Perhaps the most intriguing observation one can take away from a visit to Sovereign Grand Lodge Sessions is how different it is from our own California Grand Lodge Sessions.
At our own sessions, for example, legislation is not only discussed prior to sessions, but also during sessions, whereas at SGL sessions, it is discussed primarily at SGL committee meetings and then presented and generally rubber-stamped by the voting representatives at sessions. The impression one might get at SGL then is that legislation is more adequately analyzed by appropriate committees when in fact the problem is that almost all committees meet at the same times, therefore, for example, it is impossible for a representative to meet at one committee meeting when he may serve on another that meets simultaneously. It is not uncommon to hear representatives complain that they can’t visit the committees they want to make their views clear.
Of course, this year the controversial legislation was an increase in the per capita for Odd Fellows and Rebekahs. Outside of the legislation itself, there was no apparent reason for the called for increase. The budget appeared balanced, there was no discussion of a specific need for an increase, and a close examination of the Sovereign Grand Treasurer’s report even showed a surplus in committee funds where there seemed to be professed need. A $5.00 increase per person may seem insignificant, however multiplied by all Odd Fellows and Rebekahs this amounts to a $270,995 yearly!
Yet there was little or no specific explanation for the increase beyond a vague mention of “programs”. Based upon these facts, I felt the only sensible reaction was to vote against any increase whatsoever. The increase, by the way, initially called for an increase of $5.00 for 5 consecutive years, which failed to carry the vote, but then it was amended to be a $5.00 increase for 2 consecutive years. Of course, this means that there is nothing preventing a revisit of the legislation next year. The idea that an increase may be called for yearly without any substantive rationality should seem onerous to any sensible member. As brothers Rosenberg and Sellars have noted, increasing the per capita, particularly an annual increase, does nothing but discourage any increase in membership.
Then, our primary legislation emanating from the California Grand Lodge was the idea that we readjust representation to be more attuned to membership counts. I took it upon myself to speak upon this legislation at SGL, and to garner support from other jurisdictions who would also benefit from the representative alignment. I did get the support of at least 5 other jurisdictions. I will work on more for next year. Also, I spoke with Brother Terry Barrett, Sovereign Grand Secretary, and he has written legislation to be presented next year that addresses this matter, although I asked if we might amend it slightly to possibly include as many other jurisdictions as possible, which would obviously make the legislation more tenable. I offered my services to assist with this change.
It was great to witness our Brother Mel Astrahan filming the sessions, and naturally our best way to move for change at SGL in the future will be to become more involved in all facets of their sessions, and make them more our own.
In Friendship, Love, and Truth, Rick Boyles