Representatives from around the world also vote to preserve club flexibility
By Arnold R. Grahl
The 2019 Council on Legislation may not have made as many dramatic changes as the Council three years ago did, but it made several decisions that will shape the future of Rotary.
Among the most important, the Council elevated the status of Rotaract clubs.  The change broadens the definition of membership in Rotary International to include Rotaract clubs. The change is intended to increase the support that Rotaract clubs receive from RI and to enhance their ability to serve.
“We need to be an inspiration to our young partners, so they will continue doing the great service that they do,” said RI President Barry Rassin when he presented the measure. “This sends a strong message that they are truly our partners in service.”
In many ways, the Rotaract experience will not change. Rotary clubs will still charter and sponsor Rotaract clubs. Rotaract clubs will still have their own standard constitution and their own unique club experience. Members of a Rotaract club will not be called Rotarians. And Rotaract clubs will not immediately pay dues or receive other benefits, such as the official magazine that Rotary members receive. The Board will determine a dues structure over time.
The measure simply expands the definition of membership in Rotary International to include both Rotary and Rotaract clubs. 

Every three years, representatives from Rotary districts around the world meet in Chicago, Illinois, USA, to consider changes to the constitutional documents that govern Rotary International. This year’s Council considered more than 100 proposals.

Representatives authorized the Board to pursue changing RI’s charitable status to a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. It is presently a 501(c)(4). A task force has been studying the possible change for 18 months and says it will offer benefits that include tax reductions and vendor discounts that will reduce expenses.

Dues increase

As for dues, the Council approved a modest increase of $1 a year for each of three years, beginning in 2020-21. The previous Council set dues for 2019-20 at $34 per half year.

With the increase, the dues that clubs pay to RI per member will increase to $34.50 per half year in 2020-21, $35 per half year in 2021-22, and $35.50 per half year in 2022-23. The dues will not be raised again until a future Council votes to change it.

The Council also changed the name of the General Surplus Fund to RI Reserve, because that more accurately reflects the purpose of the fund. In another vote, the Council approved calling the general secretary a chief executive officer (CEO) in circles outside Rotary, to increase his stature in dealings with other intergovernmental organizations.

A seemingly small but intensely debated action will reduce the number of nonvoting members at future Councils, by removing past RI presidents and allowing only one RI Board director to attend but not vote.

But in some respects, the Council defined itself as much by what it did not do. 

This year’s representatives resisted pressure to limit some of the flexibility that the 2016 Council granted clubs, rejecting several measures that would have placed restrictions on clubs. One unsuccessful measure would have required clubs to meet at least 40 times each year. 

Many clubs have been using the innovative and flexible club formats to attract new members and meet their current members’ needs.

Representatives also rejected proposals to make it optional for members to subscribe to an official Rotary magazine and to reduce the size of the Council by half and have it meet every two years.

Democracy in action

Several representatives commented on the democratic nature of the proceedings.

“All of the delegates have been very responsible and respectful, no matter what their opinions,” said Adriana De La Fuente, the representative from District 4170 and a member of the Rotary Club of Plateros Centro Historico, Ciudad de México, Mexico. She has attended three previous Councils. “That elevates the trust and respect for our organization.”

Glen K. Vanderford of District 6760, a member of the Rotary Club of Jackson-Old Hickory, Tennessee, USA, said he appreciated the opportunity to represent the people of his district and gather with like-minded people to voice opinions.

“The process allows us to have a road map forward instead of just going day to day,” he said. “I was excited by the outcome of enhancing Rotaract and that we didn’t weaken future Councils, but preserved the ability for everybody to have a voice.”

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