Born at the end of the 19th century, Paul Mason worked for the California legislature and Governor Goodwin Knight. In 1935, he published Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, which is commonly known as Mason's Manual. After Mr. Mason's death in 1985, Mason's Manual has continued to be updated under the auspices of Mason's Manual Commissions established by the National Conference of State Legislatures. It is now widely used by state legislature throughout the country. For example, Rule 31 of the joint rules of the California legislature provides: "All relations between the houses that are not covered by these
rules shall be governed by the latest edition of Mason’s Manual."
In the introduction, Mason sets forth the following 10 principles for group decision making:
- The group must have the authority to take the action it is trying to take.
- The group must meet to take action.
- All members of the group must receive proper notice of the meeting.
- A quorum must be present at the meeting.
- There must be a question before the group that the group is authorized to decide.
- There must be opportunity to debate the question.
- The question must be decided by taking a vote.
- For an action to be taken or a question decided, there must be a majority vote of the group.
- There can be no fraud, trickery, or deception resulting in injury to any member.
- To be valid, an action or decision by the group must not violate any applicable law or constitutional provision.
With some slight modifications, the same principles are equally applicable to decisions making by corporate boards of directors.