Senator Owen Johnson, representing New York’s 4th District on Long Island, serving mostly the Town of Babylon and parts of the Town of Islip, has announced his plans to retire after this upcoming election. In an open letter addressed to “Friends and Neighbors,” Senator Johnson expressed the reasons behind his departure from the Senate, and highlighted some of the major achievement of his career.
“I first started this adventure when I was 42 years old; when Richard Nixon was the President and gasoline was 55 cents per gallon,” Johnson wrote.
Senator Johnson has held his office since 1972, and in that time, travelling to and from Albany, he “missed many of the experiences fathers and grandfathers cherish.” “I’ve been absent from birthdays, sporting events, dance recitals and awards ceremonies, to name a few,” said the grandfather of two. While his family “selflessly” encouraged his long career serving New York State, Johnson also said he hopes his constituents understand the “timeliness” of his departure. The Senator is 83 years old, and had served 40 years, nearly half of his life.
Senator Johnson was widely invested in a number of environmentally-conscious and progressive legislation. As a member of the Senate, Johnson has been a longtime proponent of solar energy and was part of the political force that first passed legislation providing “solar easements” in the 1970’s. In 2005, Johnson sponsored two laws offering tax incentives for solar equipment in residential properties, one exempting homeowners from sales and use taxes on the purchase and installation of solar equipment, and the other creating a personal income tax credit to defray the costs of installation.
Besides his solar efforts, Johnson created the Oak Brush Plain State Preserve in 1987. The 800-acre preserve, located in the Towns of Huntington and Babylon, sits above a vital groundwater recharge area in a portion of the former Pilgrim State Hospital property.
Along with his attention to the preservation of open-space areas, Johnson sponsored legislation that established the state’s Environmental Protection Fund which provides substantial funding for major environmental projects in the categories of solid wastes, open space and parks and recreation.
Since 2006, Johnson has spent lots of time and effort in bringing attention to protecting and preserving Long Island’s seagrass habitats, which has been decimated since the 1930’s (from 200,000 acres down to 22,000). Legislation establishing a Task Force was established in 2006, and recently Senator Johnson provided the a new surge of energy to these laws by implementing recommendations for the task Force. This includes the designation of sea grass areas, the restriction of hazardous machinery in seagrass areas, and a requirement of the DEC to consult with stakeholders to develop a seagrass management plan that would protect seagrass beds and preserve traditional recreational activities.
Senator Johnson’s career has also been defined by his focus on making New York’s roads safer for drivers. In 1997, Johnson oversaw the passage of laws that provided beginner and advanced rider safety training courses for motorcyclists. He also worked on legislation that required increased police investigation for any accident that resulted in the injury or death of a motorcyclist.
The following year, Senator Johnson introduced a bill that established a graduated drivers licensing system for young drivers in New York, one of the first in the nation. Senator Johnson fought for four years to see the bill passed in 2002, which required that teenage drivers have their learner’s permit for no less than six months, complete a minimum of 20 hours of supervised driving time (which has since been raised to 50), limited the number of teenage passengers a teenage driver can have and increased penalties for teenage drivers who commit serious traffic violations.
Senator Johnson will likely be remembered for the funding he brought to the 4th District, which made possible the Long Island Ducks Stadium in Central Islip, the Brentwood Athletic Complex and the Great South Bay YMCA among others.
“I will always treasure the time I spent working on your behalf making New York a better place for our families,” Senator Johnson wrote.
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