The Maryland General Assembly
recognizes two formal caucusesthe Maryland Legislative Black
Caucus and the Women's Caucus. Tom Insley of VVA Chapter 650
and Government Affairs chairman for the Maryland State Council
intends to add a third for veterans.
Following a reception on Jan. 21, Insley found he had made
more progress than he envisioned. At the reception, Maryland
Del. Joan Cadden announced that an informal veterans caucus
made up of state legislators would hold its first meeting the
next day. Insley was invited to attend.
"I'm really excited about it,'' Insley said. "I didn't know I
could do anything like this.''
When Insley took over the Government Affairs chair, he had no
experience but said he was willing to "give it a try.'' He
began visiting state legislators in Annapolis to find out if
there was any interest in establishing the caucus. He was
pleased to find legislators expressing such interest, though
historically, Insley said, some legislators had not been
particularly enthusiastic about addressing veterans' issues.
"Generally, we have found that certain legislators were not
friendly toward veterans,'' he said. "Certain people in the
legislature have addressed veterans issuessome of them
feel-good efforts, some of them meat and potatoes.''
Insley hopes to establish a formal caucus comprising members
of the Maryland Senate and House. He envisions a body of
people who meet on a regular basis to address issues important
to veterans and then bring those concerns to the full
"I believe it would be a mechanism to establish some sort of
continuity among the many veterans service organizations and
the legislature,'' Insley said.
Insley said he was apprehensive about gaining the cooperation
of other veterans organizations, even though he sees the VVA
initiative as encompassing all veterans groups and not just
"I'm apprehensive,'' he said. "I had some feedback from other
veterans groups. Some say we're trying to do the same thing
they're doing, but we're not. They're not trying to establish
a formal body, as we are. They're just trying to get some
legislation passed. They're throwing it out to the General
Assembly and hoping somebody picks it up.''
Insley said invitations to the Jan. 21 reception with Maryland
legislators went to 14 veterans organizations. Four weeks
before the reception was to be held, he had one formal
response and had spoken with representatives from three other
"I honestly don't think they understand what it is we're
trying to do,'' he said.
After the first meeting with Del. Cadden, the Democratic
legislator sent a letter to the Speaker of the House and the
President of the Senate explaining the proposal for a veterans
caucus. Copies of the letter went to other delegates and
senators whom Del. Cadden thought might be interested in the
She later met with the Speaker of the House, who gave his
approval for an initial establishment of an informal caucus.
"If you can get 20, 30, 40 legislators together, you have some
power,'' Insley said.
Insley emphasized the importance of active participation by
VVA members in the legislative process. He said that when he
began attending an advocacy workshop, he was naive about some
of the things he could accomplish, noting that when he
"stormed the Hill'' in Washington, he found that some
legislative staffers pay attention and that the word gets
passed along to representatives and senators.
He found the same thing happening when he stormed the next
"I've been knocking on doors down there, and I visited a
number of senators and delegates,'' Insley said. "I heard from
an acting secretary a couple of days ago that he's been
hearing my name down there a little bit. So it does make a
difference if you show up.''
It is a difference Insley wishes to impress upon the VVA
membership at large.
"I think sometimes they either don't understand the process or
they get lost in the numbers, and they feel like they're only
one person and one person can't do anything,'' he said. "They
say I can't go down there and I can't do this. But a letter or
a phone call or an e-mail can accomplish things. It does mean
something. We need to participate to make a lot of this stuff
work. Without them, everything is for naught.''
Following the Jan. 21 reception, a meeting of legislators was
scheduled to begin laying the groundwork for the veterans
caucus, but a winter storm prevented all but a handful of
people from attending. Insley said another meeting with
legislators will be scheduled.
In the following weeks, officers for the Veterans Caucus were
appointed. Delegates Joan Cadden and Joseph Boteler III will
co-chair the Caucus on the House side, and Senators Robert
Garagiola and Janet Greenip will co-chair on the Senate side.
Senators Jennie Forehand, Leo Green, and Richard Colburn, and
Delegates George Owings III, Mary Conroy, and David Boschert
are also members of the Maryland Assembly's new Veterans