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John Flanagan and his father in the assembly circa 1972. The photo is one that the former state senator kept in his office. Photo from John Flanagan

New York recently ended its 48-year streak of having a John Flanagan representative in the State Assembly or Senate.

“I thought about him when I was fighting for school aid for the entire state.”

John Flanagan Jr. retired from public service June 28, after spending 16 years in the Assembly and 18 years in the Senate, which included three years as Senate majority leader. When his political career began, Flanagan Jr. succeeded his father, John Flanagan, who served for 14 years in the state Assembly until 1986.

The younger Flanagan was 25 years old when his father died. Within a week of his father’s death, Flanagan, who, like his father is a Republican, was campaigning for his seat in the Assembly.

“It was a whirlwind of a time,” Flanagan said. “If my father had died a week later, based on what the law was, he would have been on the ballot as someone who was deceased.”

When he started campaigning, he was attending law school at night. When he won the election, he was sworn in in January and got married 10 days later.

Flanagan attributes his ability to stay grounded and deal with all the changes in his life at the beginning of his political career to a collection of people who loved his father and supported and guided him.

Throughout his over three decades in public service, Flanagan often thought of his father, who he describes as his “hero. If I’m going to be like anyone, I wanted to be like him.”

Flanagan sees similarities in their approach to public service, which is something his father and mother emphasized when he was young.

Both Flanagans were passionate believers in education. The senior Flanagan was a teacher for 10 years, while his son chaired an education committee.

“I thought about him when I was fighting for school aid for the entire state,” Flanagan said.

They also shared a commitment to swift and consistent justice for criminals and advocating for victims’ rights.

The younger Flanagan, who is 59 and is a divorced father of three, said he still has energy left in the tank and is eager to embrace his new role as vice president for government affairs at Northwell Health.

“I didn’t leave after 33½ years so I could go back,” Flanagan said.

He is, however, allowed to interact with state agencies and to work locally to help build the brand name in Suffolk County.

As for his work in the Legislature, Flanagan is proud of his efforts on behalf of people who live in group homes, which are, as he put it, “public policy issues that won’t always be on the front page” but are important.

Flanagan felt that taking care of children with special needs was the “ultimate reflection of who we were as a state.”

As a public servant, he felt it was his responsibility to help people feel that the government is there for them and is operating on their behalf.

He is “extraordinarily proud” of the work he did in education, where he felt the need to advocate for children across the state. He said he was “not afraid to mix it up” on anything, in rural, upstate, downstate, urban, suburban or other areas.

Flanagan is also pleased with the work he did to encourage organ donations through Lauren’s Law, which required the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to ask anyone applying for a license to answer the question of whether they would like to be an organ donor.

“There’s not enough legitimate discourse on things the way they should be.”

“We have a lot more work to do and a lot further to go,” Flanagan said. “That’s something I’m going to continue to work on in my new endeavor.”

The greatest part of his political career, he said, was the people. He appreciated meeting the direct care workers, the hospice care workers and the staff with whom he felt privileged to work.

The part he misses the least is the backbiting and not having people always be honest and forthright with him.

While he has seen a collection of people who have left political office in the last few years, he said he can only speak for his retirement.

“Social media and changes in technology have made the economy better, [but] it’s a sound bite world of the highest order,” he said. “There’s not enough legitimate discourse on things the way they should be.”

He also said he doesn’t miss the drives to Albany, which he did for so many years that he’s convinced he went at least a million miles.

Before he left office, he walked around the state capitol, where he took in the architecture and made videos of pictures and paintings and narrated a description he “wanted to share with my family.”

While he said he’s going to miss 90 percent of his working life, he appreciated the joy of being “in the game. Doing the stuff I did, I felt like I was playing for the Yankees and I was in the playoffs. I got to be the majority leader.”

To those who believe he left because the Republicans lost the majority, he says that isn’t the case. He felt like he had a “very good run” and wanted to do other things. He considers himself a part of a select and small group of people who served in the Legislature, in both houses, and who became the majority leader.

He prides himself on his ability to work with so many people and on his consistency.

“I didn’t change my stripes,” he said.

He said he went public with his battle with sobriety. He appreciates the support of people who stood with and by him through those challenges. The low point of checking into rehab also helped bring him to a higher point in his life and career, he said.

Flanagan wanted to ensure that every child, no matter what their community, demographic, background and history had the same opportunities his children had.

Children with special needs have an Individual Education Program, which provides a personalized plan for their specific strengths.

“If education is being done properly, every child should have an IEP,” Flanagan said.

He is pleased with the work he did with Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is also retiring this December, to secure millions of dollars for programs at Stony Brook University.

As for modern politics, Flanagan has mixed feelings about President Donald Trump (R).

“I wish he weren’t on Twitter,” Flanagan said. “He’s done strong things for the economy all across the country. The dialog on both sides should be at a better level.”

Flanagan, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William & Mary and his law degree from Touro Law School, tried never to engage in insults.

“People have a right to expect from elected officials, whether trustees or school board members, to act a certain way,” he said.

“People have a right to expect from elected officials, whether trustees or school board members, to act a certain way.”

When he texts, Flanagan uses full sentences, correct grammar and punctuation and doesn’t use emojis. He believes politicians should use the English language to the greatest effect and to serve as educational role models for their constituents.

Flanagan is a fan of Chairman of the Suffolk County GOP Jesse Garcia, who has “done a great job of being a standard bearer for the party.”

Flanagan mentioned the Town of Babylon supervisor and chair of the county Democratic committee Rich Schaffer as one of his favorite Democrats.

“He and I don’t have to agree,” Flanagan said. “I respect who he is, his work ethic and his experience.”

In his office, Flanagan kept a a 2×7-inch placard that was in his house and also in his father’s office. It read: “God so loved the world that he didn’t send the committee.”

Flanagan said he believes that the saying suggests that “we have a tendency to overcomplicate things.”

For the current public servants just starting their political careers, Flanagan urged them to “be who you are. Do not forget the people you represent. They are the ones who are your bosses. Never lose sight of who you should be representing.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R). Photo by Kyle Barr

Mario Mattera, a St. James resident, local union official and Suffolk County Water Authority board member, has been tapped by Suffolk County Republicans to run for the seat being vacated by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport).

Mario Mattera

The announcement came five days after the longtime senator announced he won’t run for reelection after 18 years in the state Senate and 16 years in the state Assembly.

Mattera has been a member of Plumbers Local Union 200 for the past 25 years and is currently the business agent for the union. He said he is honored by the selection and is dedicated to fighting for the “working men and women of Long Island.” 

“I want to thank the GOP for having the confidence in me,” he said. “It is not going to be easy to fill John Flanagan’s shoes. I want to bring a commonsense voice to the Senate and be an advocate for Long Island families.”

The St. James resident said his focus right now is making sure the coronavirus is defeated on Long Island and making sure health care workers are well protected and equipped to fight the disease. 

If elected, Mattera said he would focus on a number of issues, one of them being bail reform. Republicans across the board have called for the law’s removal. Another issue would be creating jobs in the district and prevent young people from leaving.

The union official said he looks at construction jobs and blue-collar positions as the “backbone of the economy” and wants to make sure they can attain a livable wage and afford to live in the county. 

This will not be Mattera’s first attempt at elected office. In 2013, he ran unsuccessfully in the Republican Primary against current county Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga).

Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman, Jesse Garcia, believes Mattera has the experience to follow “a great leader” like Flanagan. 

“Mario shares our fierce Long Island values,” Garcia said. “He will be a great candidate for the people of Suffolk County.”

In addition, the chairman said the St. James resident is a go-getter and will be able to work across the table with Democrats in the Senate. 

Garcia acknowledged that this race and the one for the vacated seat of Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) are important in the party’s quest to regain control of the Senate from the Democrats. He said getting Mattera and Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), a state assemblyman who is running for LaValle’s seat, elected would help their chances. Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven Town supervisor, said he has great respect for Flanagan and is “saddened” that New York will not continue to have his leadership in Albany. But he thinks Mattera is the right choice for the seat.

“He has been in the union for many years, and he’s fought for the working people,” he said.

The Brookhaven supervisor said he is concerned about the Democratic majority in the Senate, saying he is worried that Long island will not have a strong voice. He added that up in Albany there has been a shift toward New York City interests, and it has gone away from a suburban interest. 

“If anyone can change them, it would be Mario,” Romaine said. “He’s got the energy and will get along with everyone.”

The race for the 2nd Senate District will slate Mattera against Democratic candidate Mike Siderakis, a retired state trooper from Setauket. 

Republicans lost control of the state Senate in 2018, dropping to a 40-23 minority. From 2015-18, Flanagan served as the majority leader of the Senate. 

Mattera said he has a good relationship with Flanagan and LaValle and called them both mentors to him. 

“Mario will fight back against one-party control in Albany and will be a driving force to help move our economy in the right direction,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I am proud to endorse Mario Mattera to represent the people of the 2nd Senate District.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R). Photo by Kyle Barr

In a press release March 25, state. Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Republican minority leader, announced he will not seek reelection this election year.
“For almost 34 years I have enjoyed the privilege, honor and distinction of serving as an elected official in the New York State Legislature,” Flanagan said in the release. “The opportunity to serve the public for virtually all of my adult life has enriched every aspect of my life, and so it is a with a heavy but extremely proud heart that I announce today that I will not be seeking re-election to the New York State Senate. The wide array of emotions I am experiencing in making this decision are balanced by knowing that I am making the best decision for me and for my family.”

Flanagan’s career has spanned over three decades. The senator has spent 16 years, eight terms, in the New York State Assembly, and 18 years, nine terms, in the senate.

“I have met some of the finest and most dedicated people in my life throughout this time, and it reminds me of why New York State is so special — because of its people, both in and out of government,” he said. “It is still my fervent belief that New York is the Empire State and will continue to be so for many, many years to come.

In the press release, Flanagan added that he realized the timing of the announcing was not ideal. He said he was making it now though due to“the constraints of the political calendar that guides our elections.”

“Our great state is clearly in a time of crisis and now more than ever we need leaders to guide our public policy as true representatives of our taxpayers and constituents,” he said. “I fully intend to apply the same diligence and work ethic as the Leader of our Republican conference as I have since I was first elected leader in 2015.”

Flanagan said top-tier candidates have been recruited in races across the state which will mean the party’s conference “has the right message to succeed.”

“I look forward to continuing to be part of that process as our conference navigates delicate and challenging budget issues and finishing our legislative session,” he said. “Our residents and my constituents deserve no less.”
The senator said he never envisioned the opportunities that have come his way in the last 34 years.
“The gift and privilege of being elected by my colleagues to be the Senate Majority Leader is an honor I will always cherish, and I recognize that with that position comes an immense responsibility to work for the betterment of all New Yorkers,” he said. “It is a fact that continues to be the cornerstone of all my thinking and actions as the Leader of the Republican Conference in the Senate today. Working closely with my Republican Colleagues, we have advocated for vital local issues and passionately distinguished ourselves as principled lawmakers who care very deeply about public service and the people we represent.”

Flanagan ended the statement by thanking his family, friends, colleagues and the people of New York for their support.

John Cunniffe, right, of John Cunniffe Architects, Ken Horan, principal, and Laura Sixon, electrical engineer, of Jacobsen & Horan Engineering, outside the future Long Island Museum visitors center and gift shop building. Photo from The Long Island Museum

Two familiar structures in the Three Village area are about to get makeovers.

New York state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) recently secured state grants for The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook and the Old Field Lighthouse. The museum will receive $300,000 for the renovation of the saltbox building that was once used as a visitors center and gift shop. The Village of Old Field will receive $278,000 from the state to offset the cost of repairs the lighthouse needs.

Museum visitors center and gift shop

The interior of architect’s model with examples of shop furnishings from East Setauket architect Robert Reuter. Photo from The Long Island Museum

Sarah Abruzzi, director of major gifts and special projects at LIM, said the structure closest to 25A on the west side will be the one renovated. The old gift shop and visitors center was closed in 2009, and museum guests currently browse a small selection of items in a gift corner located in the history museum also on the west side of LIM’s campus on Route 25A. Patrons buy tickets and get information there too.

Abruzzi said the decision to close the original visitors center and gift shop was tough, but the right one at the time. The director said many patrons have missed the former gift shop that offered a wider variety of items and asked for its return, and recently it became a priority to get one up and running as soon as possible.

Abruzzi said she and museum executive director Neil Watson met with Flanagan in May to discuss the plans they are working on. The gift shop renovation is the lead project within a master plan for LIM, according to Abruzzi.

“It’s so generous, it’s so wonderful,” she said. “We’re so proud that Senator Flanagan recognizes that the museum is such an important part of the community.”

Flanagan said it was his pleasure to secure the funding for the renovations for LIM’s upcoming 80th anniversary.

“It is so important that the history of our region is preserved and available to our residents and The Long Island Museum is crucial in that effort,” he said. “This project will enhance the experience for all future visitors while also providing a platform for local artists, and I am glad to be able to assist in this undertaking.”

Abruzzi said once the building is renovated, visitors will be able to go inside to get tickets, information and buy from a wider variety of items in the new gift shop, including more original art and crafts from local makers.

“We’re just really trying to reinforce the Long Island connection,” she said.

Local architect John Cunniffe is working on construction drawings, according to Abruzzi, and once the process is completed the bidding phase will begin. She said Flanagan securing the grant is a tremendous help in the project that was launched with museum supporters’ financial commitments. Last year’s LIM holiday gala raised approximately $25,000 toward the renovations at the museum and covered the cost of design and engineer fees.

Old Field Lighthouse

The Old Field Lighthouse is in need of extensive repairs. Photo from Village of Old Field website

Village of Old Field Mayor Michael Levine said the lighthouse, built in 1868, needs extensive repairs from the basement to the top

“Almost every aspect of the lighthouse needs to be repaired,” Levine said. “It hasn’t been repaired in decades.”

The mayor said there is significant leaking within the walls, windows need to be replaced, the cast iron where the beacon sits is pitted, plaster is falling and the bathroom needs to be redone.

“The money that we are getting is extremely helpful, but it’s really just the beginning of the process,” he said.

The mayor said the village is in the process of setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to allow residents to contribute to the renovations that will take a few years to complete.

According to Flanagan’s website, the money will also help in making the lighthouse, which is open to the public during the day, Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

“The Old Field Lighthouse is a landmark of major importance to our region as well as a continuing beacon of safety for Long Island boaters,” the senator said. “It is crucial that we protect these historic properties for future generations, and I am happy to work with Mayor Levine and the rest of the Village of Old Field board to secure this funding to preserve this piece of Long Island history.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R). Photo by Kyle Barr

While we agree with Democratic newcomer Kathleen Cleary that fresh blood is needed in the state Senate, incumbent John Flanagan (R-East Northport) has done a fine job in his 32-year political career and has been effective as a majority leader.

He has proven he can work with politicians from any party and is open to listen to experts in various fields. During the debate with his challenger at our office, with a few bills that have not passed on the Senate floor, he explained part of the holdup in passing legislation at times is more details have to be hammered out before a bill is finalized. He’s made it evident that he’s not willing to pass a bill that is
too broad.

One suggestion we have for Flanagan is to talk to more experts about marijuana. A subject that was touched on during the debate at our office was recreational marijuana. He called it a gateway drug, which many medical professionals now feel may not be the case.

While we felt Cleary is sincere in her pursuits, we wanted a bit more substance and detailed plans from her. What would be helpful to her and other newcomers to the political field, we feel, is getting experience in local government first before aiming for higher offices.

For New York State 2nd Senate District, our endorsement goes to state Sen. John Flanagan.

Sen. John Flanagan (R) hopes to retain his seat in New York State’s 2nd District. His challenger is political newcomer Kathleen Cleary (D). Photos by Kyle Barr

State Sen. and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) believes his length of tenure is an asset to New York State’s 2nd Senate District, while Democrat Kathleen Cleary hopes to bring new ideas to the floor.

“I believe my opponent with the utmost sincerity takes it seriously. We just come at it from a different angle.”

— John Flanagan

Cleary, a 20-year resident also of East Northport, is a former contract manager for companies such as Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. While she thinks Flanagan has done a good job in his 32 years in office, she said she believes he has also held up key legislation including the Child Victims Act and Reproductive Health Act.

“We need to have new voices up there and to be able to be a little more diverse in backgrounds of people who are working there to be more reflective of the people in the district and not to have career politicians in the position for many years,” she said.

Cleary would like to see the Child Victims Act passed in the state Senate, which would extend the statute of limitations involving child sex abuse survivors in both criminal and civil cases and provide a one-year look-back window for victims to bring civil claims in cases where the statute of limitations has expired. She said most children don’t report a sexual crime because they are afraid the abuser will hurt them, or they weren’t aware what was done to them was wrong.

Flanagan said while the Senate has not passed the bill introduced by the state Assembly, senators have been working on pieces of legislation directed toward extending the time period to report from 23 to 28 years old or even 33 years in some cases.

“Everybody takes this issue seriously,” he said. “I believe my opponent with the utmost sincerity takes it seriously. We just come at it from a different angle.”

The two also disagreed on the best practice when it comes to gun legislation.

“We’re going to be penalized by the way our state funds our schools and that is something that we don’t want — to be cutting our budgets and taking money away from our children.”

— Kathleen Cleary

Cleary would like to see the Red Flag Gun Protection Bill pass. It would prevent those determined by a court to have the potential to cause serious harm to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any type of firearm. The bill hasn’t made it to the Senate floor.

Flanagan said the Red Flag bill sounds great in theory, but is too broad to a point where it’s possible for a police officer’s firearm to be taken away. He believes it needs more work before it is passed.

He said part of the recent budget included new measures involving domestic violence and the ability for the abuser to have or not have a firearm. He believes in gun control and supported the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013.

“I took a lot of grief, which is fine,” the senator said. “I believe I made the right vote.”

As for money matters, both candidates looked toward schools as a way to save money for taxpayers.

Cleary said with the loss of the SALT deduction on federal taxes the state needs to rethink how it funds schools through property taxes.

“We’re going to be penalized by the way our state funds our schools and that is something that we don’t want — to be cutting our budgets and taking money away from our children,” she said.

Cleary talked about shared services for school districts, for example transportation, even though she believes districts should continue to have local control.

Flanagan said BOCES is an example of sharing services, and he believes keeping the 2 percent property tax cap is important for school districts as well as libraries, sewer districts and similar entities to control spending.

When it comes to the economy, Cleary and Flanagan agreed that the state needs to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business to help the local economy and conduct cost-benefit analysis on every regulation.

Flanagan said Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) needs to stop blaming the federal government and president.

“[The governor] should be looking at his own house,” Flanagan said. “What is our tax policy here in New York? What are we doing for the middle class? What are we doing to make sure those high-income people stay in New York?”

Protests outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan's East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Roughly a dozen protesters marched up and down Cayuga Avenue in East Northport Friday morning greeting residents as they headed to work with chants of “hey hey, ho ho, predators have got to go.”

The New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, a coalition of child sex abuse survivors, advocates, and advocacy organizations, stood outside state Sen. John Flanagan’s (R) home to protest his opposition to the Child Victims Act March 23. They carried signs reading “Stop protecting predators & start protecting kids” as well as blown up copies of the New York Daily News front cover “Protectors of the Predators” featuring Flanagan’s photo.

Kathryn Robb protests with others outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The rally’s aim was to push the Senate Majority Leader to use his position among Republicans to negotiate approval of the legislation that would open up the state’s statute of limitations of child-sex abuse crimes.

“I think that the power and energy of the ‘Me Too’ movement has really opened people’s eyes,” said Kathryn Robb, a Manhasset resident and child sexual abuse survivor. “We’re saying enough is enough, time is up. The laws in New York need to change. They are archaic and protect the predators, not victims.”

The Child Victims Act, if passed, would extend the time that child-sex abuse victims have to file a lawsuit from age 23 to age 28 in criminal cases, and up to age 50 in civil cases. In addition, the passage of the bill would open up a one-year period where survivors could file claims previously not permitted under the current law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included the Child Victims Act in his 2018 executive budget for the first time, after the bill was passed by the state assembly in 2017. The March 23 rally coincides with the last weekend of negotiations before the April 1 deadline to approve the state budget.

The act has been blocked by Senate Republicans numerous times during the past 14 years, according to Marci Hamilton, a founding member of the New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and CEO of CHILD USA, a nonprofit think tank that seeks to end child abuse and neglect through evidence-based research.

“We are out here to tell Senator Flanagan it’s time to finally put this bill to rest and pass it,” Hamilton said. “He has personally refused to meet with us.”

Protests outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Sen. Flanagan and his spokesperson were not immediately available for comment in response to this morning’s protest.

In a pre-Election Day 2016 sit down with TBR News Media and his then Democratic challenger Peter Magistrale, Flanagan addressed the Child Victims Act and statutes of limitation.

“We have statutes of limitations for very cogent reasons and no matter how emotional a subject may be, witness availability, evidence, all those things have a salutary effect in terms of what happens,” he said.

Hamilton said the protest group has plans this afternoon to meet with state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) in her office to discuss her position on the Child Victims Act and attempt to negotiate her support of the bill’s passage.

State Sen. John Flanagan. File photo

We admire Peter Magistrale (D) for running against a political institution like John Flanagan (R-East Northport) at such a young age. He is very passionate about statutes of limitation regarding sexual abuse claims, an issue we’d be glad to see him continue to fight for regardless of the outcome of this election. His idealism is an asset that could serve the community in the future. We also have heard enough from Stephen Ruth to consider his cause regarding red light cameras and yellow light times something worth looking into as a community.

However, we are endorsing John Flanagan to retain his seat as the state senator for New York’s 2nd Senate District. We support him both for what he has already accomplished in his 14 years in the position — like the fights he gladly took up against the Gap Elimination Adjustment and heroin abuse in his district and beyond — and for what we hope he can bring to the district in the future. He is constantly visible, available and receptive to his constituents and has helped along with State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to make Stony Brook University what it is today, which is a tremendous asset to the community.

We certainly hope Magistrale continues to look to serve his community, but for this election and this seat, we enthusiastically stand by Flanagan.

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Protestors hold up signs along Main Street in Smithtown on Saturday in protest of the Senate failing to vote on GENDA. Photo from Juli Grey-Owens

Activists took to the Smithtown office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) over the weekend to express their disappointment with the legislature’s failure to pass a state civil rights bill for the transgender community.

GENDA, also known as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, would have helped restrict discrimination against transgender citizens in areas of housing, employment or public access, which could include things like restaurants or cab rides. The bill, which made it through the state Assembly for nine years straight, died in the Senate when the legislative session ended last week, spurring the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition to protest outside Flanagan’s office on Saturday.

“The transgender community has again been prevented from receiving the basic protections all New Yorkers enjoy” said Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition. “In the past, Sen. Flanagan had said he supported this bill to protect his transgender constituents, but now that he has the power to finally bring the bill to the floor for a vote, he seems to have forgotten his commitment to us.”

The Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition is a not-for-profit social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, teaching and empowerment. The group hosted a community forum back in March alongside other activist organizations calling for the Senate to step up and pass the legislation, or at the very least, move the conversation forward.

At that time, Flanagan spokesman Scott Reif said the Senate majority leader “prides himself on being open and transparent,” adding that Flanagan was listening.

“The senator routinely meets with all groups, as he has done for 30 years, throughout his entire public career, regardless of whether he agrees with them or not,” Reif said in an email to TBR News Media in March. “The decision to take a meeting is never influenced by a group’s position on an issue; it is dictated solely by what his schedule will allow.”

Grey-Owens said the transgender community was a constant target of discrimination, and Saturday’s demonstration came less than one week after a gunman opened fire at a gay club in Florida, murdering 49 patrons, in what quickly became the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“The National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26 percent of trans people lost a job due to bias, 50 percent were harassed on the job, 20 percent were evicted or denied housing, and 78 percent of trans students were harassed or assaulted,” Grey-Owens said. “We will continue to fight for our community and the rights that are being denied us.”

Olivia Santoro of the Long Island Progressive Coalition speaks beside Susan Lerner of Common Cause/NY outside state Sen. John Flanagan's office in Smithtown on Tuesday. The group advocated for the passage of legislation that would close a loophole allowing limited liability companies to funnel large sums of money to political campaigns. Photo by Phil Corso

Time is running out for the state Legislature to change the way it allows money to influence politics, and Long Island activists took to the Senate majority leader’s Smithtown office on Tuesday to make some noise.

A loophole in the state’s campaign finance laws has become a political talking point for the better part of the past year, allowing limited liability companies to contribute large sums of cash to political campaigns and committees in amounts far greater than the average corporation can. On Tuesday, groups including Common Cause/NY and Moveon.org took to state Sen. John Flanagan’s (R-East Northport) office to draw attention to legislation that was written to change that, with hopes of swaying a vote on the Senate floor before session ends June 16.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY said her group, which investigates public officials and political contributions, found the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee was one of the largest benefactors of what has been dubbed the LLC loophole, bringing in about $5.6 million in campaign contributions from LLCs over the past 10 years — with 68 percent of which coming from the real estate industry. The Senate Housekeeping Committee also netted more than $11 million over the past 10 years in the same fashion.

Lerner argued that as long as elected leaders are receiving such lump sums of money from politically motivated groups, they will never allow for legislation to come to a full vote enacting any kind of change.

“It’s time for the Senate Republicans to stop blocking the necessary reforms,” she said. “The LLC loophole has a warping affect on public policy.”

Flanagan, who the Long Island advocates singled out on Tuesday as one of the benefactors of LLC contributions to the tune of $159,000 over the past 10 years, referred to the legislation as a “red herring that fails to fundamentally address the root cause” of the campaign finance flaws. He said the state needed to be more aggressive in beefing up money laundering laws and targeting straw donors to keep groups from contributing in the shadows.

“If we are going to achieve real campaign finance reform and target corruption, you can’t close one loophole and declare the job done. In fact, one needs to look no further than New York City for evidence of multiple campaign finance transgressions that must be addressed,” Flanagan said. “We need to take additional steps to prevent the funneling of big money through county organizations and directing where that money will be spent, which is already illegal under state law.”

Senate bill S60B has been sitting in the Senate’s Codes Committee since May 9. The bill, which state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D- Brooklyn) introduced, saw success in the Democrat-controlled Assembly in the past before previous versions died in the Senate. In the legislation, Squadron argued that the Legislature must avoid such loopholes that allow “unlimited sums of anonymous dollars to undermine the entire political process.”

Lisa Oldendorp, of Moveon.org’s Long Island chapter, said the political loophole was a threat to democracy in the United States.

“We are sick and tired of the role that money plays in campaigns,” she said. “It’s way beyond time to pass this law. We want the voice of the people to be heard.”

Alejandra Sorta, organizer of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, which works with working class communities of color to turn the tide of anti-immigrant and anti-worker politics, said the timing was right for such legislation to pass, citing various corruption scandals sprouting up across various local and state governments, which has taken down some major political players.

“In light of persistent corruption charges, indictments and/or convictions stemming from unethical and illegal activity at the hands of some of our most powerful and influential leaders in Albany, communities of color are raising their voices and speaking out against big money in politics,” she said. “We demand concrete electoral reforms that will assure transparency and accountability at every level of government.”