Dear Friends and Neighbors:
After careful reflection and deep discussion with my wife Christel and my family, I have decided to not seek re-election to the New York State Senate. Propelled by the support of so many good people, I have enjoyed a fruitful forty year career, but now is the time for me to put my family and health first.
Over the years, as I’ve traveled to and from Albany, I’ve missed experiences that husbands, fathers and grandfathers cherish. I’ve been absent from birthdays, sporting events, dance recitals and awards ceremonies, to name a few. Though they’ve missed me at these events, my family has always selflessly encouraged me to pursue my passion for public service. At 83 years of age and after 40 years as your State Senator, I hope that you will understand the timeliness of my decision.
You first elected me to the New York State Senate in 1972 and for the past 40 years, I have been proud to represent you in Albany. With your support, I have been able to fight for and pass legislation which has helped to make New York the Empire State. As I reflect on my career, I recall the legislation I am most proud of:
Longtime Proponent of Solar Energy
Under my leadership, in the 1970’s we first passed legislation providing "solar easements" so that homeowners could purchase to guarantee their access to the sun. In 2005, I sponsored 2 laws granting tax incentives for residential solar equipment: one exempted the purchase and installation of residential solar equipment from state sales and use tax, the other created a personal income tax credit to defray the cost of installing a solar energy system.
In 1985, I passed a law creating an Adoption Information Registry as a centralized information source for those who have been adopted to learn about their birth families and medical histories.
Oak Brush Plains State Preserve
In 1987, I created the Oak Brush Plains State Preserve in the Towns of Babylon and Huntington. This conserved, as open space, a portion of the former Pilgrim State Hospital property that sits above a vital groundwater recharge area. The preserve currently has over 800 acres protected.
Point/Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP - aka Defensive Driving)
In 1987, legislation I crafted created the PIRP program to provide drivers in the State with an insurance discount or a reduction in driver's license points for successfully completing a defensive driving course.
Environmental Protection Fund (EPF)
In 1993, I sponsored the legislation that created the state's Environmental Protection Fund. The EPF provides substantial funding for environmental projects in 3 major categories: solid waste, parks and recreation and open space.
In 1997, I secured passage of legislation that created the Motorcycle Safety Program to provide beginner and advanced rider safety training courses for motorcyclists. I also passed legislation which requires increased police investigation and reporting for any accident that injures or kills a motorcyclist.
Graduated Driver Licensing
In 1998, I first introduced a bill to bring one of the nation's first graduated driver licensing systems for young drivers to New York and fought for 4 years to see it finally enacted in 2002. The law required, for the first time, that:
• teenage drivers hold their learner's permit for a minimum of 6 months;
• teenage drivers complete at least 20 hours of supervised driving time (since been raised to 50);
• placed limits on the number of teenage passengers a teenage driver could have in the car;
• all passengers in a car being operated by a teenage driver wear a seat belt;
• created increased penalties for teenage drivers who receive convictions for serious traffic violations.
Accident Prevention Course, Internet and Other Technology Pilot Program (aka iPIRP)
In 2005, I expanded the defensive driving program to allow for the delivery of courses over the Internet or other take home methods. Previously limited to only in-person or classroom delivery, this law created a pilot program to study the effectiveness of allowing New York residents to take a defensive driving class over the Internet or by some other take-home method such as DVD. This alleviates the need to sit in a class for 6 hours by allowing someone to take the course in their free time at home. Completion of this course yields the same benefits as the traditional classroom course.
In 2006, I passed legislation creating a Task Force to identify strategies to protect and restore important seagrass habitat, which has shrunk from around 200,000 acres in the 1930’s to less than 22,000 acres today. In 2012, I championed legislation which is pending the Governor’s signature, to implement the recommendations of the Task Force. Specifically:
• designates seagrass management areas;
• restricts the types of mechanically powered fishing gear in seagrass areas that could be harmful to the grass;
• makes this information available on the DEC website;
• requires DEC to develop and adopt, after consultation with stakeholders, a seagrass management plan for designated seagrass management areas to protect seagrass beds and preserve traditional recreational activities.
LI Ducks Stadium: $14.4 million secured for Suffolk County to construct stadium.
Brentwood Athletic Complex: $6.5 million for Phase 1, in 2008
Great South Bay YMCA: Millions in support over the years
Other Funding: Tens of millions secured for local non-profits and municipalities.
I first started this adventure when I was 42 years old; when Richard Nixon was the President and gasoline was 55 cents per gallon . A lot of things have changed over the years, but one thing that never changed was how much I cherished representing Long Islanders in Albany. You’ve trusted me with a privilege afforded to so very few and my family and I appreciate the support you’ve given us.
After my present term expires on December 31, 2012 and I am able to spend more time with my wife Christel, son Owen, daughter Chirsten and grandchildren Eliza and Scarlett, I will always treasure the time I spent working on your behalf making New York a better place for our families.
With best personal regards, I remain
Very truly yours,
Owen H. Johnson