NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Voters will be deciding next Tuesday to make major changes to New Mexico’s Public Regulations Commission. Constitutional Amendment One would give the governor, not voters, the power to appoint members. There are a lot of pros and cons to the issue that many voters may be overlooking.
The PRC regulates public utilities such as natural gas and electricity. Currently, the five members are voted into the $90,000 a year position. Constitutional amendment one would change that to a three-member commission appointed by the governor, with no more than two members from the same political party.
“This constitutional amendment would ensure that in the future the commissioners who are doing this complex work will come to the table with the skills needed to do it well,” said former PRC Commissioner Jason Marks.
The PRC has had a troubled history, including Jerome Block Jr., who resigned for misuse of PRC funds. The PRC was even the subject of a Larry Barker investigation highlighting mismanagement within the office. Marks is for the change. He said in the past, some members weren’t qualified for the job.
“They created a process that really ensures a rigorous election process that de-politicizes things,” said Marks. “It’s not just the governor making the appointment, there’s a nominating committee that’s got representation from consumer- various interests, consumer interests.”
Fred Nathan with Think New Mexico is against the plan. “The first reason is that there is a dark money PAC that spent over a quarter of a million dollars pushing this amendment and they won’t disclose to voters who’s paying for it,” said Nathan.
Mailers and text ads backing the proposal said: “Put qualified experts not politicians on the PRC… Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham supports qualified experts to guide New Mexico’s clean energy future.”
“We’re in the early stages of a really important energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables and storage technologies,” said Marks.
Many opponents argue the move is a power grab by the governor. Nathan argues voters should have the final say. “The ballot language conceals the purpose for the amendment, which is to take the power away from voters to choose their own PRC commissioners and hold them accountable,” said Nathan.
If the amendment is approved, New Mexico would join the vast majority of states that regulate utilities through governor-appointed commissions.