ALBANY — The top Republican in the state Senate said Friday he will miss the start of the 2019 legislative session next week in order to continue seeking help combating an alcohol addiction problem.
Senator John Flanagan, who had been the Senate majority leader until Democrats assumed control of the chamber this past Monday, said he needs to complete a “thorough rehabilitation and recovery program” and must miss next Wednesday’s session start so he can “now make my health and well-being my number one priority.’’
The Suffolk County Republican in 2017 disclosed that he had an alcohol problem. Flanagan unsuccessfully led the efforts by the GOP to try to retain control of the 63-member Senate; Democrats won decisive dominance of the chamber in the November elections with a total of 39 members of the Democratic conference.
Flanagan last month beat back an effort by Senator Catharine Young, an Olean Republican, for the Senate minority leader’s position. After the internal battle, Flanagan removed Young from a couple of key positions, including chair of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee.
Flanagan thanked his colleagues for their understanding for what he said will be a “brief period of time away” from the Senate. He tapped his deputy minority leader, Joseph Griffo, a central New York Senate Republican, to take over his responsibilities during his absence.
“It takes great courage and strength to recognize when an addiction has a dangerous grip on one’s life and to seek outside help in combating the problem,’’ Young said in a statement Friday afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat, wished Flanagan well. "I respect John's candor and his recognition that he must take care of his health,'' she said.