Mental health, opioid crisis top Leonard's agenda
The Hillsdale Daily News - 4/19/2018
April 19--Editor's Note: This is the second interview in a series of stories highlighting the candidates for attorney general.
Prior to his election to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2012, Republican Tom Leonard attended the Michigan State University College of Law, worked in the Genessee County Prosecutor's Office and served as Assistant Attorney General for the state of Michigan.
Now, in a bid for Attorney General, Leonard is seeking to unite his the experiences he gained in law and politics. The Hillsdale Daily News caught up with the current Speaker for the House, who shared his thoughts on the opioid crisis, mental health and President Trump.
Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Montrose, just outside of Flint. That is why I began my career as a prosecutor working in the special crimes division for Genesee County, putting away some of Michigan's most dangerous criminals.
What prompted your decision to seek political office?
My entire career has been focused on fighting for people and finding justice for them and their families. That is what I did for Genesee County, it is what I did in the attorney general's office, and it is what I have done as a state representative. In my first term, I used my experience in law enforcement to focus on updates to our outdated legal system, stronger elder abuse penalties and long overdue mental health reforms.
That is why I want to be Michigan's next attorney general -- I can think of no position that offers a better opportunity to protect the elderly, to help those who are suffering from mental illness and those who are suffering from opioid addiction.
In your mind, what are the most pressing issues facing Michigan?
The opioid crisis has been growing unchecked for years, and it now affects people in every single corner of our state. We need to find solutions and put them into place today. That is why the House took up important reforms to put a stop to this crisis earlier this week, and why we will continue to work on the issue throughout the winter.
Our state's broken mental health system is also in dire need of reform. I called this one of my top priorities right after I was elected speaker last fall, and earlier this year I created a bipartisan task force to travel the state talking to doctors, law enforcement and those struggling with mental illness to get to the bottom of the problem. They recently wrapped up their meetings, and they are now turning those suggestions into legislation. We are looking forward to introducing a large series of reforms in early 2018 to make this system work for the Michigan families who need it most.
As a Representative, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I have made a point of tackling difficult issues that have been left undone for years. In my first term, I used my law enforcement background to bring together prosecutors, defense attorneys and victims' advocates and find a solution to an outdated legal process that had been clogging up our state's court system. The preliminary exam reform was long considered impossible because the different groups were miles apart and unwilling to budge until we worked out a compromise.
Earlier this year, we accomplished something similar in passing a critical reform to Michigan's broken teacher pension system. The system had been underfunded for 20 years but was considered untouchable because of the complicated politics involved. We came up with a creative new system that one national group called the most innovative plan in the nation. That reform, once thought impossible, kept the pension plan afloat and saved the retirement savings of thousands of Michigan teachers.
Finally, why should Michigan vote Leonard?
I absolutely love fighting for people, and I want to continue that work as the state's next attorney general. With my law enforcement experience and a measurable track record of delivering results, I am the right candidate to stand up for our Michigan values and our Constitutional rights.
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