doesn’t vote both by poll and by post. Of course you can also just go ahead and copy the code of a previous voting thread’s OP and swap out details as needed.
The title should also include the ID code for the vote (a string of letters and numbers noting the year, month, and number of the vote in that month)—don’t worry, this might sound complicated, but you’ll get the hang of it easily: Simply start with “A”, then put the last two digits of the current year (e.g. “21” for 2021) followed by two digits for the current month (e.g. “07” for July). After that, put a full stop and two digits to signal the number of the vote within this month (e.g. “01” for the first vote of the month, “02” for the second, …) ‒ and voilà, you should have yourself a vote ID looking something like “A2107.03”! Once you’ve figured out the vote ID, put it at the start of the title (behind your “[AT VOTE]” tag, if you set one). Also ‒ once again for clarity ‒ you should include the title of the debate thread in the voting thread’s title, so copy it over quickly. That should be all you need for the voting thread’s title! Usually, it’ll now look something like this: [AT VOTE] A2107.03 Amending the Elections Act - 3(3)b.
You’re now basically good to go and post the voting thread! However, before doing so, you need to make the poll. To do this, click the gear at the top of the post and “Build Poll.” This will bring you to the poll configurations page. To make the poll: click on the gear at the bottom of the configurations (“Show Advanced Options”); make sure you are on “Single Choice;” give the poll a title if you wish (something short like “Should this law/amendment/resolution be passed?” or “Should X be appointed/recalled?”); for the poll options, simply put “Aye,” “Nay,” and “Abstain” in one line each; you should limit the poll to the “legislators” group; the poll should automatically close at the specified time (you should use the countdown to help you!); and “Show Results” should be “Always visible,” the result chart should be bar, and “Show Who Voted” clicked on. Once you’ve done that and confirmed the poll, the vote’s live!
For this part, there is an Assembly Auto-Formatter function, however it is unfortunately for the old forum; but it can still be helpful! The input form for voting threads can be found here.
Announce the Vote
These are no legal requirements, but quality-of-life favours for your fellow legislators. After you’ve posted the voting thread, also post a message linking to the new voting thread in the proposal’s debate thread (something like “This is now at vote.”). You can also ping
@Legislators in the #legislators-lounge on Discord with a short message that voting on the proposal has been opened and link the debate and voting threads. For legislators that aren’t on Discord, you might want to additionally publish a NationStates Dispatch with similar content and ping legislators’ nations in it.
The Auto-Formatter will also generate formatted suggestions for Discord and gameside pings.
Closing a Vote
The voting time on a bill has run out and you’re about to close the vote, or you have decided to pass a motion to cancel voting—what should you do?
Compile the Results
Naturally, first of all, you’ll need to check whether the proposal passed (if you’re cancelling voting, this naturally won’t be necessary). For that, calculate whether the number of Ayes, divided by the combined amount of Ayes and Nays, is above the passage threshold for the given type of bill. If two bills compete, only the one with the highest Ayes percentage ‒ discounting abstentions! ‒ passes (provided it reached the usual threshold), all others fail. Don’t forget to check whether a legislator has voted both by poll and by post, potentially voting twice!
After you’ve determined the outcome, post it in the voting thread. This can be as short as “With X Ayes against Y Nays, the bill has passed/failed with whatever% support, discounting the Z Abstentions” or as detailed and graphically enhanced as Amerion’s Final Tallies—if you want, you can just copy and edit the BBCode of earlier voting result announcements. You should then edit the debate and voting threads’ tags to passed, failed, cancelled, …, depending on the outcome of the vote. You can also make a short post in the debate thread (akin to when you opened the vote) saying something like “This has passed/failed.” and link to the official announcement of the results. Posting a short message on Discord linking to the results would probably be a good thing to do too, but again, these are not legal requirements.
For this part, there is an Assembly Auto-Formatter function! The input form for voting results can be found here.
Update the Legislative Activity Spreadsheet
The voting results have been announced and the law has been duly enacted. One last step remains to be done ‒ you need to update the Legislative Activity spreadsheet, which is important for both the monthly Legislator Check and easy-to-access recordkeeping. However, this is also one of the most tedious steps. (To gain editing access, contact @Farengeto.)
The easy part of this is making the entry on the main sheet (“Legislative History”), where all the Assembly votes since 2018 are listed. Scroll right to its bottom and enter the details of the vote in the same format as those recorded above it (you might have to append new rows, possibly also one for the header of the month ‒ simply use the input prompt right below the last row of the sheet to add the required amount): To get the total number of legislators (required for the “Number of Votes” and “Turnout” columns), open the current month’s legislator roster sheet (simply named “[month] [year]”), click and hold on the first-listed legislator’s forum name, and drag down until you’ve selected the forum names of all listed legislators. In the bottom right of your screen, you should then see a small label telling you how many cells you have selected ‒ this is, in this case, the current number of legislators. The “Number of Votes” is recorded as “[ayes + nays + abstentions]/[number of legislators]”. “Turnout” is calculated by dividing the sum of Ayes, Nays, and Abstentions by the current number of legislators.
After this, you’ll need to record every single legislator’s ballot in the respective vote. The first thing you have to do for this is add a new column to the current month’s legislator roster (according to the Legislator Committee Act, votes are counted for the month in which they finish, so I suggest only creating this column once the vote is actually over), between the “Chair’s Discretion” and “Number of Votes” columns of the “Voting Record” section. Right-click the “Number of Votes” column’s letter at the top of the sheet and use the menu popping up to insert a new column to the left of it ‒ this way, the conditional formatting rules I set up to display legislator’s votes in a matching colour will get copied over. Enter the vote’s ID in the orange header cell, and then you’re set up for recording the individual ballots.
Whew. That sure was a lot of writing. But why all this recordkeeping is necessary will become clear in the next section.
Publishing States of Assembly
The State of the Assembly is a monthly report from the Chair of the Assembly summarizing all official business that was conducted in the past month as well as providing the Legislator Committee with a recommendation on which legislators to revoke the legislator statuses of. It has to be published within the first week of a new month so LegComm can keep the deadline for revoking legislators’ statuses. This section will provide you insight into and guidance for writing a SoA.
For this part, there is an Assembly Auto-Formatter function! The input form for SoAs can be found here.
Conducting a Legislator Check
The heart of every SoA is the monthly Legislator Check—you investigate every legislator’s activity for the month and determine whether they’re compliant with the legislator eligibility criteria laid out in the Legislator Committee Act. So, how do you do this?
Count the Votes
The Charter asks “active membership” of legislators—of course, people don’t have to talk all the time on the forums or on Discord to comply with this requirement, it’s instead measured by looking at a legislator’s vote attendance.
Checking the voting requirement for legislators is relatively straightforward. On the Legislative Activity spreadsheet, open the legislator roster sheet for the month you’re evaluating, go through every row and count how many ballots the respective legislator has cast that month. Legislators who have been absent for (have not cast a ballot in) more than half of all votes in a month are non-compliant with the voting requirement. For example, if three votes finished in a month, any legislator who has been absent for at least two is non-compliant. If there were four votes however, being absent for two would still be counted as compliant ‒ two are exactly half of all votes, not more than half! Remember to not count legislators as absent for a vote if they had a LoA for the voting period—if you mark such cases at the conclusion of the respective vote, this won’t be a problem for you. Furthermore, legislators who were newly admitted that month don’t have to comply with the voting requirement at all (other requirements, as below, still apply). If you have determined a legislator to be non-compliant in this point, write “Non-compliant” in the “Status” column under “Legislator Check”, and put “Failed voting requirement” as the reason in the cell next to it.
As the Chair, you are allowed to exercise leniency when it comes to the voting requirement. For example, if someone narrowly fails it but is otherwise compliant and very active on Discord or the RMB, you can choose to give them an official warning and mark them as “Compliant” instead, but in this case you should note this and your reasoning in the reason column.
The second requirement to keep one’s legislator status is citizenship in TSP, granted by simply having a nation in the South Pacific on NationStates.
If you see that a nation is no longer located in the South Pacific, write “Non-compliant” in the “Status” column and put “Nation moved out” as reason. Sometimes, a nation might just have ceased to exist ‒ naturally, it then also doesn’t reside in TSP anymore (do check however whether the linked nation contains a typo, like a blank space at the end, which was accidentally put there by the Legislator Committee and thus incorrectly shows the nation as CTE, in which case you should immediately correct it on the sheet); again, mark the legislator as “Non-compliant”, with “Nation CTEd” as the reason.
A special case of non-compliance is resignation. If a legislator has publicly resigned over the course of the month (e.g. with a post in the Office of Assembly Affairs thread, in the #legislators-lounge on Discord, …), you also mark them as “Non-compliant” and put “Resigned” with a link to their statement of resignation as the reason. This would also override any other reason for non-compliance, so you don’t have to conduct voting requirement or residency checks for legislators who resigned.
If you want, you can also colour the status and reason cells of non-compliant (or warned) legislators to graphically differentiate them from the compliant ones. All legislators who don’t fail any of these requirements can be marked as “Compliant” in the “Status” column. For those, you also won’t have to put anything for a reason.
The SoA Auto-Formatter will automatically compile a report on which legislators have failed the voting or residency requirement, but you’ll still need to manually mark legislators on the actual sheet.
Write the Recommendation
After you’re done with verifying the compliance status of every legislator, it’s time to write out your results as part of the post you’re going to make for the SoA.
The Legislator Committee will use this recommendation from you as the base of their final decision on who to revoke legislatorship from. They have the final say on this matter and may choose to exercise discretion and not remove a legislator you recommended to remove, or, the other way around, remove a legislator you opted to simply warn for non-compliance. Sometimes, they’ll also entirely forget to remove legislators in time!
Now that you’ve completed the hardest part of creating your SoA, making a list of discussions active in the relevant month, a short summary of the votes held, and welcoming the new legislators will be a walk in the park.
Summarize the Votes Held
A report on the “State of the Assembly” would sure do well with a section about the votes that were held in the Assembly the past month, so here’s how to put one together:
First, you of course need a raw list of the relevant votes. If you’ve kept the Legislative Activity spreadsheet up to date, this’ll be as simple as scrolling to the relevant month on the main (“Legislative History”) sheet and checking which votes are recorded there. Otherwise, look through the Voting Floor and open all the threads with the last post being in the relevant month to get their details. Now, you can make a table with the relevant information about those votes: In the header row, put “Code” as the first cell, “Title” as the middle one, and “Result” as the last (like with the Legislator Check table, you’re free to change the labels, but they should be comprehensible). For every vote held in the month, add a new row and fill in the vote’s ID code, title (you can also make the title link to the respective voting thread for accessibility), and result (which you can also colour to give it a little bit of touch).
Traditionally, a short comment on the votes, outlining how many there were, what they were about, and whether they passed (you can follow the style of previous SoAs for this) is put before this table, and both get put as the first component of a SoA.
List the Active Discussions
A legislature like the Assembly also holds a lot of discussions, not all of which end in formal votes— therefore, a simple list of discussion threads that were active the past month is also included in a SoA.
This step is incredibly simple—just go through the threads in the Assembly forum and the Private Halls subforum, copying the links to and titles of all discussion threads of which the last post falls into the month you’re writing the SoA for! Organize this info into a list, with each bullet point being the title of a thread, linking to that thread. For threads in the Private Halls of the Assembly, you might want to put “[private thread]” or something similar instead of the actual title in order to maintain confidentiality ‒ but you as the Chair are the authority which decides what is released from the private subforums of the Assembly, so slipping up won’t cost your head.
Votes and States of the Assembly certainly make up the bulk of the Chair’s duties, but there are several smaller things you’ll need to do (semi-)regularly. This section covers everything you have to know about those tasks and how to tackle them.
The Chair is responsible for ensuring a smooth functioning of the Assembly, so naturally, things will have to get cleaned up once in a while. Primarily, dead discussions should be closed, and for yourself as the Chair, the Legislative Activity spreadsheet should be up to date.
Maintain the Spreadsheet
Keeping the legislator roster up to date being important has been mentioned in this guide a few times already, but it is definitely deserving of its own sub-section—the roster is seldom used in public, but its behind-the-scenes impact cannot be understated! Having a clean record of everything decides how much time and mental capacity you’re going to have to spend on many of your duties as Chair.
As described in the section about closing votes, the Chair primarily uses the spreadsheet to record the individual votes of all legislators so that Legislator Checks are easy to execute for the Chair and transparent for everybody else, a win-win situation. Additionally, you should record Leaves of Absence (see below) on the sheet to support you when copying all those individual votes so you don’t accidentally mark someone as absent.
Your Approval Matters
Nice, right? Jokes aside, your approval as the Chair really does matter—it decides whether a legislator gets removed for inactivity, a political party gets formally recognised, and even whether someone is guilty of Espionage or not!
Leaves of Absence
The Legislator Committee Act considers legislators with an approved Leave of Absence from the Chair present for all votes in the timeframe of the LoA.
Legislators who would like to have a LoA approved normally post their request in the Office of Assembly Affairs thread, mentioning the start and end dates of the duration for which they’d like to be excused as well as their reasoning (that can also be a private RL thing, in which case you shouldn’t try to press for details—after all, everyone is entitled to their privacy!). A legislator might also contact you privately to request a LoA in special cases. Either way, you should make a post in the Status Updates thread to publicly approve the LoAs. Nowadays, LoAs don’t really get denied—only in really obscure cases, like a ridiculously long time frame to be excused for, should you consider denying a LoA request.
After you’ve approved a LoA, it’d be good to record it on the current month’s legislator roster sheet to not forget it later on. In the “Chair’s Discretion” column, simply note “LoA [start date] — [end date]” or something similar.
“Distribution of private information that originates in official South Pacific discussion areas, excluding private messages, without the express written permission of the relevant officials or institutions shall be considered Espionage.” The Criminal Code makes you as the Chair the relevant official to grant such written permission for discussions on private Assembly venues!
For threads in the Private Halls of the Assembly, there is a semi-formal way for legislators to request releasing discussions: The Private Threads Declassification System. There, legislators can make a post if they’d like to have private threads released, usually using the application form code included in the thread’s O.P. You can then approve or deny the request at your discretion, but remember that transparency for the public is always a good thing, so you should approve the request if there is no harm to be done by releasing the requested threads. If you approve a request, move the respective threads to the public Assembly forum, depending on the age of a thread. How moving threads works is described in detail in the Other Duties > Housekeeping > Archive Inactive Discussions sub-section.
That’s basically it for all your official duties that are set out in law (or derived from it)! However, as the head of the Assembly, you’re free to run your own projects, be it for outreach, integration, or anything, really. Maybe you even promised to do such a thing in your campaign! Previous Chairs have started many projects, and maybe you’d like to continue some—a list of all currently active Chair projects is located here.
…I’m free. Well, this certainly is a lot of text. To read as it was to write. Covering everything the Chair of the Assembly can or must do and how to best go about it turned out to be a quite extensive project, so extensive that one term was not enough to get it all down. But here we are: A complete (I hope!) guide to Chairing! Hopefully your questions have been answered—again, if you have any suggestions for improving it, contact the current Chair (@BlockBuster2K43) or @anjo.