Inside the Capitol

Monday, October 03, 2011

10-05 correction

100511 PRC reform

SANTA FE – The latest Public Regulation Commission scandal should be enough to convince all concerned that something must be done. There is no need to recount the litany of Jerome Block, Jr.'s misdeeds or of those commissioners before him. You are likely as sick of them as I am.
The question is where do we go from here? It has become so bad that even PRC commissioners, Republican and Democrat, are willing to talk about changes. Legislators included the PRC in their discussion of government restructure last year but the PRC wasn't particularly interested.
But this year, after two commissioners have had to resign due to felony pleas, commission members know they are on the spot. One of the possibilities being discussed is transfer of some of the PRC's many duties to other state agencies.
The PRC is a constitutional body so any change will require a constitutional amendment. New Mexico voters aren't too keen about constitutional changes but after years of problems, voters may be willing to shake things up.
It has been just 12 years since we last approved a big shake up. That one combined the much-troubled elected Corporation Commission with the appointive Public Utilities Commission, thereby combining regulation of all utilities, along with other extraneous responsibilities. Those include insurance, trucking, telecommunications, corporations, pipeline safety, towing, ambulances, limousines, taxis and the state fire marshal's office.
That's quite a conglomeration of powers. In fact, New Mexico's PRC is one of the most powerful bodies of its type in the nation. It is governed by five commissioners who are not required to have any expertise in any of the areas being regulated.
A previous column talked about how many commissioners have been former legislators or other public officials. It also is a good launching pad for sons of high public officials. That, of course, includes Jerome Block, Jr. whose father preceded him on the commission. Their terms were separated by Ben Ray Lujan, son of House Speaker Ben Lujan.
Talk also is being heard about making the commission appointive or partially appointive. There is no telling how partially appointive would work. A totally appointive commission is desperately needed. We don't need politicos with scant background regulating these important industries.
One solution suggested by PRC Chairman Pat Lyons is to require a college degree or maybe an advanced degree in order to run for the commission. It is not a bad idea.
Today is the final day for applications to be appointed to Block's seat on the PRC. As of Friday, 17 applications had been received with more sure to come. The applicants are promising. Seven of the first 17 are politicos but seven also are engineers along with a lawyer and an accountant. Three have doctorates. Several also have experience in areas related to the PRC.
Gov. Susana Martinez promises to be thorough and deliberate in finding the best person to represent Block's constituents. It is highly likely she also will be looking for a well-qualified Republican who might have a chance of winning the seat in 2012.
But some of the politicos also are Republicans with good qualifications. The quality of Gov. Martinez's appointment might have some bearing on whether lawmakers and voters decide to relocate the commission under the governor.
This past weekend, Think New Mexico, a Santa Fe-based think tank, announced it has PRC recommendations to those mentioned above. I haven't seen its report yet but the group does high-quality work and is effective in getting its recommendations adopted.
It appears Think New Mexico wants to keep the commission elective. That is better in terms of accountability but it doesn't address the problem that voters just don't get adequate information about the candidates.
Too often they vote simply based on political party. Block was elected even after information surfaced about campaign finance irregularities.
I got appointive and elective mixed in penultimate graph. This attachmentis correct.


Post a Comment

<< Home