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As New York’s 2019 legislative session starts, a Senate education leader heads to rehab

State Senator John Flanagan, at right
State Senator John Flanagan, at right
Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

When New York state lawmakers convene next week for the first time in 2019, one legislator with education expertise will be absent: Sen. John Flanagan, who announced Friday that he would be seeking treatment for alcohol dependency after a relapse.

Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, has held statewide elected office for more than three decades and helmed the state Senate’s education committee until this month, when a Democratic majority took power in Albany. He previously sought addiction treatment in 2017.

The state Senate’s power shift is likely to have significant implications for education issues, including how many charter schools are allowed; how teachers are evaluated; and who controls New York City schools. Flanagan remains on the education committee, where he has signaled that he will advocate for more charter schools, but he no longer controls which bills advance to the broader legislature and which do not.

In a statement, Flanagan said he expected to miss only the beginning of the legislative session, which ends in April. Historically, the bulk of law-making in New York happens at the end of each session when top legislators and the governor negotiate a package deal encompassing many of the issues on the table. As the Senate majority leader last year, Flanagan was part of that negotiation, but it’s unclear what role he will play this year as the head of the minority party.

“This brief period of time away is necessary for my overall well-being, but will in no way impact my ability to serve my conference or my constituents,” Flanagan said.

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