Bugger off! No-one wins when the judge has a dog in the race. She can't sit on the bloody throne and chair the sodding thing. That's daft talk. A big house needs a servant to clean it. And they need to keep a calm tongue in their head. Only a civil tongue buys cheap apples.Walter Brewer, senator for Upwold
Like the Conclave and the Military Council, the Senate conducts its official business at formal sessions, where matters are discussed and votes are cast. Although members of the Senate meet to discuss business throughout the day (the Speaker for the Senate encourages all members to discuss Senate in advance of the session), the sessions are the best chance to address the entire Senate and the only time that motions can be raised and voted upon.
Traditionally, the Senate aims to have have two sessions each full day of an Imperial summit and one session each half-day.
Member of the Senate
Under normal circumstances Imperial citizens are not permitted to enter the Senate chamber while it is in session. They may view the proceedings, but only from the viewing gallery built for that purpose, and only if they remain in good order and keep the noise to a minimum. Citizens and others may be invited to speak in support of a specific motion by its proposer, and may speak if that invitation is deemed by a Speaker to be useful.
Only members of the Senate and key civil servants may attend Senate sessions. A member of the Senate is not automatically eligible to vote or raise a motion - but they can speak on any motion or announcement that is brought before the chamber. The current Imperial titles that are classed as a member of the Senate are:
- The Throne
- Conscience of the Senate
- Master of the Imperial Mint
- Imperial Magus
- Advisor on orc affairs
- Speaker for the Senate
- Imperial Consul
In 383YE, the Constitutional Court issued legal advice to the Imperial Senate to indicate that they would not approve the creation of any further titles with the power of Member of the Senate unless one of the existing titles was amended or abrograted first. They also ruled that granting a title this power required a constitutional majority and ratification by the Throne. It is also a constitutional matter to add the power to an existing title, but it is not a constitutional matter to remove the power, or to abrogate a title that has it.
Speaking before the Senate
Every member who wishes to attend a Senate session must arrive before the Session begins. Once a session is in progress, nobody, not even The Throne may join the session.
Each session is chaired by a Speaker for the Senate. To maintain order, members and civil servants may only speak once invited to do so by the Speaker. Those who wish to speak must catch the Speaker's eye and then wait their turn. The stated goal of the Speaker is to keep sessions brisk and on topic. Like all civil servants their oath binds them to strict neutrality. As Speaker they must balance the need to give every member of the Senate a chance to speak with a demanding time-table for Imperial business.
On occasion a member of the Senate may request that the Speaker allow a citizen to speak on a motion. Usually the Speaker will only allow this if the citizen is acknowledged as an authority on the matter of the motion being raised, but on occasion speakers have been allowed who have used their personal connection to the matter at hand to make a brief but impassioned plea to the Senate. In formal terms, the Speaker can make the decision to allow a citizen to speak at any time, but experience shows that requests lodged well before a session begins are much more likely to be granted.
Any individual who is due to address the Senate must wait outside the chamber until called. They may only enter to deliver their address at the appropriate time and must leave once their address is complete and they have answered any questions from members of the Senate. There is no legal requirement for truth on the floor of the Senate, anyone speaking in the Senate is within their legal rights to choose whatever words they feel will suit their cause best.
In addition to the Speaker, there are usually one or more civil servants present in the chamber during a Senate session to provide the benefit of their legal and civil expertise to the senators. Civil servants have the legal right to enter the Senate at any time but may only speak if they are recognized by the Speaker. John of Meade in particular is known to be particularly determined on this point and has expelled civil servants from the chamber for attempting to speak without being recognized.
In practice civil servants will only speak out to present the material facts as they are known to the civil service to the Senate. This will usually be because key facts known to the civil service which are pertinent to the subject are being misrepresented or omitted. Civil servants will not attempt to speak if they are not certain of the relevant facts, so silence cannot be taken as implicit support for claims made on the floor. If a member of the Senate wishes to clarify this point they may ask the civil servants present to confirm if something is known to be true or is not known.
Setting the Agenda
The mainstay of the agenda for a session are the motions. The right to raise a motion is one of the most important powers of senators, shared only with the Conscience of the Senate. Motions can be presented to a Speaker at any time, but the civil service usually reject a motion brought to them less than two hours before a session is due to begin, unless there is a very good reason for it.
Announcements occur when the holder of an Imperial title exercises legal powers of the Senate on their behalf. These powers would normally require a Senate motion to use - and thus are subject to veto by the Imperial Synod. The Senate may delegate these powers to one or more Imperial titles - but the citizen exercising those powers must then announce them during a Senate session to ensure that they remain subject to the appropriate oversight. Announcements are not voted on - but the Speaker will sometimes allow a short debate by members of the Senate.
Any citizen that holds an Imperial title that confers the right to address the Senate may do so by informing the Speaker of their intent. The Speaker will add the address to the agenda and call the citizen to speak at the relevant moment.
The order of motions is set by the Speaker - the aim of the civil service is to ensure that the most important motions are dealt with last.
Concluding the Agenda
Once all agenda items are dealt with, the Senate session ends. If a session ends prematurely for any reason, remaining agenda items are added to the agenda of the next Senate session.
A senator may call for a Vote of Curtailment in an attempt to bring the current session to an end early. This is often proposed because an important decision must be made but those present feel there is insufficient information available to vote on the matter, however a senator is under no obligation to provide a reason.
When a Vote of Curtailment is called, the Speaker will conduct a majority vote. Those present who are eligible to vote will be asked to vote "Aye" if they wish to close the session early; otherwise the session continues as normal. If the votes passes then the session comes to a premature end. Any motions that have not yet been voted upon are automatically added to the agenda for the following session by the Speaker.
Curtailment is not a motion, and does not need to be seconded. It is not subject to veto by the Imperial Synod, but it is subject to veto by The Throne. Only a senator may call for a Vote of Curtailment - no other member of the Senate may do so.