MADRAS, OR -- Central Oregon’s newest state lawmakers met with city leaders in Madras and Sisters, Friday, on their way to Salem for the February session, which got underway Monday. Republican Daniel Bonham (R-The Dalles) was appointed to House District 59 in November, to complete John Huffman’s term. He’s met with his predecessor several times, but admits he still has a lot to learn, "Ignorance for me is bliss; I’ve been told how difficult this will be and I don’t know any better so I’m going to go down, I’m going to engage in the process and see how we get through it."
Bonham has proposed two bills: One relates to educators with disciplinary issues who move to other school districts; the other would expand the Good neighbor authority, allowing timber sales on federal forestland. He tells KBND News he's looking forward to getting down to business with the committees on which he now sits, "I’m the Vice Chair of the Early Child Development [Committee]; and then I sit on Transportation and Energy & Environment, so we have some big topics for the short session. I was a little taken aback by how big the topics were for what I thought was designed for fixes, omissions and unintended consequences." Newly appointed State Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) joined Rep. Bonham in Madras (pictured above) and Sisters, Friday. He agrees the short session shouldn't be used to tackle big issues, "When you try to do something really big in the short session, you’ll get it wrong. We many times get things wrong in the long session, and then we come back, supposedly in the short session, and try to fix those things. The world is becoming more and more complex, and when you pass a bill or a law, it’s perfectly normal not to get it perfectly right."
In January, Bentz was tapped to finish Ted Ferrioli's Senate term
, after the Republican spent 10 years in the House. He admits there is a bit of a learning curve in switching chambers, primarily due to his loss of seniority. But, Senator Bentz says he’s looking forward to his committee work. He’s assigned to Education, Environment, and Judiciary. "Judiciary, I’ve never served on, even though I’m a lawyer. But, the problem is there are so few lawyers in the Legislature anymore. Right now, I think they have just one lawyer in the Judiciary Committee in the Senate; just one. And, if you’re dealing with laws all the time, it does help to have a legal background. So, I’m pretty sure that’s why President Courtney put me on Judiciary."
Bentz says meeting regularly with city leaders and constituents will help him represent the state’s largest district, "It’s almost 300 miles from Ontario to The Dalles; and it’s about the same from Ontario to Madras and it’s about the same from Ontario to Sisters; about 300 miles. The challenge, though, isn’t the distance. It’s really understanding what it is the people in these disparate communities want me to do for them. And, that’s why this visit is so important to me." He says he’s heard from leaders across District 30 who are worried about water issues, agricultural exports, transportation and employment. Rep. Bonham is also trying to find ways to communicate with a diverse group of constituents, as he gets to know his large district, "So far, I’ve put 5,000 miles on my car in the last two months. And, we’ve been to Fossil and Spray; I haven’t hit Mitchell yet; it’s on my to-do list." He adds, "I would really encourage people to get a hold of me on social media
. It is fantastic to raise issues, to raise awareness."
Both Sen. Bentz and Rep. Bonham say they plan to run in the May primary to keep their seats.