By Danny Schrafel
With the clock winding down on the 2015 legislative session, State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-E. Northport) is largely staying the course set by former leader Dean Skelos after being thrust into the leadership role last week.
With less than two weeks remaining, Flanagan announced he will push legislation related to taxes, education, guns and sexual assault on campus. His priorities, announced Monday, mirror in many ways the wish-list shared by Skelos in a May 7 message released shortly before he was forced from the majority leader’s position amidst a bribery and extortion indictment. Flanagan assumed the roles of majority leader and temporary senate president on May 11.
New to Flanagan’s list, however, are reforms to address concerns about the Common Core curriculum. Passing reforms now, Flanagan said, means they will be in place for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.
Opponents of Common Core – who have argued the testing regimen and added rigor of curriculum, especially at the younger grades, are inappropriate at the age levels – protested the changes en masse this spring by opting out of state examinations. Several groups have protested outside the district office of Flanagan, the chairman of the State Senate’s education committee.
“To make parents more comfortable with what is happening in their children’s classrooms and by extension their kids as well, Senate Republicans will pass legislation to improve the provisions that were enacted in the state budget to ensure that tests are age-appropriate for children and the curriculum is consistent with higher learning standards, among other things,” Flanagan said.
In addition, Flanagan also said he will push for increasing the cap on the allowable number of charter schools in New York State.
Like Skelos, Flanagan said he will push to make the property tax levy cap permanent in New York, a move he said would “bring certainty to taxpayers, help create good jobs and grow our economy for the future.” He is also urging the Assembly to pass the Education Investment Tax Credit, which is designed to encourage additional charitable donations to education, specifically to private scholarship funds which serve at least three non-public schools, a nonprofit educational organization working with a public school or school district, or serves directly a public school or district.
He is also backing efforts to “combat and root out campus sexual assault” and legislation that would ensure New York City police and firefighters injured in the line of duty “receive appropriate financial protection.” Flanagan is also pushing for “common-sense” reforms to the SAFE gun-control act passed in January 2013.