Past National Commander Clarence Bacon likes the way The American Legion's National Legislative Council keeps Legionnaires in touch with their respective members of Congress. In fact, Bacon likes the council so much that he broached the idea of developing a similar constituent-representative program in his state of Maryland.
In May 2008, during the Department of Maryland's Executive Committee meeting, Bacon's idea became reality. Resolution 3908 passed, creating a department legislative council. By the following January – thanks in part to the Department Legislative Chairman Ed White and immediate Past Department Commander Gail Murdock – all 47 districts within the state had Legion representation. The final product is a full legislative council of 191 Legionnaires – one for each senator and the three delegates within each district, as well as three for the state's board of public works.
"It's a program in action. It will improve as we go along," White said. "There wasn't a lot of time after the resolution was passed before the next legislative sessions started. I'm a past department commander, so I knew a lot of people around the state. I didn't expect to fill every position right away, but I knew the right people to call, and we worked from that point. As we got one or two people in a district, we'd ask them if they knew someone else who would be interested. That helped us identify a lot of people."
Bacon was impressed with how quickly the legislative council came together. "It came a long way in just a few months," he said. "Ed and his people did an outstanding job getting this going."
Members of the council liaison with their representatives at the district level; when legislative alerts go to the council its members contact their senators or delegates and then report the results of the meeting to the chairman of the council.
"Maryland is a very liberal state, and not only its people. It's also that way at the state legislative level," Bacon said. "We needed to get Legionnaires at the grass-roots level meeting one on one with their elected officials. And every time there is a vote on a legislative issue at the state level, those veterans need to show up in force for the vote."
That's already happened. White said when he testified in front of a state legislative committee, 300 Legionnaires showed up at the state capitol. And in addition to forming relationships with legislators, Legionnaire constituents can show governmental representatives exactly where they stand.
"We've had some issues with our state legislature, and it was quite obvious we were going no place with them," Department Adjutant Tom Davis said. "When you try to get a politician's attention, the only way to do that is with votes."
Editor's note: Anyone interested in a copy of the Department of Maryland's legislative council resolution can get one by contacting at firstname.lastname@example.org  or (410) 752-1405.