Representatives of tax-exempt organizations – including nonprofit corporations – would not be eligible to serve on the board of directors of the Haines Chamber of Commerce under a proposed revision of the group’s bylaws shared with members last month.

The revision would create three classes of memberships, but only for-profit entities or “primary members” would qualify to serve on the group’s board of directors.

Under the proposal, nonprofits would fall under a “community member” membership, and individuals could join as “supporting members.” Chamber members in those two classes would be eligible to participate in membership votes, but could not serve on the group’s board.

Melissa Aronson, who attended Friday’s chamber meeting on the draft bylaw revision, said last week the new rule devalues nonprofits and individuals. “The whole idea of separate but equal doesn’t make sense. They’re essentially assigning second-class citizenship to nonprofits and individuals.”

“Supporting members” might include retired business owners whose experience would be valuable to the board, Aronson said. “I think those people have a lot to offer.”

Aronson said she supports a more inclusive board membership. “At a time when boards so often are looking for people to serve, why exclude two classes of people?” she said.

Aronson, president of Haines Friends of Recycling, said she was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of HFR.

Chamber board member Sean Gaffney said there are fundamental differences between nonprofit and for-profit entities and that the draft bylaws strengthen the organization by clearly defining its rules, eliminating interpretation that led to subjective decision-making. The chamber is trying to bring people together and be as inclusive as it can, he said.

“The chamber board recognizes the contributions nonprofits make to the community, including bringing large amounts of cash into our economy,” Gaffney said.

One idea suggested at the meeting was to designate a seat on the nine-member board for nonprofits.

Chamber president Kyle Gray said that besides delineating criteria for chamber board membership, the draft revision includes smaller changes, such as allowing the board to meet on days other than Thursday and extending officers’ terms from two years to three.

Other changes establish that one-third of directors (three) would be elected annually to three-year terms. Slight changes also were made to the group’s mission statement.

Gray said the draft would be emailed to all board members and stressed that changes could still be made in the document.

Bylaw revisions must be approved by a meeting of the group’s membership. A meeting on the changes is expected to be held before summer.

“If the membership gets together and they don’t like the changes, we can get together as a board and make the changes people think are necessary,” Gray said.