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U.S. Rep. Bentz talks illegal pot grows, climate change at Jackson County town hall

KTVL photoU.S. Rep. Cliff Bentz answers questions Tuesday at a Jackson County town hall.

U.S. Rep. Clifford Bentz, the Republican who represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, held a town hall Monday afternoon at the Jackson County Expo that drew about 175 people representing a variety of political views.

Bentz started off by providing residents with a summary of his conservative credentials, which include being “pro-Second Amendment” and “pro-life,” but against “higher taxes” and government “overreach.”

Receiving a high lottery number for the draft during the Vietnam War and ending up not having to serve still makes him “feel embarrassed.” Government service is, among other things to him, a way of “trying to make-up for that.” Bentz explained.

He also said that while he supports former President Donald Trump’s policy ideas that Trump’s “personality isn’t mine.”

Bentz took office this year after winning the November 2020, General Election and had been an Oregon State legislator previously. He sits on the House Natural Resources and Judiciary committees.

When asked why he supported Trump after claiming the election was stolen, Bentz said Trump’s policies are “excellent,” such as protecting water for farmers and reducing the “tsunami of immigration.”

Someone in the audience interrupted Bentz by shouting, “Is that a hard question?”

He replied that he was on the floor of Congress “when folks broke into the Capitol” and that it was “one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”

Bentz then explained that he voted against certifying the Pennsylvania election results but voted to certify Arizona’s results because he said the latter state’s results were valid.

Another person asked him to verify that President Biden won the election.

“Joe Biden was certified. He is the president,” Bentz said

COVID-19, climate change and (illegal) cannabis grows were among topics discussed.

Questions pertaining to climate change came up frequently.

Bentz said proudly that he left Oregon a couple of years ago during a legislative session, along with other Republicans, to withhold a quorum in State Senate so there couldn’t be a vote on a cap-and-trade bill that he considered bad for the state because it would have caused Oregon businesses to be at a disadvantage compared with other states.

However, he also explained to the audience that conditions — particularly the drought as well as increase and severity of wildfires — illustrate climate change.

Bentz said he “didn’t want to squeeze” the state’s economy because changes in the environment wouldn’t be apparent for decades and worldwide solutions would be best, though challenging.

Further, he said, “the only replacement for coal is nuclear.”

Then he pointed out that the federal infrastructure bill just approved by Congress includes significant financial support for existing, and what has been referred to as “next generation” nuclear reactors, to help decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Bentz assured a resident, who said she supported him because he was against vaccine mandates, that he was indeed against them as well as mask-wearing mandates.

He did emphasize that he is vaccinated and went on to note that one of Trump’s biggest successes was Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to accelerate development of COVID vaccines.

Bentz also said he is working with local law enforcement to stop drug cartels from conducting their illegal marijuana growing operations.

He made note of a letter dated Nov. 5 that he sent through his office to Attorney General Merrick Garland about the problem facing Southern Oregon and asked for assistance in stopping the illegal activity. He asked that each of the four counties affected — including Jackson — be provided with teams of 20 people per county to assist local law enforcement in “identifying illegal grows, eradicating those grows, and then prosecuting the criminal conducting those illegal grows.”

Bentz also said he believes the Republicans are likely to gain Congressional seats after the November 2022 elections. The Democrats are supporting some ideas that he described as “nanny state to the extreme.”

One example of this he offered is the infrastructure bill requirement to install unspecified technology into new cars that would stop drunken drivers being able to drive their cars as a breathalyzer. He also asked how this would address people trying to drive while high from smoking marijuana.

“Biden ran as a moderate and became (U.S. Sen.) Bernie Sanders,” he commented.

He did admit that the infrastructure legislation contains some “good things,” such as funding for water storage and ensuring the nation’s bridges are safe to cross.

After the meeting, Bentz was asked how communities could help with a solution to the current illegal marijuana growing problem plaguing the region.

“The system we have is inadequate for the size of the problem you have,” he replied.

Along with an earlier suggestion during the town hall that people can change the course by voting out Democrats, he said local communities could help find the money for additional enforcement though “everybody is looking for somebody else to pay.”

There are other agencies that might be able to help the region tackle this problem if the Attorney General doesn’t, such as the FBI, National Guard, Homeland Security and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s High Intensity Drug Traffic areas program, Bentz added.