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Photo Courtesy Tom Leek.
Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, Jul. 1, 2017 4 years ago

Here's why State Rep. Tom Leek voted for the state education bill — despite local opposition

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Also, see how Leek stands on medical marijuana and Enterprise Florida.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

When Florida Rep. Thomas Leek walks into a room, he’s suddenly the funniest guy around. Many people laugh at his jokes, from legislative aids to House staff members. Leek still has trouble getting used to the attention he now has after being elected in 2016.

It’s something he didn’t anticipate or experience before running for state representative.

As a freshman to the Florida House representing District 25, Leek was able to get five out of his six bills passed through to the state senate. The five bills addressed student loan debt, statute of repose, information technology systems at universities, Sunshine 811 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We recently met with Leek to see where he stands on a few popular politic topics.

What is your stance on medical marijuana?

“For me, that’s an emotional issue and I support medical marijuana,” Leek said. “You know, if you’ve ever lost someone close to you and seen them at the end of their life… If somebody would’ve told me there was anything I could’ve done to relieve the pain for my mother when she was close to passing, I would’ve done it.”

Leek’s mother died about two years ago.

“I think the science behind [medical marijuana] is good,” Leek said. “The science is that, what we’ve allowed is low THC medical marijuana, which means that it doesn’t create the euphoria and the science demonstrates that it can provide relief to people. So whether it’s seizures or the end of life…”

Governor Rick Scott recently passed the Education Bill 7069. Volusia County schools were against it and pleaded for him not to sign it. What are your thoughts on that?

“I did vote for it,” Leek said. “7069 was a huge wide-ranging bill and there are a number of things that are true about that bill. It is true that 7069 represents the single largest per-pupil expenditure on education that the state of Florida has ever made. That is true.”

Leek added that what the school districts were saying was also true.

“The school districts were saying, ‘yes, but the base student allocation’, which is basically their discretionary money to do with as they want, ‘the base student allocation is less than it was during the last economic boom,’” Leek said. “It was, by less than 1 percent. So yes, it was less.”

He said the real dispute with House Bill 7069 is between people who appreciate charter schools and people who oppose them.

“It’s not taking money away from public schools,” Leek said. “Charter schools are public schools, but it’s allowing us to go into situations where the public schools have not performed and have a history of not performing, and give those students an alternative.”

What are your thoughts on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida?

“What we learned is that Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida both had transparency issues and use of funds issue,” Leek said. “So as recently as May of 2016, there was an independent audit that determined that they lacked institutional control essentially over how they were spending the money. That’s how we started to find out about these contracts.”

When it came to Enterprise Florida, Leek said the benefit was being spent in concentrated areas of the state, but they were taking money from other areas.

“There were some things that needed to be fixed and that’s what it was all about, Leek said. “At the end of the day, I think we ended up in the right place.”

Enterprise Florida got a new economic development fund to be used only for infrastructure and job training, Leek said. As for Visit Florida,  Leek said it was restored with the transparency rules.  

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