NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s looking like voters will no longer elect members of the state’s Pubilc Regulation Commission after this year. In addition to a number of key races, three state bonds, and two constitutional amendments were also on the ballot.
Constitutional Amendment I changes how members join the Public Regulation Committee, which oversees public utilities like gas and electricity but has a problematic history and a lack of public trust. The amendment would shrink the five-member commission elected by voters and representing districts across the state to a three-member commission. A newly established nomination committee would submit nominees to the governor who would then appoint three members to the PRC, with no more than two members from the same political party.
As of Tuesday night, with 79% of the precincts reporting, 55% of voters voted for the amendment and 45% voted against.
“I guess my biggest disappointment is we’re going from five elected PRC commissioners to three appointed, which essentially means two people of those three will come together and be setting the electricity and gas rates for all New Mexicans and that’s just too much power,” Fred Nathan, a citizen activist, said.
“Always hard to convince voters to give up some of their direct control. In this case, a majority agreed that it was worth it in order to ensure that we always have qualified people in this important position,” Jason Marks, a former PRC commissioner, said. “Our governor supported this amendment and it’s now incumbent upon her and her successors to make sure…that appointed commissioners are accountable and remain independent.”
Constitutional Amendment Two would allow the state legislature to stagger the terms of an office for non-statewide officeholders. Supporters of the amendment argue it would create shorter, more balanced ballots every election cycle. This year in Bernalillo County, there were nearly 30 judges voters had to decide on.
As of Tuesday night, voters are in favor of approving the amendment with 64% for and 36% against.
“Frankly, a lot of work has gone into this including a trip to the Supreme Court…And so, it would be very gratifying if it does pass.” Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto said. The senator said if passed, the next step would be to work with the courts to look at staggering district judges. “So that in the future, voters won’t be overwhelmed with this huge amount of judges that all of a sudden, they’re being asked to decide on whether this person should stay on the bench or not,” he said.
By Tuesday night, voters overwhelmingly supported passing all three state bonds.
State Bond A lets the state offer up more than $33 million for senior facilities and senior services. State Bond B issues almost $10 million for libraries across the state. The money would be used to buy new technology, books, furniture, and renovations, among other projects.
State Bond C offers up more than $156 million for colleges and universities across the state. If passed, the University of New Mexico plans to use $30 million to build a new building for the Colleges of Nursing and Population Health. The deans of the colleges said they would be ‘ecstatic’ at the passing of the bond.
“Population health is so key and COVID has highlighted that so losing momentum to really doing a good job at population health in the state would be really sad,” Dr. Tracie Collins, Dean of the UNM College of Population Health, said.
“It’s a fabulous opportunity for our contribution to New Mexico by combining the power of both of the schools together,” Dr. Christine Kasper, Dean of the UNM College of Nursing, said. “The facts are, as we both expand our schools, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, we need space and not only space but functional space that meets those needs so that we can stay cutting-edge and really deliver for New Mexico.”