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
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.
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.
See more Historic Moments on the Council on Legislation throughout the week.